Tuesday Grid Update, 3/27

Marcus Harrison

News comes down Tuesday that Arkansas defensive tackle Marcus Harrison will be out the rest of the spring with a knee injury while his teammates put in their fourth of 15 workouts of the spring and new Razorback offensive coordinator David Lee sizes up the effort so far.

On a day when one of their starting defensive tackles acknowledged that he had suffered an ACL tear, the University of Arkansas put the ball in the air early and often in its fourth practice of the spring.

Marcus Harrison had to just stand by Tuesday and watch after injuring himself during Monday's practice.

"Yeah, it's torn," Harrison said when asked as he walked out of practice.

That obviously put a damper on the workout according to Razorback head coach Houston Nutt, who had consulted with UA trainer Dean Weber, but wasn't ready to disclose the seriousness of the issue.

"I don't think it is great news," Nutt said. "I am hoping he will be ready next year. He'll be out the rest of the spring – I know that. He was just jumping over a pile at the end of a play and just came down on it wrong."

Like any player, Harrison would have benefited from getting in all 15 of the spring workouts.

"You don't like to lose anybody in the spring and you just hate, hate it," Nutt said. "It was just a freak accident. Hopefully we'll get him back (next fall) and Dean will let us know more as we go."

Harrison's fellow defenders had their moments during the scrimmage according to UA offensive coordinator David Lee.

"I thought today that our intensity offensively was better right at the start," Lee said. "Peyton Hillis got us started with a big play and as practice went on it was hot and cold. We hit some stuff and they turned around and took some picks back from us. It was really competitive. I thought our defense looked good at times and we made some plays."

Lee said his biggest problem right now is just having his side of the ball pick up the offense he is trying to install.

"The problem with us right now is that we are still installing," Lee said. "We have got to install again Thursday and Friday, which makes you think that we are not going to look very good on Saturday when you are still teaching 24 hours before you go to scrimmage. When I expect us to look better is that following Saturday when we quit installing and start cutting back."

Lee admits he likes some things he sees from starting quarterback Casey Dick and is still learning about him – noting that he has a live arm, more arm strength than he first thought, more toughness and the ability to get much better the longer he is in the offense.

"We are trying to find out what our quarterback can do," Lee said. "It is just one of those ugly periods of time, but there have been enough good things."

Some of those things have been his reaction to throwing over 7-foot ladders, throwing footballs at stationary targets 30 yards away and dodging an array of stuff that Lee has been throwing at him – literally.

"I don't like pass skel," Lee said. "I know everybody likes 7-on-7 and it is good and has got its place because you get timing, reads and coverages. But it is so unrealistic to what happens in a ballgame. The quarterback has got to move about 40 percent of the time. He is not just sitting there in concrete throwing. He has got to move left and he has got to move right and he can't step and throw all the time.

"That is why we do the funny body throws in bad position so he practices those throws so he is confident with them and he can do that in a game," Lee added. "You saw it happen two of three times yesterday it happen to him where he hit the hot and sights when he couldn't sit his feet."

Lee said these are drills that he did with the Cowboys and their former not-so-mobile quarterback Drew Bledsoe while in preseason camp in Oxnard, Calif.

"I did that in Oxnard two summers ago," Lee said. "It was every Friday. It was after that year we had 50 sacks in Dallas. Bledsoe – who is not known for light feet – that's what came up. I would roll a ball at his feet, make another move with a dummy and make him make a move and throw the ball. That was the year we lost (offensive) lineman Flozell Adams and we struggled with all the tackles and we were getting some leakage so it was a real pertinent, realistic drill to what was happening on Sunday.

Of course, it will help any quarterback to have backs like Peyton Hillis, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones around according to Lee.

"I can't say enough good things about Peyton Hillis and what he is doing right now for this offense and obviously the two backs are good," Lee added. "They look better to me live than they did on television the last couple of years. I am encouraged by the array of talent we had and Mike Markuson has done a super job with the protections and all the little bitty intricate things that are hard."

Lee said the UA offensive linemen are as athletic a group as he has seen.

"He has got some athletic guys up front," Lee said. "He has got about seven really athletic guys that I don't remember having in the two other stints I was here. We had some really great players in Freddie Childress when I was here with Ken and when I was here last time with Houston we had Shawn Andrews. There are about seven guys that can really move their feet and that's encouraging."

Lee said he would love to be further along now, but knows that's just not possible.

"They can't handle anymore right now," Lee said. "But these are some things I want to get on film and see if we can handle. They have done a good job, They are studying. The biggest problem today as you guys saw was our wideouts interpreting what is coming from the huddle and lining up on the right side. I bet we had 12 plays where we didn't line up right.

"That is something we can control and we are putting that on the players," Lee said. "It is just lack of concentration and listening to the quarterback in the huddle. It is not hard – right, left, right slot, left slot. They'll get this straight."

Lee praised Alex Wood – whose job he took as quarterbacks coach – for doing an outstanding job with the wideouts in his new role.

"Alex Wood is doing a great job," Lee said. "We are starting to develop some young guys, which we saw we had to do. Carlton (Salters) is looking good, Marques Wade is doing some things and the big guy yesterday who made a lot of plays yesterday and today was Rod Coleman."

Of course the star of the group is senior-to-be Marcus Monk, who chose not to declare for the NFL draft after giving it lots of thought.

"We put a couple of things in for Marcus today," Lee said. "I am just really glad he is here and did not come out. Hopefully he will have a big year. His leadership and just what he does after he catches the football – taking off and running with it – he is at another level.

"His conditioning is at another level, his mental toughness is at another level, with his body control he has got the ability to control and put himself between the football and the defender like nobody I have seen in awhile."

On the defensive side , end Antwain Robinson and cornerback Michael Grant both picked off passes during scrimmage time.

"He has got ball skills," Nutt said. "He has a good knack for reading the quarterbacks eyes and timing his jump. Michael Grant also made a very impressive interception today on one of the blitzes they had and he took that one of the house."

Nutt also had five players – McFadden, Jones, Hillis , Jerell Norton and Reggie Fish all returning punts on Tuesday.

"We have got a lot of guys working there and just want to get the best," Nutt said. "We are working on a couple of sets where we are going to have two back there."

Asked if he had qualms about putting McFadden back there, Nutt said not really.

"I don't," Nutt said. "You always worry about everything, but he is a tough guy and a playmaker. Reggie Bush did it."

Arkansas will take Wednesday off and then return to the practice field on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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