As first days of practice go, the 10th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks’ veterans had more than just a good one, first-year head coach John L. Smith said.
Wide receiver Keon Hatcher (4) goes through drills as assistant coach Kris Cinkovich looks on. Hatcher impressed head coach John L. Smith on Thursday.
“This is as good a practice as I can remember in 40-something whatever years I’ve been coaching – first day out – in the fact that we got a ton of reps, we were keeping each other healthy,” Smith said Thursday evening. “We were in. we were out. It was sharp. There was energy. It was flowing.”
The newcomers worked about two hours in temperatures that hovered around 100 degrees, followed by a veterans practice that lasted about an hour and a half.
A few guys cramped up in the afternoon, and backup quarterback Brian Buehner got overheated in the newcomers’ practice and had to leave. But otherwise, the Razorbacks stayed healthy, and the first-team offense looked especially sharp under the direction of senior quarterback Tyler Wilson.
And there was no limping from senior running back Knile Davis, who missed last season with a broken ankle that required surgery. He had maybe a slight hitch when he was running last spring, but he has said for a while that he’s 100 percent. That certainly looked to be the case Thursday.
“Everything looked good to me, felt good,” Davis said. “Coach actually complimented me, told me I looked good, glad to have me back. So it was cool.”
A look at the O-line
In other words, junior guard Alvin Bailey, a consensus second-team preseason All-SEC pick, worked with the Razorbacks’ second team. That is no surprise, considering Bailey, a two-year starter, worked with the second team during spring practice.
“You know, I really don’t know,” Bailey said when asked the reason he was working with the second team. “I just come out here, I play where my coach tells me to play. I do my best to help my team. As far as that goes, I don’t worry about it. When game-time comes, coach will put the best five on the field. Right now we’re just focused on trying to get better.”
Young guys have work to do
Smith wasn’t so happy with the newcomers’ practice, but he felt like there was a lot of athleticism on the field.
He said with a laugh that it was like “going back to grade school.”
“It was kind of like Ned in the First Reader,” Smith said. “So we have a lot to work on. But there was some athleticism out there on the field … with the young guys. We didn’t get a lot of things right, but we’re going to be pretty good with those kids.”
Several newcomers stood out to Smith – junior wide receiver Demetrius Wilson, who’s a junior college transfer, freshmen receivers Keon Hatcher and D’Arthur Cowan, freshman linebacker Otha Peters, and freshmen defensive ends Brandon Lewis, JaMichael Winston and Deatrich Wise.
Smith said Peters “looks like a man out there running around.”
“It’s a matter of grasping the game for all of these guys, because like I said, it’s a lot faster,” Smith said. “But I liked what I saw from him (Peters).
“There are three defensive ends that look as good as any class I can ever remember being around or probably better that all stand out.”
True freshman tight end Jeremy Sprinkle will miss fall camp after having surgery on his wrist.
“As soon as the docs release him, he’ll be on the practice field,” Smith said.
Junior Brandon Mitchell worked with the first team as a slot receiver and also as the third-team quarterback during the veterans’ practice. … Junior Zach Hocker was perfect on his field-goal attempts. He ended practice with a 50-yarder despite some serious distraction. The entire group of veterans, who weren’t on the field-goal team, gathered in front of Hocker, and the players screamed and waved their arms to distract him. His kick just cleared the crossbar. … Hogs quarterback commit Tyler Cogswell of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage attended both practices as part of his unofficial visit. … Junior defensive end Chris Smith had a scoop-and-score during a team portion of practice. … Sophomore linebacker Braylon Mitchell missed about the first hour of the veterans’ practice. … Junior starting safety Eric Bennett went off to the side during practice and did some backpedaling drills with a trainer, wearing a belt around his waist. The belt had a rope attached to it, and was wrapped around a pole. … Junior defensive end Austin Flynn still has long hair and a beard, despite the heat, but the beard is quite a bit shorter these days. It was at least three inches long during the spring. Flynn was wearing a brace on his left hand, which required surgery in the spring after he broke it. … Redshirt junior Brad Taylor was working as the Razorbacks’ third-team tight end during the veterans’ practice. … The players who were fielding punts during the veterans’ practice were Dennis Johnson, Keante Minor and Hunter Jarvis. Newcomers Nathan Holmes and Demetrius Wilson are expected to compete for the job as well.