The University of Arkansas held its 2011 Football Media Days today in Fayetteville.
Head Coach Bobby Petrino, along with a hand-full of players met with the media early Saturday morning.
The Razorbacks enter the season ranked 14th in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Below are quotes from Media Day, sent out by the University:
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (opening statement) – "Good morning. It's great to see a big crowd here today. After the first couple of practices, I'm very encouraged by where we're at as a football team. I think first and foremost you really see what Coach (Jason) Veltkamp and his strength staff accomplished throughout the summer. Our players are big and strong and faster than we've ever been and very, very well conditioned. I'm proud of our strength staff and how much work our players did throughout the summer. I can see everyone's in great condition.
"After a couple practices, I'm impressed with our recruiting class. It's exciting to me to see those types of recruits that we have, particularly on the defensive front, the size and athleticism we have there. I think they're doing a good job. If you look and notice our linebackers are much bigger and fast. I like the young defensive backs that we have. They've shown it in a couple practices. Offensively, we've got a quarterback that can really throw the ball. I'm really excited about Brandon (Allen). He's got a really quick release. He's got good velocity. He's shown to be very accurate. He's got to learn everything else it takes to be quarterback. Taking snaps properly and being under center. He does drop very well from underneath the center. He's had a couple exchange problems but it's exciting to see him. Kody Walker, at tailback, is a big, physical guy who can also play fullback for us. His size and strength are something you look for in recruiting and it's hard to find sometimes, running backs that are that big and that physical.
"The offensive linemen, unfortunately, aren't working with the young guys. They're all up with the vets. They're a very talented group. They're athletic. Their youth is showing up right now. They're getting schooled up a little bit by the experience we have on the defensive front, but they continue to work hard at it.
"I like our receivers out of the recruiting class. I think Keante Minor has really stood out. He's got tremendous hands, and it looks like he'll be really hard to tackle when he runs with the football. We have big, physical tight ends. I'm excited about that recruiting class. There's no question about that.
"In the vets practices, when you look at that, obviously we're in just helmets, no shoulder pads. The first couple practices, the defense has been ahead of the offense. It's not unusual to have it that way. Once the pads get on, sometimes it changes a little bit. I do believe that we're going to be a very good defense. I do believe that. I think that our size and our speed and our experience really helps us, and our depth. Just watching video this morning before I came in here, you see our second offense up and they're going against guys like Zach Stadther, who's been in the program for four years. He's going with the second defense. There's a little bit of a mismatch situation in some of the things we're doing. We just have to grow up fast on that offensive front"
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on the process of getting the offensive line where it needs to be) – "It's going to be a process. There's no doubt about that. I feel good about our strength inside. (Center) Travis Swanson is in there with his experience. His knowledge has really shown. I like our guards. Grant Cook has done a nice job. He's done a nice job of leading, helping the young guys. Alvin Bailey is big, physical, exactly what you want at that position with his ability. He understands the game real well, and he's helped the young guys. The question is going to be how we work and how we rotate and find out who those tackles are going to be. We're doing a number of different combinations. I think the number one thing you have to do is be patient and try to get better each day and it'll work itself out. We've got a lot of time before that first game."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on the defense's ability) – "That's yet to be seen. It's always hard to make comparisons to other defenses around the country when you don't get to see them all. What you do is just worry about yourself. What I like is on our front seven, we're bigger and more physical than we've ever been. We're more athletic, and we have a lot of experience and depth. That really helps you.
"In the secondary, when you look back there, we've got a couple safeties that have been playing for four years. Not always starting, but starting at times. We've got some corners with experience and then some young guys that are competing to get time and competing to start. I think the emphasis that we've put into recruiting on the defensive side of the ball is going to show up."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on if Tyler Wilson being named captain affects the QB battle) – "It doesn't make it harder at all. I think the number one thing our players understand, and they got a message of it again last night, they determine the depth, not the coaches. How you practice each day, how you perform each day at practice, what your attitude is, how you get better. You determine the depth. Not the coaches. It's easy to watch the video and see attitudes and see who is going to be the starter. They know it's a competition. They know it's a competition at the quarterback spot. They know it's a competition at every other spot out there. I think Tyler being named captain shows that the players respect his work ethic and how much he's put into the offseason and spring and summer and the leadership he's shown to the other players."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on the foundation of his first recruiting class) – "That's what is exciting for me is that senior class. We want to make sure they do a great job in their last season. The message to them is ‘It's your last go-around. You've done a lot for this program.' I always tell the players ‘You're the guys that are building the new facility. The way you've performed and the excitement you've generated throughout the program. You're the guys who've established our standards and how we operate. Now let's go finish it.'"
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on DTs Byran Jones and Robert Thomas) – "It's a good looking group inside. Robert, with all the work he had in the spring, showed how athletic he is. His ability to not only run, but rush the quarterback. It's great to have Byran back in practice. He played well last year as a true freshman, and he has the size and strength that you want. I think he's taken a step forward in understanding technique and how he can use his technique to become a better football player."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on Colton Miles-Nash at tight end) – "He's looked good as far as the physical ability and being able to come off the ball without pads on and show that he knows how to block. I think he's much faster than he was during his freshman year. We watched that during spring ball, and I wanted to make a tape of all his plays as a freshman. He's a tremendous blocker and did a lot of things for us as a freshman. He's faster now and running his routes faster. I'm excited to see how he's doing. There's a learning curve there. It's new to him, so he has to re-learn everything and he's has to work hard at that."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on FB-Kiero Small) – "I'm excited about Kiero. He's very strong and quick. I've been impressed with how quick a learner he is, and he's worked hard at it. I think we're going to find out he's going to add a lot to our offense as far as toughness goes and give us a little more of a thump for the lead blocker and open up some holes for the tailback. The other thing about Kiero is that he can catch the ball real well. We're going to look at him as a short-yardage runner. When I was recruiting him out of junior college, he played a lot of linebacker, played some fullback and then when we went back and watched his high school tape, my understanding was that he was one of the leading rushers in the state of Maryland. His high school tape of running the ball was very impressive. He's a talented young man that I think will add a lot to our offense."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on his use of the fullback position) – "I like a lead blocker and runners like a lead blocker. It helps you in today's football to attack the run against zone blitzes. I think there was a time when our offense was always one back and then Dom Capers came out and started all that zone blitzing phase and everybody else followed it. Now to run the ball against that, you have to put another back in the backfield. It gives you more balance. It allows you to protect the quarterback better at times. It's a comfort zone at times to put two running backs in the backfield."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on what it will take for RB-Knile Davis to continue his success from the end of last season into the 2011 season) – "It's on all of us. We do it together. We got to get the offensive line cranked up and going and make sure the quarterback is running the ball to the right spots and getting out of bad runs. You watch Knile practice and he excites you because he looks like he's getting to his speed quicker and accelerating quicker than he has, so I'm excited about Knile. With his hard work and dedication he put in throughout the summer, I can't imagine he won't have a successful season."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on the receiving corps) – "They are a good group of receivers. They've shown it for three years now and they are very productive. It's a good combination when you look at the four guys that are coming back. Joe Adams is a guy that's very hard to tackle and we try to do whatever we can to get the ball in his hands and get matchups where you can get him in open space. He wins those a lot of the time. It's good for a quarterback to throw a six-yard pass and it turn into a 25-yard run, that helps a lot. Jarius Wright is the fastest guy. He can really run great routes. Quarterbacks understand he's going to be exactly where he is supposed to be and he's done a nice job of leading, which is very obvious by being voted the captain. Greg Childs has been a really hard matchup. Anytime we've gotten one-on-one in the past, he has confidence he can beat anybody one-on-one because of the combination of strength and speed. He's very difficult to tackle also once he catches the ball. He's a big strong guy that runs hard. Cobi (Hamilton) is the big play guy. He's kind of a combination of all of them. He's had some really big games for us, particularly in Little Rock. I think he likes Little Rock. He's got great hands. He's big and can run good routes. The thing that they have to do is approach practice every day as they are coming out to get better in practice and they all need to improve for the first game."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on the receivers claiming to be unselfish) – "I don't think they are unselfish. I've never met a receiver that is unselfish. The deal with receivers is that they always want the ball, they're always open, but what you have to do is work hard when you are not the number one receiver. You have to run the route full speed and expect that something is going to happen where you are going to get the ball. You got to make sure you block hard and allow Knile (Davis), Ronnie (Wingo Jr.) and Dennis (Johnson) to get touchdown runs. That's what your blocking does downfield. Jarius Wright has probably had more touchdown blocks than any receiver I've ever coached, just because of his hustle and his speed. They're always going to want the ball, every play, but the key is to have a great attitude when your teammate and your friend is having a big game."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on QBs Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell) – "Tyler can throw the ball with anybody. He has the ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly. He can make all of the throws you need to make, and one thing that makes him unique is that he can throw the ball from different release points. I think Brandon has worked hard on his mechanics and has become more consistent. I always tell Brandon that the only thing he has to prove is that when it's 3rd-and-6 and the tight end is barely open that you can put the ball on his ear. He's a great runner with the football and gives you an added advantage."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on the tight end group) – "I think it has a chance to be a good combination. When you look at Colton Miles-Nash, he's big and physical. He has impressed me more in the passing game that I thought he would. Chris Gragg has shown the ability to get down the field. His speed and matchups are going to be a problem for defenses. Austin Tate can play both the tight end and fullback position. He's played a lot of football for us. He needs to continue to get better on his quickness. I really like what I see out of Garrett (Uekman). He just has to play faster and without hesitating."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on the return of Dennis Johnson and Seth Armbrust) – "I'm very happy to have D.J back. He's as good of a kick returner as there is out there. There is no question he is going to help us in returning and as a running back. He's back at full speed and I'm proud of him. The harder he works, the harder Knile (Davis) and Ronnie (Wingo Jr.) work. Seth is very coachable and helpful on special teams."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on how much you can judge the linemen without pads) – "You can tell a lot without pads. You get to focus on their feet and pad level as well as using their hands. The pads are much more favorable for the offensive lineman. When you practice without pads you lose the pad level."
Head Coach Bobby Petrino (on OL-Jason Peacock) – "I think his assignments are better. He's having some trouble with his technique. With the experience he's going against at defensive end, if he doesn't do things right, those guys are making him pay. He's got to keep a positive attitude and keep working hard. He's very impressive, when you see him stretch and how flexible he is."