FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas Razorback football participated in its third day of two-a-day-practices on Wednesday in the middle of the second week of fall camp.
The Hogs began the morning practice at 9:50 a.m. on the practice fields just south of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. They spent the entire practice outside and participated in stretching and drills for just over an hour.
Wednesday morning, the Hogs found themselves participating in numerous drills involving special teams and the passing game. Game-day preparations were also an integral part of practice with the scout team combating against the varsity squad.
The evening portion of practice began at 6:50 p.m. and was contested for slightly less then two hours on the practice fields under the lights.
“We had a good practice tonight,” head coach Houston Nutt said. “We are a little tired, we are getting a little sluggish and sore towards the end of the week. We got some things done and we are improving. That’s what camp is about; you get a little tired but you have to keep going, keep playing hard, keep lining up the correct way and keep giving us full-speed effort.”
Though his pre-season plan of choosing between three healthy quarterbacks, Casey Dick, Robert Johnson and Mitch Mustain, was slightly spoiled by Dick’s absence from the last week of practice because of a nagging back injury, Nutt felt confident in naming Johnson as the first-team signal-caller and is excited to see his squad stand behind him.
“We have named Robert Johnson the starting quarterback,” Nutt said. “I talked with each of the quarterbacks and feel good about (naming Johnson the starter). Robert has improved greatly and we want everybody to get behind him. Our team is excited.”
Because of the back injury that kept Dick out of practice the last week, Johnson and Mustain got more time on the field, more reps and more opportunities to display their skills with the Razorback receiving and rushing corps.
“Right now, we are working with two quarterbacks,” Nutt said. “I feel for Casey Dick. He has been through a lot and he’s very frustrated. This is not what we planned. We didn’t plan for McFadden’s (injury) and we sure didn’t plan for Casey Dick’s situation. We expected him to be full speed. Hopefully he can get back; we don’t know when. All I know is Casey Dick cannot be ready by the first game and you have to go forward. I think it was the proper time to let our team know who the first-team quarterback is.”
Even though the quarterback decision has been made, Nutt is more then aware of what is waiting on the sidelines.
“Mitch Mustain is an excellent quarterback,” Nutt said. “For a freshman, he has done a lot of good things. He has taken a lot of reps because of Casey’s situation and he has done a very, very good job; I’m real proud of him. Mitch is so mature; that is what I love about him. It’s really easy to see why he won so many games in high school. He’s so mature and he’s very positive. He’s good to go and I think it motivates him to work even harder.”
Nutt’s decision, based on numerous qualities and attributes that are imperative for a quarterback to possess, came down to experience.
“Robert Johnson is a little older and I think he is much better now then he was a year ago,” Nutt said. “We are going to keep him going and hopefully our team will keep improving. It’s hard to replace experience. He’s experienced; he’s been out there a little bit more. He’s a little bit more familiar with things. We have two quarterbacks now; we expected to have three but we only have two. Both of our quarterbacks are extremely important. I just feel like Robert is a little bit further a long.”
Nutt also made the decision based on Johnson’s relationship with quarterbacks coach Alex Wood and his improved decision-making skills.
“There has always been discussion (about the starting quarterback) when Casey Dick wasn’t on the field,” Nutt said. “Everyday we would talk about our quarterback situation. It was a must. When we go into our offensive meetings, we always talk about our personnel. It was a good thing (to have a decision to make about the quarterback). We were hoping that Casey would be out here and it would have been an even better race.”
The Razorbacks will return to the practice fields at 6:50 p.m. on Thursday. Fans are reminded of the Aug. 19 scrimmage that will be held at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.