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Arkansas hit the practice fields for about three hours Monday afternoon in what may have been the hardest-hitting practice of the summer.
With football comes injuries, and several players are feeling the effects, but no serious injuries have been reported. Arkansas practiced in goal line situations, ran the middle drill and did everything but tackle to the ground in 11-on-11 work.
“We’re starting to see some bumps and bruises,” Arkansas Coach Houston Nutt said following the afternoon practice. “We had a little goal line coming - scrimmage. The offense was trying to make a first down and the defensive line was trying to keep them pinned up, so there’s some good things. We’ll really learn from that film. That was really good.
“We’ve got three or four kind of AC sprains after the first hitting the last couple of scrimmage days. You’ve got Titus Peeples, Vickiel Vaughn, Cody Green. You’ve got quite a few, but that’s just football.”
Not only was today’s practice different because of all the hard-hitting action, but it was also the hottest practice of the unseasonably cool summer.
“This is probably as hot as it’s been since we’ve been here, so that was also very good,” Nutt said. “I just appreciate the attitude of our guys, because I know today, when we go in tonight to watch the film I know we’ve gotten better, and just keep doing that. Just keep getting better and we’ll have a chance.”
The defense started slow in the middle drill but won most of the snaps. The defense has an advantage in that drill, knowing the offense will use a running play. The defense made four interceptions when the full offense and defense squared off. Reserve quarterback Landon Leach threw two interceptions on four snaps.
“The effort was good,” Nutt said. “There was some hitting – some guys chasing the ball on defense. All that was good – positive. We’ll just see when we watch the film what’s the breakdown. I’m more interested in coaching effort right there on the field and defense chasing the ball. The defense got five turnovers today, which I think is outstanding. They had five turnovers on some tipped balls. That was good. We’re going to really use that tonight. Turnovers equal points.
“It might have been four.”
Nutt compared the transition from last week to this week like the period between the first and second game. The players are asked to give their best effort right now, but later they will be asked to take coaching even better.
“This is the grind right here,” he said. “This is a very, very important week. Just like going from the first game to the second game, going from the first week from kind of in shorts to now into pads, you ought to see your most improvement.”
Freshman Jonathon Luigs has played well this summer, but he struggled getting the snap off this afternoon. However, he just moved over from guard because of an injury to backup center Skye Peterson.
“We moved Jonathon Luigs to center. It’s his first day. Skye Peterson is out here playing with a broken finger so we had to make sure we had enough centers and that was the only reason. It wasn’t all his fault. He hasn’t had enough work there. He played a little center in high school,” Nutt said.
Nutt is excited about the receivers. David Thompson, Marcus Monk, Carlos Ousley and Anthony Brown all had strong afternoon practices.
“Doing good, doing good. Very proud of them,” Nutt said. “They’ve been very consistent. Steven Harris is doing a great job of leading that group. And then the younger guys keep showing up. Marcus Monk and Anthony Brown are doing a really good job.”
The field crew finished laying out the final 13 yards of the new artificial surface, which is supposed to be the closest thing to grass available. The new turf has thinner, plastic blades and less rubber pellets than the turf used in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium and in the Walker Pavillion.
“We like it. There’s a few, kind of, rolling hills, but other than that it’s really good - going to be great,” he said.
There was a new quarterback in town. Tulsa (Okla.) Memorials Chad Dayton chose to walk on to Arkansas in March. He is wearing No. 11 and the 6-foot, 190-pounder made some good throws in individual work.
Hybrid John Jackson had an excellent day. Jackson seemed to be all over the field batting passes and making good sticks on running plays.
Defensive linemen Fred Bledsoe drew praise from the coaches after a strong performance in Middle drills and in individual work. Bledsoe beat a few double-team blocks.
After there was much so talk about Marcus Harrison possibly moving to guard, it is looking more and more like that will never happen. Harrison’s quick and powerful inside moves have landed him at defensive end, where he has been as impressive as any of the defensive linemen.
Fellow defensive tackle Arrion Dixon did a great job getting into the backfield all day.
Starting quarterback Matt Jones put in a lot of work in the summer and it is clearly paying off. Jones was on the money this morning and this afternoon, and the offense plays at another level when he is in the lineup…just like always when they wear pads. Jones hit Monk on a 45 yard pass over freshman cornerback Michael Grant. The pass went 45-yards with no run after the catch. Receiver Cedric Washington made an incredible leap in traffic to pull down an 8-yard pass from Jones. The reception drew ahhhs from the coaches, players and onlookers.
Freshman quarterback Alex Mortensen received several snaps but threw two interceptions. One was not his fault. Kevin Woods made the first pick, and freshman running back Korey Sutton bobbled a swing pass and cornerback Darius Vinnett made an athletic play swiping the ball out of the air.
Cedric Logan looked sharp running routs but had no good passes thrown his way. Chris Houston is working at corner and safety.
Not much has been said of David Thompson, who is catching everything. Thompson has great leaping ability and he went nearly parallel to the ground to snag a 40-yard pass in traffic during pass skel drills. He made several other great catches on the day and is making a push for playing time.
Tackle Zac Tubbs had another strong outing.
Recruiting coordinator Chris Vaughn is excited about the newcomers, which is the best-looking group in Nutt's seven years at Arkansas.
"Yeah, this is a good-looking group," Vaughn said. "We need to sign another one back-to-back just like this one."
The Razorbacks will hold one afternoon practice on Tuesday. Fan Appreciation Day is set for Saturday and the scrimmage should begin around 6 p.m.