Arkansas football returned to the practice fields outside Walker Pavilion on Thursday for the first time since spring break. Here are some notes from the open periods we were able to see:
• The Razorbacks were in helmets and shoulder pads only, but physicality was definitely there. I continue to be impressed with the offensive linemen, how tough they are on one another, and Brad Davis’ attention to detail and encouragement. With every rep, he has a thing or two to say to just about every linemen going through a drill. On the grass field, he was working with his guys and preaching that they have to “kick the losing habits.”
• The offensive line went through a drill I hadn’t seen them do before. The last few minutes before drill work, an offensive lineman lined up as a defensive lineman and went 1-on-1 with another player. The goal was for the “D-lineman” to tag a third player who was free to move around. Each group went for about 15 seconds, which doesn’t sound like a long time, but I got tired watching it.
Ricky Stromberg looked great in this drill as the O-lineman, as did Marcus Henderson and Beaux Limmer. Ty’Kieast Crawford went through it as a D-lineman and looked powerful. He tagged the free player in about 6-8 seconds. Crawford seems to be working his way toward solid playing time, I think.
• Running backs worked on pass protection, specifically picking up pressure on the edges. That’s an area Trelon Smith said he grew the most last season in his extended playing time, but he also admitted that needed to improve for him. He invites contact anyway, but if he can become consistent there it’ll be even tougher to bring him off the field.
He looks to be more comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield as well, and Dominique Johnson, I thought, was smooth catching swing passes. Saw a few too many balls hit the ground between quarterbacks and receivers, but there was a good wind blowing, and not all the throws were on target. I’m sure that’ll get cleaned up.
• Jashaud Stewart got several reps with the first team defensive line at an end spot. Eric Gregory was on the opposite end. Hayden Henry was at linebacker alongside Grant Morgan. Bumper Pool was repping with the second team, and Dorian Gerald looked to be among the third team D-linemen. Mataio Soli batted down a pass, I believe. It was kind of hard to see who got a hand on it and know for sure because no one really celebrated it.
• Practice was a bit on the quiet side early on, and I could kind of tell it was the first day back from spring break. Guys were more or less taking their time getting to different stations, but the energy picked up shortly after the first couple of periods. Sam Pittman, standing in-between the grass and turf field, was applauding coaches and players for their organization.
• Simeon Blair continues to run with the first team defense alongside guys who got significant time last season. Hudson Clark and Busta Brown were at the corner spots, and Greg Brooks was all over the place. He looks a little quicker than he did last season. But back to Blair, Pittman noted prior to spring ball that the DB had impressed him with his work ethic and was doing good things ahead of getting on the field. He appears to be fitting in just fine in that secondary, which has plenty of talent.