Wet weather in Fayetteville typically sends Arkansas retreating to the Walker Indoor Pavilion for football practices. But Arkansas coach Bret Bielema decided to keep the Razorbacks out in the rain for Tuesday’s workout.
Arkansas stayed on its practice fields through the steady rain as it continued the second week of preseason practices. Defensive coordinator Chris Ash said the wet work was a good test for how Arkansas would handle less than ideal conditions.
“It’s going to rain at some point in the fall,” Ash said. “We’ve got to get that work. Especially for the offensive guys. Quarterbacks throwing and receivers catching it.”
The Razorbacks, who typically work in scorching heat during August practices, welcomed the weather. In fact, defensive tackle DeMarcus Hodge said he “loved it” and enjoyed his best work in the sloppy conditions.
“Honestly, I probably had the best practice,” Hodge said. “Just off the cool feeling, just having the rain on my back, on my pads. I felt like I was moving out there.”
Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said there was some sloppy play in the rain as expected. For instance, the defense missed an opportunity to collect a few interceptions and Partridge pointed to the weather.
“It’s good for us though,” Partridge said. “It’s good to have that experience so that our first time in the rain isn’t during a game on some Saturday.”
Small not concerned
Fullback Kiero Small is experiencing soreness in the same foot that made him miss 11 of Arkansas’ 12 games last season. But the senior – who received a medical redshirt to return for 2013 — said he’s not concerned about the recent issue.
“It’s just a little sore,” Small said Monday night. “When you injure something, with every new thing you do it gets a little sore. So it was a little sore.
“Coach (Bielema), myself and the trainers decided it would be smarter just to hold out of the scrimmage and work myself back into it.”
Small broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot last September. He didn’t know if last week’s soreness came because he was stepped on or planted wrong. But Small insisted he doesn’t fear a recurring problem as the preseason continues.
“I’ll be fine,” Small said. “There’s no concern. It’s not a big thing. I’ll be fine.”
Arkansas’ offense has done a solid job of protecting the football this preseason, according to the coaching staff. The Razorbacks — who suffered through a rash of mistakes in 2012 — didn’t commit a turnover during last Saturday’s scrimmage.
But there’s another side to the turnover talk.
Ash said Tuesday he’s not sure how many turnovers the defense has forced this preseason. It’s not enough for his liking, though, as the opener inches closer
“My experience is, we’re going to work as diligently as we can at creating takeaways,” Ash said. “They usually come in waves. Once you get hot, they come.
“We’re getting more and more. Our strip attempts are up at practice. Our interceptions are up at practice. But to have a number, I couldn’t tell you.”
Arkansas’ first-team middle linebacker wasn’t on the two-deep depth chart at the position in the spring. But Ash said Austin Jones – who spent much of the spring at the strong side position – is holding down the spot right now. “He just kept making plays, kept making plays and we said, ‘Hey, this guy is one of our best linebackers. We need to find a spot for him. We need one of our best players at the middle linebacker position, so that’s why we made the move.” … Arkansas receivers coach Michael Smith said Monday night incoming freshman Melvinson Hartfield was cleared by the NCAA and was on his way to join the Razorbacks. “I’m excited for the kid,” Smith said. “I hate for a kid to have to go through that. You have an opportunity to play major college football and to be sitting at home when everybody else is at camp has got to be hard. But I’m excited for Melvinson. He deserves it. He worked his tail off to get here and I’m excited just to have him here.” … First-team safety Rohan Gaines (knee) didn’t practice Tuesday, according to Ash. But Ash said he’ll rejoin the team in another day or two. “We’re just kind of holding him and making sure that he’s 100 percent before we get him back out there,” Ash said.