The University of Arkansas held football media day on Tuesday. Following is a partial transcript of head coach Houston Nutt’s press conference.
“It was good to be on the field Monday. We got so much done for the first day. There was a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of nervous energy all day long. Our guys couldn’t wait to get out on the field. They got hot. We had a few guys who got overheated. From start to finish, I was really proud of what we got done yesterday.
“It is hard to educate true freshman on what is going to happen when you recruit them so hard so long. It is hard to simulate and explain. It is easy to get down. I wish we had freshman time, one or two days, where we can explain and work. We don’t want any long faces. We are very excited about this freshman group. This makes two good classes back to back that are very athletic. Felix Jones, Darren McFadden and Michael Smith had an outstanding day the first day. They made great cuts. We’re putting in two plays a day. They ran with their eyes, which I thought was outstanding. Tyrell Graham, Freddie Fairchild, those two guys are coming. They have a long way to go, but they’re coming. I thought Elston Forte stood out. He played the ball extremely well.
“I was impressed on the offensive line because they have the most to do. They have a lot to concentrate on. Our offensive line got tired at the end. Tony Ugoh got a little overheated but it is good to see Tony back. Cody Green will be back by Wednesday or Thursday. He had back surgery. He is being checked by another doctor. We look to see him here at camp.
“I thought the quarterbacks didn’t start out too sharp. I think Robert Johnson was the most accurate from the first period to the end of the day.
“I am not going to have it all-out for the quarterbacks every day, but they have to fight for a jersey just like everybody else. I want them to adjust and make checks. They’re going to get hit a little bit to see who gets right back up. We’re not going to give them the green jerseys, blue jerseys. There’s just not a need for that right now.
“Teams are going to make us play left handed. They are going to make us do things they think we can’t do. There is a lot of emphasis in our passing game to hit the receivers on time in their passing routes. We worked hard Monday on screens. I just think we can have a good running game. We will keep the option, we just won’t have it as much.
“Marcus Monk has a lot of talent, but he’s got to get more physical with the run game. Jared Hicks has the most talent (at tight end) and gets the most snaps.
“We are going to be very physical every day. We are going to tackle every day. I asked Coach (Reggie) Herring to dummy tackle somebody every day, which is his nature. He likes to do that. We’ll go offense vs. defense. We will have two good solid scrimmages. We’ll have a more physical pass rush to put those quarterbacks under pressure. We need to find those guys that can do that under pressure. Those first 10 periods I was so excited because everyone was moving. The temperature jumped on us at the end.
“I am excited about our defense. I like their temperament, what they are demanding. I feel you get what you demand. It’s been a real challenge to our team. It’s been tough with an empty bowl feeling. It is no fun not getting our reward at the end of the year. We’ve got a chance to have a good defense.
“Randy Kelly brings great instincts. His footwork has improved tremendously. He needs to put on more meat, more bulk. We haven’t had the real hammer back there. Vickel Vaughn can read a quarterback’s eyes better than anyone else.
“The secondary realizes that there is no one else behind them. Our defensive line has got to put more pressure on the offense so they don’t have as much time.
“Jeremy Davis won that job (punting) last year because of consistency. Jacob Skinner has the strongest leg, but he has to be consistent. We only gave up 80 yards from punt returns last year. There’s some yardage to be gained. We need our punters, our kickers to have a good year. Skinner, Richard Bracken, Clark Irwin are working at holder because we don’t have Dowell Loggains anymore.”
“I think he is in outstanding shape. I love the way he has conditioned himself this summer and his focus is outstanding. He is going to be used in a variety of ways and won’t come off the field much. He has a lot of responsibility. We need him to stay healthy and run hard. He has such great balance and has such a great body lean. He hits the line hard. He’s a truck when he hits that line.”
“I think he’s going to be fine. He’s had a tremendous summer and worked extremely hard. After the doctor report I got last year after the Auburn game, you would have thought he wasn’t going to be able to come back. I see a whole new ball game with him. Hopefully we keep him on the field. Dedrick Poole is outstanding.”
“He gives you an edge with consistent punt returns. He gets down or out of bounds and doesn’t take the hit.”
“We had a talk with them Monday and told them we were depending on them. Kyle Roper is an excellent leader. Stephen Parker is a tough guy. Robert Felton is a great athlete. We also have Tony Ugoh, Zac Tubbs and Tyler Morgan, and all the guys that are behind them. We’re going to need all these guys. If we stay on the field and stay healthy, we’re going to be good. It is just much easier for Tubbs to kick back with the screws in his ankles.”
On Closing Practice:
“I talked to the seniors in the spring and they were 100 percent for it. The last thing I want to do is hurt the people in this room, because you’ve been good to me. I have to do what I feel is best for the team. The best teaching tool is the closed practice. It is more intense. We got better in the spring because of that. I have to do what is best for the team.”
“Landon Leach was a super, super young man and continues to be. He is going to help us as a student coach and will be a valuable asset. He’s been through so much. Your heart goes out to a guy like that who was an outstanding high school quarterback with high hopes and who always wanted to be a Razorback. You always want a guy with his character around the locker room. I think he will be very valuable.
“James Johnson has been through so many surgeries. He will be helping Coach (Mike) Markuson.
“Derek Moore has had ankle surgeries, tendonitis in the knees and you saw him with Coach (Tracy) Rocker Monday. We have had some young men that have been through so much and their dreams have been cut off in one way, but they’re still helping our program. I am so excited about those guys.
“Skye Peterson has a job at Farmington High School helping Coach Adams with the offensive line. All these guys are going to graduate if they haven’t graduated already. They will finish their education here.”