Ra­zor­backs re­port

Hogs rel­ish chance to butt heads

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL / NFL -

FAYET­TEVILLE — The Arkansas Ra­zor­backs prac­ticed for the first time in pads Sat­ur­day, which meant more con­tact, es­pe­cially for the of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive lines.

“They were phys­i­cal,” quar­ter­back Austin Allen said. “Those guys have been wait­ing about four months to get back go­ing at each other. There’s a lot of in­ten­sity on the lines, and it’s just good for ev­ery­one to get that phys­i­cal­ity.”

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dan Enos said there was good en­ergy at prac­tice.

“Our strength staff has ob­vi­ously done a good job,” Enos said. “We’re in great shape, so the con­di­tion­ing has been re­ally good be­cause we’ve been able to sus­tain and have re­ally good work.”

Cen­ter Frank Rag­now said it was good to have a phys­i­cal prac­tice, but the of­fense made mis­takes.

“We def­i­nitely need to clean up the er­rors whether it’s about ball con­trol, false starts and stuff like that,” Rag­now said. “But it was a good first day in pads.”

Talk time

As is his cus­tom, Coach Bret Bielema has as­signed team lead­ers to han­dle me­dia obli­ga­tions for the first week of camp.

Bielema met solo with the me­dia on the open­ing day of camp Thurs­day, while de­fen­sive cap­tains San­tos Ramirez and Kevin Richard­son and co­or­di­na­tor Paul Rhoads con­ducted in­ter­views Fri­day.

Of­fen­sive cap­tains Austin Allen and Frank Rag­now took me­dia ques­tions Sat­ur­day, along with co­or­di­na­tor Dan Enos.

Af­ter to­day’s manda­tory off day, a wider va­ri­ety of play­ers is ex­pected to file through the me­dia room at the Smith Foot­ball Cen­ter as the Ra­zor­backs move closer to Sat­ur­day’s first scrim­mage fol­lowed that af­ter­noon by me­dia day.

Good in­stall

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dan Enos said in­stal­la­tion of the play­book is on sched­ule.

“Yeah, we’re mov­ing ahead man,” Enos said. “Three days, knock on wood, it’s been re­ally good. I think there’s been good re­ten­tion.

“The guys did a good job re­mem­ber­ing from spring prac­tice, and then the play­ers’ only work­outs all sum­mer … you can see they’ve done a good job. You can see there’s a good un­der­stand­ing there. We’re mov­ing along very rapidly with the in­stall. We have some new wrin­kles ob­vi­ously we’re look­ing at, but we’ve been very pleased.”

Kick­ing it

Safety Reid Miller is tak­ing first-team reps at holder from deep snap­per Robert Decker on kicks by Cole Hed­lund.

Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville Coach Bret Bielema said the trend has gone away from quar­ter­backs hold­ing for kicks in high school, thus there are fewer col­lege quar­ter­backs with ex­pe­ri­ence at the job.

The Ra­zor­backs’ sec­ond unit for kicks has been snap­per Jor­dan Sil­ver to holder Grant Mor­gan for kicker Blake Mazza, a left-footed kicker.

Big jump

Walk-on re­ceiver Gary Cross is gain­ing no­tice from Arkansas per­son­nel re­gard­ing his ath­letic abil­ity. The for­mer Fordyce Red­bug was one of very few Ra­zor­backs who did a one-step jump over a 60-inch hur­dle dur­ing sum­mer test­ing.

“That was pretty im­pres­sive,” Coach Bret Bielema said. “He’s very ath­letic, and he can catch the ball. I’m ex­cited with what he brings to the room.”

Said quar­ter­back Austin Allen, “He’s a guy who doesn’t talk too much and keeps to him­self, but he can play. You put him out there in those game sit­u­a­tions, and he’s mak­ing one-on-one catches with just his body con­trol and how high he can jump. He’s spe­cial.”

Among the other play­ers Bielema said pulled off a 60-inch leap are re­ceivers Jor­dan Jones and Jar­rod Barnes, and cor­ner­back Britto Tutt.

The top one-step jumper among 250-pounders and up was tight end Jeremy Pat­ton, who came very close to clear­ing 60 inches.

“I don’t know what the hur­dle was set on, but he was the only guy over 250 that cleared it on our foot­ball team,” Bielema said. “He was let­ting ev­ery­body know about it. He’s not afraid to talk a lit­tle bit. He’s a fun one to watch.”

Mad Squir­rel Hays

Cen­ter Frank Rag­now said the of­fen­sive line­men have fun kid­ding nose guard Dy­lan Hays about mov­ing from their po­si­tion group to de­fense.

“We give him a lot of crap for that,” Rag­now said. “But he’s like a lit­tle wreck­ing ball. I think that’s why they moved him to de­fense.

“He’s like a lit­tle mad squir­rel. But he’s been good. He’s been re­ally im­pres­sive. You can def­i­nitely tell he’s got the mo­tor for it.”

D-line depth

Nose guard Bi­jhon Jack­son and ends McTelvin Agim and T.J. Smith have worked on the first-team de­fen­sive line through two days.

“You’ve got to have some­body who starts there,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Paul Rhoads said. “But is that de­fen­sive line po­si­tion, all three of them, open? Ab­so­lutely. Com­pe­ti­tion is at the fore­front with those guys, and we want to see who’s go­ing to step up and be the smartest, the most ac­count­able and the most pro­duc­tive guys.”

Nose guard Austin Capps is work­ing on the sec­ond team with ends Ar­mon Watts and Bris­ton Guidry. The third-team line has Dy­lan Hays paired with ends Michael Tay­lor and Jake Hall.

“It’s go­ing to be a com­mit­tee po­si­tion,” Rhoads said. “We’re go­ing to play a mul­ti­tude of guys at the ends and the nose po­si­tion.”

Rhoads said he’s con­fi­dent Arkansas has enough line­men.

“It’s one of the rea­sons why we’ve switched to a 3-4 sys­tem,” he said. “You don’t have to have eight to have a two-deep; you have to have six to have a two-deep.

“We’re see­ing how high a level all th­ese guys can play. But with the guys that we’ve seen through spring prac­tice and head­ing into pads … yeah, I think we can get to a qual­ity depth po­si­tion.”

Time to play

Cen­ter Frank Rag­now said he ex­pects to take part in pre­sea­son scrim­mages af­ter be­ing held out in the spring as a safety pre­cau­tion.

“I be­lieve I’m full go,” Rag­now said. “It’s time to start play­ing foot­ball.” Power play

Alabama Coach Nick Sa­ban said in an in­ter­view with ESPN that he be­lieves teams in Power 5 con­fer­ences should play all 12 games against Power 5 op­po­nents.

Sa­ban said that would in­crease in­ter­est among fans and make for bet­ter TV matchups, adding that if it hap­pened the NCAA should drop its re­quire­ment for teams to have at least six vic­to­ries to qual­ify for a bowl game.

“We should do the bowl games just like we do the NCAA Bas­ket­ball Tour­na­ment,” Sa­ban said. “Not by the record, but some kind of power rat­ing that gets you in a bowl game.”

Bret Bielema smiled when asked about his thoughts on Sa­ban’s pro­posal.

“I think if you’re some­one that’s won sev­eral na­tional cham­pi­onships, you can say what­ever you want, and ev­ery­body’s go­ing to think it’s right,” Bielema said. “So it doesn’t do me any good to make an opin­ion.”

Bielema said he en­joys play­ing TCU, which is Arkansas’ non­con­fer­ence op­po­nent from a Power 5 con­fer­ence for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive sea­son.

“How about this? I’ll throw this back at you, all right?” Bielema said. “If we go to the 14 [week] sched­ule where we get two bye weeks, I think there’s some merit to that, all right? But in this league, I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced it. It’s not like some­body that’s just throw­ing out hot air. There is a dif­fer­ence play­ing in the SEC West.”

Bielema said he un­der­stands the at­trac­tion of more games against Power 5 teams.

“I know the fans would love it, but you’ve also got to keep peo­ple healthy,” he said. “I think you’d have to adapt maybe squad sizes a lit­tle bit.”

Irish ahead

Bret Bielema was talk­ing about sched­ul­ing last week when he segued into Arkansas’ up­com­ing non­con­fer­ence games against Notre Dame, which are sched­uled for 2020 in Notre Dame and 2025 in Fayet­teville.

“No­body’s asked me in here about play­ing Notre Dame,” Bielema said. “I’ve been try­ing to get that game go­ing for a long time.”

Bielema said he started up “a lit­tle bit” of a re­la­tion­ship with Irish Coach Brian Kelly a cou­ple of years ago.

“The op­por­tu­nity came about, kind of in­di­rectly be­cause, I think, Michi­gan dropped us for Notre Dame,” Bielema said. “It’s weird how the whole world works be­cause now we’re able to get back in that con­ver­sa­tion.”

Last July, Michi­gan backed out of a two-game se­ries with the Ra­zor­backs, which was sched­uled for 2018-2019, be­cause the Wolver­ines rekin­dled their ri­valry with Notre Dame. Michi­gan had to pay a $2 mil­lion buy­out to break the con­tract.

Bielema was asked whether he was a fan of Notre Dame as a kid grow­ing up in Prophet­stown, Ill., in the west­ern part of the state.

“I fol­lowed what­ever was on TV,” he said. “We had one TV in the liv­ing room and I was the re­mote. I guess Notre Dame was on quite a bit.

“I hon­estly grew up kind of an Illi­nois fan. Then I con­verted to Iowa when I went there, ob­vi­ously.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

Re­ceiver Gary Cross’ ath­letic abil­ity has got­ten the at­ten­tion of Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema who said the for­mer Fordyce stand­out’s one-step jump over a 60-inch hur­dle was “pretty im­pres­sive.”

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