The Razorbacks will get a good look at nearly the whole group beginning this week.
Most of Arkansas’ 2005 freshmen class will officially begin their college careers when summer school classes resume Tuesday morning. A new NCAA rule is in place that permits incoming freshmen to receive scholarship money for school and housing “immediately prior to their initial full-time enrollment.”
Coaches still aren’t permitted to have any contact with players during the summer, but the rule has opened an avenue for student-athletes to enroll early and get acclimated to college life.
“I haven’t got the exact number,” said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. “But the last count we had, just about all of them were going to be up here for summer school. It’s early, but I don’t mind.”
Nutt typically encourages incoming freshmen to wait until reporting day in August to arrive on campus. He doesn’t want them homesick before Fall classes begin. But Nutt always has left the decisions to student-athletes.
Last year, a rash of early arrivals proved beneficial for a team that had lost two dozen seniors. The new NCAA rules weren’t in place, but several members of Arkansas’ 2004 recruiting class left home, found their own place or shared living space with friends and future teammates in July.
The group got a crash course during individual workouts with returning players and got a head start for fall practices. In the end, true freshmen Jamaal Anderson, Fred Bledsoe, Weston Dacus, Michael Grant, Marcus Harrison, Peyton Hillis, Randy Kelly, Marcus Monk, Matterral Richardson, Dallas Washington and D’Nerian Wrighter earned playing time.
“We got a taste of it last year,” Nutt said. “There was a lot of them up here last summer and they contributed in the fall.
“But this will be the earliest (arrival). A lot of them were here last week.”
The new crop will begin taking classes, work out three times a week under the guidance of strength coach Don Decker and participate in voluntary workouts with returning players over the next five weeks. The early work is expected to help them prepare for preseason drills, which begin August 7.
They might need the extra time because 19 newcomers were listed on the post-spring depth chart (7 on offense, 12 on defense). Four (defensive tackle Marcus Shavers and linebackers Freddie Fairchild, Tyrell Graham and Michael Bibbs) were listed as second-teamers.
The chart didn’t include a talented running back class of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Brandon Barnett and Michael Smith. Barnett won’t be eligible next season, but the other three backs intend to challenge for playing time.
“The greatest thing is that they’ll be tuned into how we work out in the summer,” Nutt said. “They go through some one-on-one pass (skeleton drills) on their own. They get in the competitive spirit with teammates and they’re just kind learning by osmosis with the other guys. They’re learning calls. So that part of it is good.
“You just don’t want them here August 7 (saying), ‘I’m ready to go see mamma now.’ I want them ready to go and fired up.”
The preseason top 25 polls won’t be released for a few more weeks, but Collegefootballnews.com has submitted its rankings for 119 Division I programs.
The Web site ranked Arkansas No. 45, listing the offensive line as its relative strength, the secondary as its relative weakness and Monk as the star of the team. It also singled out the Oct. 15 date against Auburn as Arkansas’ key game.
Seven of the Hogs’ 2005 opponents were ranked higher, including Southern Cal (No. 1), LSU (No. 2), Georgia (No. 6), Auburn (No. 15), Alabama (No. 21), South Carolina (No. 36) and Ole Miss (No. 44). In addition, Southeastern Conference foes Tennessee (No. 3) and Florida (No. 8) cracked the top 10.
Bronko Nagurski, Outland Watch
The Football Writers Association of America released its preseason watch lists for both the Bronco Nagurski Trophy and Outland Trophy. Arkansas didn’t have anyone on the watch lists for the awards, which will be presented to the nation’s best defensive player and best offensive or defensive lineman, respectively, in December.
Of course, the watch lists did have plenty of SEC flavor.
Roman Harper and DeMeco Ryans (Alabama), LaRon Landry and Kyle Williams (LSU), Ko Simpson (South Carolina), Quentin Moses (Georgia) and Travis Williams (Auburn) were on the Bronco Nagurski Trophy watch list.
T.J. Jackson and Marcus McNeil (Auburn), J. B. Closner (Alabama), Mike Degory (Florida), Max Jean-Gilles (OL Georgia), Jesse Mahelona (Tennessee) and Andrew Whitworth (LSU) are on the Outland Trophy list.
Training Program Accredited
The university’s athletic training education program successfully completed a comprehensive evaluation process and was granted national accreditation by Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs last month.
The UA’s master’s program in athletic training education is a collaboration between the College of Education and Health Professions and the men’s and women’s athletic programs. The program began in 2002 and has grown steadily the past three years.
“It is truly an accomplishment to have established the athletic training program and guided it to accreditation, and I am proud of the foresight, ambition and hard work of our faculty,” said Sharon B. Hunt, head of the department of health science, kinesiology, recreation and dance.