FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks held their first practice of the 2017 season Thursday afternoon.
Bielema, entering his fifth season with the Hogs, spoke to the media after practice. Here’s the rundown of what he said:
- With the new NCAA guidelines eliminating two-a-day practices, Bielema said the Hogs are now trying to use extra time late in practice for developmental guys (redshirts and those not on the two-deep roster). He adds the model they are using is something that has been passed down from the NFL. He reached out to several coaches when the rules were changed to find the best way to adjust.
- Dylan Hays has moved from offensive to defensive line. He redshirted last season. He has been working at nose tackle.
- Freshman linebacker Josh Paul is not on the 105-man roster. He is on campus and cleared, but they have asked him to focus more on academics and “doing things right” for the time being.
- Redshirt freshman linebacker Alexy Jean-Baptiste is also not on the 105 as he’s still recovering from surgery for a broken foot in the spring.
- Bielema said he was excited to see outside linebacker Gabe Richardson and wide receiver Gary Cross in action. Both had their first practice with Arkansas after transferring in from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
- At running back, sophomore Devwah Whaley and grad transfer senior David Williams worked with the first team. However, Bielema said that’s not an indication Williams will definitely be getting the primary load of carries behind Whaley. Instead, he just wanted to split up Whaley and freshman Maleek Williams because they both know the offense better than any other backs.
- Bielema said Sosa Agim (DE) and Bijhon Jackson (DT) have locked up a starting spots on the defensive line. The other end spot is up for grabs between several players.
- The team wore an extra pad around their helmets during practice. They serve as an added precaution for concussions. Bielema said the players aren’t forced to wear them, but most have opted to.
- Bielema said freshman De’Vion Warren is “probably one of the five fastest” players on the team. He added that most of the freshman wide receivers have looked good and the older players at that position (besides Jared Cornelius) better “wake up and smell the coffee” if they don’t want to get passed up.
- Bielema bragged on the entire offensive line and said he feels good about where that unit is right now. He said starting right tackle Brian Wallace improved in the offseason maybe as much as anyone on the roster. Bielema feels the biggest improvement now needs to come from the backup offensive linemen. He still wants to identify a “second five” that they feel good about.
- Tight end Jeremy Patton has been meeting with tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. every morning. He has catching up to do because he arrived later than expected. Bielema said Patton loves playing the game and has been a lot of fun to watch so far. “He can really play,” Bielema said.
- Bielema said this is the first time he’s heard Arkansas was picked to finish fourth in the SEC West. “If you voted for us, I guess … thanks. It’s not how you start it’s how you finish.”
- Freshman safety Montaric Brown hasn’t arrived on campus. Bielema said the best-case scenario would be he’ll arrive around Aug. 10, worst case would be around the start of classes later in August.