FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas football head coach Bobby Petrino met with local media Wednesday to discuss the Razorbacks’ spring practice and upcoming summer schedule. The following is a partial transcript of the press conference.
“Our players are finishing up finals right now and most of them will be done by tomorrow and then they get a little break. They actually come back and start summer school May 19, so it’s not much of a break but we won’t really start our summer conditioning and weight lifting until around the first of June. So even though they’ll be back, there will be some discretionary time in the weight room and other things they do, but we’ll kick it off hard in June.
“The freshman—probably six or seven of them—will be in that first summer school session on May 19. A number of them of will come June 1 because there’s a five-week session that starts June 2 and then we do have some that won’t be able to come until the second session of summer school which is at the end of June.
“All the coaches are on the road right now recruiting. It’s a fun time because you get spring ball over and you get out and start recruiting for next year’s class. They’re working hard at it. We’ve got a number of commitments already that we’re excited about. Certainly, we know it’s a long way from signing day, but it’s something you like to do. You get out, watch practice and are able to watch at some places that have jamborees. You can meet with the school and the counselor to go through transcripts and watch video at the high school, so that’s basically what our line of business is right now.”
Progression of quarterbacks
“I thought Casey (Dick) did a real nice job improving each week. We kind of go by week and set three goals for each week—what we need to do, what we need to work on. I thought he did show a lot of improvement. I thought the scrimmage the week prior to the Spring Game is the one I like the most. He was distributing the ball well, he was very accurate and he looked like he was more comfortable in how to operate the offense. We certainly have a long way to go, but we took a couple of real good strides there.
“Nathan Dick improved as the spring went on. He had a slow start, but started to throw the ball better. I thought Coach (Garrick) McGee did an excellent job working with his technique and fundamentals. His confidence grew and he finished off the spring real well.
“One thing Alex (Mortensen) does every time he comes in is move the team. He’s been able to move the offense and get them into the endzone. He’s done an excellent job running our run game and a nice job running the play action and throwing the ball deep. He’s got some work to do in our quick passing game and some of our timing and accuracy.
“All three of them certainly showed some improvement and we’ve certainly have a long way to go. Of course, we all know Ryan (Mallett) didn’t get a whole lot of work, especially after he hurt his thumb.”
“I thought London Crawford came out of spring with some confidence in him self and confidence by the quarterbacks. He’s certainly a very strong, physical guy that I think we can really utilize when cornerbacks like to come up and press. That’s one of his strengths—beating the corner at the line of scrimmage simply because of his combination of strength and speed. He’s catching the deep ball and needs to continue to work on that. Some of it has to do with his eyes and locating the ball and getting his hands in proper position, certainly things that we can correct. “He just needs a lot of reps. I think the thing that impressed me most was his ability to run after the catch and that was from the first scrimmage until the end. He’s hard to tackle. He runs physical. He’s very powerful, so there are a lot of good attributes to work with.
“(Carlton) Salters came out of spring with confidence that he can work inside against the linebackers and catch the ball over the middle. He has very good hands. He can catch the ball in traffic because of his hands. He can catch it away from his body. We’re going to continue working with him on running after the catch and also on his speed and being more of a threat down the field. We have to utilize him more down the field than we did in the spring.
“I think Marques Wade showed some signs that he can be a factor for us. He did catch some deep balls and he got better each week in his route running. He needs to get stronger in his waist and his lower body so he doesn’t get knocked off balance so that when someone hits him or pushes him, he’s able to stay in stride and finish his routes.
“We got some production from (Rod) Coleman in the Spring Game. I thought he showed that he can catch the deep ball and he did a nice job of running it on the reverse. He was just up and down. He’d have a few days where he was pretty good and then he’d have a few days where he dropped off a little bit, so he has to get much more consistent for us.
“Lucas Miller did a nice job catching the ball in a couple of scrimmages. Again, I think he just needs to work on his consistency.”
“I feel real good about (Alex) Tejada. I think he’s only going to get better. We’re kind of forcing the issue with Matt Harris being the holder. I don’t think Matt is our best holder at this point, but I think he will be by the time next fall comes around. He has to get a lot of work in the summer. I like the fact that they’re both the same age and they can work together for a number of years instead of having a senior holder.
“I think Tejada can be a real good weapon for us. I feel comfortable anytime he’s inside 50 yards that we can get three points on the board. We do need to get the three of them—the snapper, the holder and the timing of it all—working together.
“Kicking off is something we have to work on and we will spend a lot of time during pre-fall and two-a-days on our kickoff and kickoff coverage teams, which I don’t like to do in spring ball because you have different guys in there in the fall. I just don’t think it carries over as much as the other parts of special teams.”
Impact of incoming freshman
“I’m not going to single anybody out. I think we know the positions where we need help. We need help at wide receiver. We need help at running back. We have to develop a guy inside at the defensive tackle position that can help us right away. We need to develop some depth at linebacker because our numbers aren’t real good there.
“What we always look at is, No. 1, are they physically ready to play? So they have to come in and physically be able to play and stay healthy. No. 2, are they mentally ready to play? I’ve had guys that I’ve recruited before and there’s been no question in my mind that this guy can play as a true freshman. Then they show up and all of a sudden it’s a little too fast for them. They get a little overwhelmed because every guy they’re lined up next to and every guy they’re lined up against was the best player at his high school, too, so the game changes a little bit for them. For some guys it takes longer to adjust. That’s why it’s hard to single anybody out.”
D.J. Williams’ role
“I don’t think we’re asking (D.J. Williams) to do too much at all. He’s a talented guy. We have to find ways to get him the ball. We have to find ways to get him in the position where he can run after the catch because he’s very hard to tackle. He’s a good blocker. He doesn’t have any problem doing that, so between him and Andrew Davie, I think we have two tight ends that can do a lot of different things. I certainly feel like if you were to go to battle today, they would be two of our strengths with the different ways we can utilize their talents.”
Jake Bequette as the No. 1 left end on the depth chart
“It wasn’t a surprise because (Jake Bequette) earned it. He started down at the second and third positions and he just kept getting better as spring went on. He’s a young man that plays with a great motor. He goes as hard as he can for as long as he can. He’s starting to learn and understand the position better. He has the chance some day to be real, real good at it because of the combination of strength and speed and the fact that he has a real good heart and he wants to be good. He earned the move up there to go with the first group.”
Other depth chart movement
“There was a point in time where (Jose) Valdez was down with the second team and he came back the last couple of weeks and started to perform better. I really think (Wade) Grayson has a chance to be a good player. He’s going to be able to play guard and center for us. He’s a guy that is very athletic and very talented and really likes to play hard.“I think the next guy that stands out probably more than anyone would be (Darrell) Glasper. He started down low and each time we go out there, he makes plays on the ball and shows that he can really play the ball in the air and catch it. He has good instincts and good hands. He did a nice job and stepped up probably as much as anybody else.”