After battling the sweltering heat earlier in the week, the overcast skies and 74 degrees of Saturday morning’s practice must have felt pretty good to the Razorbacks. About 100 fans, including TipsterHog and myself, took the opportunity to catch a first-hand glimpse of fall camp.
Here are a few of our casual observations made while watching the two hour practice:
The newcomer that really surprised me, though, was freshman running back Dennis Johnson of Texarkana. Johnson (5-7, 195) is cat quick and showed an elusive burst that is going to make him hard to bring down. For those who have not seen him, just imagine a younger, less experienced version of Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Chip Gregory also looked much improved at running back after his injury-hampered spring. Running hard and breaking tackles with strength is not a problem. Hanging onto the ball, however, continues to be as Gregory fumbled again during one of the Hogs tackling drills.
– As for the quarterbacks, Tyler Wilson and Jim Youngblood are good prospects. Both have strong arms and showed flashes. But both probably need to redshirt if the Hogs can get by without playing them.
Wilson needs to improve his strength (especially in his lower body) and Youngblood needs to improve his mechanics. Both of those deficiencies, of course, are pretty typical for most incoming freshman quarterbacks.
Ryan Mallett is just off the charts. He will be a superstar when his time comes.
Finally, while other units were running their drills, quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee was taking two five-minute periods to work with all the quarterbacks on making the proper pre-snap check (audible) after a defensive shift. Very interesting and fun to watch.
– On the defensive side, I felt a little better about the linebackers after getting a closeup view of Ryan Powers, Jermaine Love, Jerry Franklin, and Freddy Burton. These four along with senior captain Elston Forte might be okay as a group, but they are so ‘smallish’ by SEC standards that it’s still an area of concern.
Some of the tackling drills on Saturday seemed to indicate that true freshman Tenarius Wright (6-2, 230) was taking a small step back for the moment. It’s obvious that junior Wendel Davis needs to get healthy again over the next few weeks.
Heavy rains in the Fayetteville area forced the Hogs inside for the second practice on Saturday. Expect some shakeups (like the move of Wade Grayson to first team) after the coaches review the film of Sunday’s scrimmage. It should be a fun week to watch the depth chart.