In two hours of intense scrimmaging Friday afternoon at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, head coach Bobby Petrino got some good, some bad, and a little bit of ugly from his players in their first full scrimmage of the spring.
First note from the afternoon: Petrino wisely opted to let star tailback Knile Davis sit out the full contact portion of the afternoon workout. Davis was a visible leader during the extensive pre-scrimmage work. He looked fast and agile after having to sit out last season with an ankle injury he suffered during a pre-season scrimmage.
As expected, rising seniors Tyler Wilson and Cobi Hamilton provided plenty of highlights. The 6-3 Hamilton used his size and blazing speed to haul in two deep touchdown passes from Wilson, one over the middle and the other in the right corner of the endzone. Wilson, first-team All-SEC in 2011, finished the day with four TD passes. The other two were to rising sophomore receiver and special teams ace Marquel Wade for 60 and 25 yards. Wade hung on to a pass after being hammered by safety Alan Turner and also caught a 15-yard scoring pass from backup QB Brandon Mitchell. On that scoring play Mitchell did a superb job selling a run fake. Keante Minor also looked sharp catching passes Friday.
Rising senior Dennis Johnson picked up where he left off last season by leading all rushers. The 5-9, 213 pound Johnson showed excellent speed and vision as he took two handoffs over the left side of the offensive line in for scores from 10 and 15 yards out. Later, he scooted through a hole up the middle, cut left and went 10 yards for a third touchdown.
Tailbacks Ronnie Wingo and Kody Walker and fullback Kiero Small looked great catching balls coming out of the backfield and making yards after the catch. Wingo also had one strong run up the middle in the red zone and finished that drive with a 1-yard touchdown dive over the left side. Walker and Small both showed great power by running through tackles and moving the pile several times on runs and after catches. On two consecutive passes out of the backfield from Wilson, Small used all of his 255 pounds to punish several defensive backs as he drove for extra yards.
Heralded redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Allen showed his lightning quick release and looked good at times. He also showed he has a ways to go by losing a fumbled snap and throwing into coverage several times. But Allen hit some very solid passes, including a throw across his body when scrambling to his left that tight end Chris Gragg hauled in for a big gain. Gragg had several other stellar receptions but his highlight for the day was a spectacular one-handed snag of a high Wilson fastball, unfortunately just a step out the back of the endzone.
Defensively, rising sophomore cornerback Kelvin Fisher made several great plays, including a pass breakup at the goal line and an interception (it might have been ruled a fumble recovery) when he literally stole the ball right out of receiver Maudrecus Humphrey’s hands. Tackle Jared Green, who transferred from Mississippi Valley State, recorded two tackles for losses and disrupted a third running play in the backfield. Safety Price Holmes picked off a Brian Buehner pass late in the scrimmage. Tackle Lavunce Askew and linebacker Austin Jones, a transfer from Air Force Academy, recorded a tackle for loss each. Horace Arkadie, Trey Flowers, Tenarius Wright, Matt Marshall and Kaelon Kelleybrew each were credited with a pass break-up. Flowers, Kelleybrew and Chris Smith also got a hand on the quarterback that counted as a sack.
The afternoon’s ugly came late in the day when safety Houston Pruitt horse-collared Wade after the speedy wideout hauled in a short pass and was racing down the right sideline. Fortunately, Wade wasn’t hurt. Pruitt was flagged by the referee and then pulled from the scrimmage to have a serious discussion with an assistant coach.
Perhaps even worse, rising junior Humphrey—who spent part of the 2011 season in Petrino’s doghouse—had a terrible afternoon topped off by Fisher picking his pocket. Humphrey dropped several easily catchable passes during the pre-scrimmage drills and had two passes fall through his hands during the scrimmage.
The Razorbacks’ next two Friday practices will be open to the public. They finish spring practice with the annual Red-White game at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 21.