Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Hogs in need of a change
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema stands on the field prior to a Nov. 29, 2013 game against LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said Wednesday that the Razorbacks football players are “champing at the bit” for spring drills to start.
“It’s kind of at that point now that we’ve been grinding on them,” Bielema said, talking specifically about the work strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert has done with the team. “They just kind of want to put some pads on.”
Bielema, speaking during the Razorbacks’ annual pro day activities at Walker Pavilion, said the first of 15 practices is scheduled for March 16, with the first two practices in helmets and shorts. The first full-pads workout will be Thursday, March 20, and Bielema said he is considering making it open to the public.
The first two practices will likely be closed, Bielema said, because even he doesn’t like watching practices without pads.
“You guys really dislike it,” Bielema told members of the media. “But then the third practice, which is that Thursday, we’ll probably open that up, which will be the first day in pads. It will be good energy.”
Bielema explained why he kept spring practices closed last year.
“I felt we needed to develop a rapport with our kids without everybody reporting on it,” he said. “I felt it was important for us to do that.”Good ball
Watching Arkansas’ progress in basketball has been a kick for football Coach Bret Bielema.
“I watched the whole season unfold,” said Bielema, who led Arkansas to a 3-9 record in his first season as the Razorbacks’ football coach. “They have success … that makes us all better.
It just gives us an exposure that’s off the charts.”
Bielema said all the proper procedures had to be followed in his effort to hire an on-campus recruiting coordinator to replace Chris Hauser, who was not retained.
“I couldn’t officially bring anybody on campus until Monday evening and it closed the application process,” he said. “I’ve got a good group of probably four guys - I should say four people - that I’m going to bring on campus and have a chance to sit down with our staff and go over and meet with them the next two weeks.”
Bret Bielema said the team’s off season workouts have been impacted by the winter weather that lingered through the early part of the week after last Sunday’s sleet and snow.
“We’ve had so many class days canceled,” Bielema said, explaining how a structured workout had to be pushed back a day last week because classes were canceled. “If classes are canceled, we can’t have structured workouts. Soit’s been a little bit difficult for us on that.”
Korliss Marshall, one of the Razorbacks’ fastest players, will remain in the tailback rotation when spring begins.
Arkansas coaches have talked about splitting reps for Marshall, a sophomore from Osceola, between tailback and safety, which remains an option.
Marshall, 6-0, 200 pounds, rushed 17 times for 146 yards (an 8.6-yard average) and had 19 kickoff returns for a team-high 422 yards during his freshman season.
Tight end Mitchell Loewen will undergo rehabilitation through the spring and summer after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in February, Bret Bielema said.
Otherwise, the Razorbacks’ injuries have been moderate during off season workouts.
Defensive tackle DeMarcus Hodges had a minor knee procedure completed during the winter.
A large group of former Razorbacks were on hand Wednesday to lend support to their former teammates on pro day.
The group included quarterback Ryan Mallett (New England Patriots), running backs Knile Davis (Kansas City Chiefs), Dennis Johnson (Houston Texans) and Ronnie Wingo Jr. (Buffalo Bills), receiver Cobi Hamilton (Cincinnati Bengals), safety Tramain Thomas (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and linebacker Jerry Franklin, who said he is entering the second year of a two-year deal with the Chicago Bears.
Arkansas’ seniors got reacquainted with the hot passes of Ryan Mallett, who threw on Arkansas’ pro day for the third time in four years.
“It’s been crazy,” said Julian Horton, who added that the pass catchers practiced with Mallett one day before pro day. “It feels good to get out here with him and show the scouts how we are working with a pro.”
Defensive end Chris Smith caught passes from Mallett while doing dropback and break-on-the-ball drills.
“Catching the ball from him, you’ve got to catch it because he sticks it right in there,” Smith said. “I feel like I showed people I can stand up [and play linebacker].”
Zach Hocker, Arkansas’ all-time scoring leader with 354 points, said his experience at the NFL Scouting Combine was “perfect.”
Hocker, from Russellville, said he made 13 out of 15 field-goal attempts in testing at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and that his kickoffs went well. He didn’t kick at Arkansas’ pro day, but Hocker said he will be busy soon.
“I’ve got a couple of individual workouts set up,” he said. “There’s six or seven teams I’m working out with.
Until then I’m just hanging out, waiting on a call.”
Sports, Pages 29 on 03/09/2014