Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams was asked what he expects when the Razorbacks go back to the practice field this afternoon.
“Physical. Real physical,” Williams said.
Arkansas will go through contact work in full pads the first time this preseason, beginning a two-day stretch that also is scheduled to include a Saturday scrimmage.
It’s the first chance the Razorbacks will get to test their physical mettle this summer after going through the NCAA’s acclimation period for four practices.
Coaches and players are looking forward to the change of pace.
“You want to see a team change when they put the pads on,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. “They are here to play the game of football and get an education. They’ll get that opportunity (Friday) when we put the full pads on and go have some fun with that. It’s always fun to see the seniors lead that.”
Arkansas emphasized physical play on both sides of the ball during its first spring under coach Bret Bielema. The theme carried into the summer, when several players packed on muscle as Arkansas prepared for the 2013 season.
Williams said everyone is eager to show how much they’ve improved.
“That’s the kind of mindset that we want to have nowadays,” Williams said. “The way they put the weight on us in the weight room and the strength that we have, that’s kind of the mindset that coach Bielema wants us to have. That’s the mindset that coach Chaney wants the offense to have. It’s to be real physical. Punish people.”
Chaney said he plans to spend the first portion of preseason camp testing a handful of players at different positions to see how they respond.
“Let’s watch him maybe move in at guard for a play and see what he’s doing,” Chaney said. “Move him to tackle. Look at him. Move him to tight end. Let’s see him do some movement as opposed to always being stagnant. Let’s watch a running back run a route. Those things that we don’t know.”
It doesn’t mean any moves are permanent. Arkansas has other objectives.
“What we want to try to do in the first couple of weeks, I know I do offensively, is try to eliminate any questions,” Chaney said. “I want to be able to know. I know that kid, what he can and can’t do. If I do that, then it’s my job to put him in a position.”
The Razorbacks were among the nation’s worst in ball security last season, committing 31 turnovers in 12 games. It’s a hard habit to break, apparently.
Chaney said Arkansas has turned the ball over some during the past two practices.
“We had some issues (Wednesday),” Chaney said. “We had one turnover (Wednesday) on a pick. (Thursday) I think we had another interception.
“We’re emphasizing it, but every staff in the world emphasizes it. We’ve got to be able to get it through to them. We’re trying to do the best we can with that.”
Arkansas receiver Demetrius Wilson indicated after Thursday’s practice the last signee has joined the team. Receiver Melvinson Hartfield had been waiting for clearance from the NCAA, but Arkansas coach Bret Bielema was optimistic earlier this week it would just be a matter of time before he arrived.
“He has great talent,” Wilson said of Hartfield. “He’s got great hands and good speed. We’re just waiting for him to get down that playbook and get right, but he definitely has the chance to be a big asset to this team.”