Here is the 2009 University of Arkansas football spring preview and a transcript from Monday's press conference with head coach Bobby Petrino is below. Practices Begin Tomorrow.
"We get to start practice tomorrow, which is a good thing. We are looking forward to it. I do think we had a good offseason. I think our strength and conditioning staff did an excellent job. Our players worked extremely hard and we made big gains. Guys that needed gain weight did a good job and guys that needed to lose weight did an ok job and will continue to have to work at that. We did get much stronger and showed the types of gains we had hoped to see a year ago. I felt a year ago was more about survival in the offseason and just getting through the day.
"This year was completely different. Our attitude was to attack the day. Our players really did a nice job of that. We finished up with a very good week of testing and a lot of excitement and energy. A lot of guys had their personal bests, which was good for us. Now we get to move on to football. We will continue to work hard in the weight room throughout spring football and continue to make gains there, but we do get to go out and practice so we are all excited about that. It is going to be a lot about teaching and a lot about getting better at your position. Working on the details and fundamentals of your position and then about refining and getting better in our schemes offensively and defensively.
"Special teams will be a little bit different since some of that will be new. They will be a step behind as far as understanding what we want to do, but I'm looking forward to our installation there also. I expect us to take huge strides. We came in a year ago and everyday was a new day. There wasn't any carryover. It was a lot about trying to memorize things and get lined up and really figure out what it was we were trying to do. I expect now to see a lot of improvement and see 11 guys working together, understanding the scheme and understanding the other side of the ball. When you do that you can play fast. It is going to be a physical spring. I do believe you get better by hitting and running full speed to the ball.
"They map out how many days you get to tackle and how many you get to scrimmage so it is no more than anyone else and we'll go as many reps as we can. You do have to be cautious a little with some of our depth. We don't have enough offensive linemen so we have to stay healthy there throughout spring, but I expect that we will.
"Guys that will miss spring ball. Michael Smith will be out. We are kind of holding him. He's doing a great job on his rehab and is way ahead of schedule. He's anxious to get back in there. Maybe the last week of spring he'll do some individual work and some technique work, but he won't be in any competition drills. Lucas Miller will be out.
"He's doing very well and is ahead of schedule. Marques Wade will be limited. He is working hard at it, but there will be some things that he gets to do and some things that he doesn't. Elton Ford will be limited. He's doing great and I'm very impressed with his ability to come back from that injury and not show any effects at all. He's doing everything in the weight room. He just won't be able to have any contact in spring ball. He'll be out there and have a helmet on and will do as much as he can as long as there is no contact in the drill. It is a necessity and hopefully he'll be back full go when we start drills in the fall.
On player position changes:
"Chris Gragg had a really good offseason; we feel he'll grow into being the type of tight end we want. He is strong and very fast. He can get down the middle and he is very competitive and very willing to work on blocking. We'll have to see how he holds up on that. We play a lot of two tight end sets where one guy is a tight end and the other is an h-back. We feel like we can look at him in both situations and he'll contribute and he'll get into a position to make plays for us. We moved Tenarious Wright to defensive end really to get more reps at it.
"Last fall when we decided to redshirt him he played both linebacker and defensive end. He really gave us some great looks as a pass rush defensive end and some weeks as a linebacker. We feel like we need a little more competition at defensive end and as someone that can rush off the edge we are going to give him a look there. It doesn't mean it is a move that we will stay with, but that's where we are going to start him out at full time. Van Stumon played fullback and tight end for us last year and he'll continue to do that for us. On the offensive front we took our guards and we're looking at them both at a different position. Grayson at center, which is something he did last year and something we liked when we saw him in there and then he started at guard all year long.
"We took Love and moved him out to tackle. I think he is more suited for tackle. He is very athletic and has long arms. I think he'll do a good job for us. There will be good competition on the offensive front. I think that is an area we'll have a lot of competition and see who works out the best. Petrus is coming back. Aguirre can play both guard and tackle and will start off at guard for us. A guy that has had a great off season is Matt Hall and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in the drills. He's got much stronger and has done a nice job. Seth Oxner tested out as well as anybody up front. His ability to run and move. He'll play both guard and center. Both him and Grayson will rotate at guard and center and we'll really try to figure out who the best guy is. We do need to develop depth at center.
On spring semester enrollees:
Knile Davis is a young man I'm looking forward to seeing carry the football and pass protect. I know he can catch the ball. He did a great job catching the ball in high school. It is unbelievable what he did in the weight room. He tested off the charts with his speed and strength. He excited you. He's very young and came in here in January and has a bright future in front of him. Andru Stewart did a nice job in the offseason.
"He'll start out at corner and has the ability to play nickel and then if we need some work at safety with him we would do that. Really we're looking at spring basically with him at corner and nickel for us. Broderick Green did a nice job in the weight room. He had a good 40 time and I'm looking forward to seeing him run the ball and do the things he needs to do in the passing game. I don't anticipate we'll know anything on his status until after spring.
On special teams:
"We can really get a lot done this spring. A year ago, we didn't do as much special teams wise because we knew we'd have a lot of young guys playing. Because we were so young we feel like when you look at the depth on special teams it would take a special freshman to come in and beat guys out on special teams. We will spend more time working on it and I think it will really pay off. "
On the secondary:
"First you start out at corner with three guys competing with Isaac Madison, Jerell Norton and Greg Gatson had a nice offseason. He's very fast and very strong for his size. He's right there with the other two guys and will take just as many reps as the other two will. On the other side, you've got Ramon Broadway and Andru Stewart and the two of those guys will battle it out there. (Evan) Bettis will get in there and compete to after playing a lot on special teams for us last year."
On the quarterbacks:
"They will all get reps with the one group. Probably Ryan (Mallett) and Tyler (Wilson) a little more and Jim (Youngblood) will have to earn them a little bit more. Jim has really made a concentration on knowing the offense. He's done a nice job of getting bigger and faster in the weight room. I'm looking forward to seeing how he does when he is out there on the field. He's a little different style guy, which will be great for us. He has the ability to run the ball, which is more difficult to defend. It helps our defense to see that look in spring practice."
On Ryan (Mallett) during Sunday practices last season:
"I think it helps a lot. Between last spring and then the fall and what we did on Sunday nights we have 455 reps on video of Ryan executing our offense. You take that and break it down into cutups, he's been able to go in and watch himself operate the plays. It gives the coaches an understanding his strengths and weaknesses. It puts you a lot farther ahead than if he was just starting right now. One thing is he knows football very well and he's a quick learner. I think that will help him a lot too. Obviously, he's got real good arm strength. He actually does a real nice job in our quick passing game. With his height and he throws the ball with a real quick release a lot of wrist and not so much arm movement involved really helps. He moves around better than I would have thought seeing how big his feet are. He can buy time to throw the ball down the field."
On Tyler Wilson:
"It definitely set him back when he was sick and he lost a lot of weight, but he gained that back. He's just over 200 pounds now. When he came in last fall he was right about 180. He's worked hard to get bigger and stronger. One thing about Tyler is that he has great instincts and really can feel the pass rush. He can move in the pocket and get the ball out of his hands. We need to get his feet under him a little bit more, but he can throw the ball in a lot of ways which always helps at quarterback."
On the defense:
"The first thing we need to do is tackle better. We have to get to the ball. 11 guys have to get to the ball and run full speed. We have to make sure we don't have as many assignment errors. The good thing is when you watch all our video from last year almost all those guys in the video are back. I really feel like we'll be much better in our knowledge of what we are asking them to do and their knowledge of being able to play faster. We have to play the principles of good defense better. We have a lot to learn and a long way to go."
On John L. Smith:
"I'm excited about it. He's already helped us on the staff with his experience and enthusiasm. He's already made great relationships with the players. When I worked for him I was always intrigued by his ability to evaluate players and their positions in what they do best and where you should place them. I'll continue to rely on him for that."
On Malcolm Sheppard:
"He did a nice job. He worked extremely hard and he's always going to. You never have to worry about him. He packs a lunch every day and goes to work. The thing we've been working on with him is getting him the weight and the strength to be a full time inside guy. That's what he's best at. He provides energy for everybody. If you are a player on this team and asking how you should work every day you should look at Malcolm."
On the running back position:
"They'll all take reps. Dennis is coming off a real nice game against LSU. He had a great time in the 40-yard dash the other day. He understands he needs to pass protect better. He needs to know who to pick up and utilize his technique. That is what really keeps you in there and getting more reps at running back is protecting the quarterback. Brandon Barnett had a really nice spring last year and had knee surgery after spring ball.
"That really set him behind, but towards the end of the year was really doing a nice job for us. De'Anthony Curtis played a lot as a true freshman. I know he didn't play as well as he expects himself too. He has to work on driving through tackles, which he is capable of doing. Sometime as a freshman, you are not use to doing it at that speed. I think that is the thing I want to see from him more than anything else is his ability to run through tackles, keep his legs driving on contact and taking care of the ball."
On the wide receivers:
"We have a lot more experience, but we don't have many numbers. That's the concern I have is we don't have a lot of numbers. London is coming back off a good season. We need to utilize him better and get him the ball in better situations. That's up to me to do that. He certainly showed his explosiveness and probably did as good of job as anybody in the weight room.
"He's a guy we need to get big plays out of. Jarius Wright came on at the end of the year last year and showed a lot of big play ability particularly on the deep ball. He's stronger and gained more weight and we want to see him run with the ball after the catch better. Make more guys miss and break some tackles. With having to play as a true freshman he should be a different guy for us. Joe Adams we might play a little bit more in the slot trying to get him more touches and opportunities to run after the catch. When you look back on the big games we played and the best competition we played that's when Joe had his best games and most catches.
"His ability to run after the catch is something we have to utilize more. Salters is going to be a guy who can really work the sticks and make catches. He's got great hands and understands how to get open inside. Childs is coming back. He's a big guy, very physical and can jump and get the ball out of the air. He had a good offseason.
On D.J. Williams:
"The first thing he has to do is block better. He has to be a better force for us in the running game and become a true tight end. Obviously, we know he's going to run routes and we know he can catch and run well after the catch. This spring is more about him becoming a pure tight end and becoming a force in the running game and doing a better job continuing to drive blocks. We'll continue throwing him the ball. I'm excited about Ben Cleveland. Ben really came on mid-year last year in practice knowing what he's supposed to do. He's as healthy as he's been since he's been here."
"In the spring, you'll see Mallett and Stephen Barnett. Ryan can certainly do it. He's got great flexibility and get the ball up high. I think there will be sometimes during games you'll see him do that. Forester won't be here until this summer."
On the leadership qualities of the quarterbacks:
"They have been very willing leaders and have worked hard. Now is the time to show it on the field. The first thing I really believe leadership is that number one you have to do your job real well. Number two you have to follow and do what the coaches ask you to do and then you can become a real good leader. This spring they have to do a great job of playing their position and show everyone on the field they can play. Number two they have to be coachable and execute the offense the way the coaches show them."