University of Arkansas Pre-Spring Press Conference (March 23, 2009)
Head Coach Bobby Petrino

“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 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 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 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.