Kickers Stay Neck And Neck

The Morning News/Razorback Central
Posted Apr 14, 2006


FAYETTEVILLE -- Stephen Arnold admits the conversation between Arkansas placekickers this spring hasn't been as jovial as in the past. Not that the strong-footed teammates don't get along.

Anything but.

It's just that Arnold, Jeremy Davis and Joel Hall are currently stuck in the middle of a fierce competition for first-team placekicking duties. And with that competition has come less chatter.

"It really is a tight race. You watch what you say around everybody," Arnold said. "You don't want to say the wrong thing around the wrong person.

"Everything is really tight."

A sophomore from McKinney, Texas, Arnold was perfect on his two field goal attempts from around 33 yards out during Thursday's practice while Davis -- a sophomore from Fort Smith Southside -- nailed his one attempt from the same distance while lining up against the defense Thursday.

Davis would appear to have a leg up on both Arnold and Hall, a redshirt freshman from Shreveport, La., having seen playing time as a punter during his true freshmen season. But special teams coach James Shibest insists there is still no clear favorite, and won't be for quite some time.

"They're getting better, but the scary thing is none of them has kicked (field goals) in a game," Shibest said. "I think we've got some good candidates, some guys that can be really good. We've just got to get them some confidence early in the season.

"There won't be any decisions made until a week before the game starts. I don't think we can do that right now because we've got to see. At every position, some guys go through some highs and lows, so we've got to see who stays on that high the longest."

According to Shibest, Arnold has actually been the team's most consistent kicker this spring. But that doesn't mean the other two won't get every opportunity before a decision is made.

"Stephen Arnold has been the most consistent. But this Joel Hall has come along, is kicking the ball well," said Shibest. "But we want to give Jeremy every benefit of the doubt because he's older and he's punted in games. I like his mental makeup, the way he handles everything, but he's going to have to show us and everybody else."

For now though, the threesome remain in an almost dead heat.

Not that that's a totally bad thing, for now.

"Nobody is better than anybody and nobody is worse than anybody," Arnold said. "We're going to have a lot of depth."

Catching On
Learning a new offense has taken some time. But Thursday was an especially good day for the Arkansas receivers, who time and time again made catch after catch while continuing to perfect their routes.

"We've been off for so long," Arkansas junior receiver Marcus Monk said. "We were just rusty."

Monk, Carl Baker and Cedric Washington were especially impressive on Thursday, as was Peyton Hillis as a receiver out of the backfield.

According to Monk, the receiving corps has slowly but surely come around and is now ready more than ever to show what is can do.

"We weren't just learning anything new, we were rusty," Monk said. "But now we're just ready to get out there for the spring game and show what we're capable of."

The Heat Is On
With the temperature in the low to mid-80s Thursday, spring drills felt more like two-a-days. Especially down on the Razorbacks' artificial practice surface.

Coaches could definitely tell the difference, too, as players were often seen dragging on a play or two. Not that Arkansas coach Houston Nutt was complaining.

"I love heat. I'm a warm weather person all the way," Nutt said. "I love hot weather and this felt like a June day almost.

"This jumped on them a little bit, but I was glad to have it. It was good to have a day like this."

Extra Points
Randy Kelly again was absent from Thursday's practice. Kelly has missed the past three workouts to concentrate on schoolwork.

"We've got him doing some extra homework, really concentrating on school," Nutt said. "That's the most important thing."

Nutt said he expects Kelly to return today...Saturday's Red-White game promises to draw a big crowd, including several Arkansas alumni. A couple of former Razorbacks players and coaches were already in town Thursday, making their way out to practice, including former quarterback Jason Allen, former receiver Rossi Morreale, former defensive linemen Ryan Hale and former assistant coach and later Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Tennessee head coach Johnny Majors.



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