Razorbacks begin practice Thursday

Saturday, March 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ Spring football practice is the time for teaching, says Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. When he and defensive coordinator John Thompson get through, Razorback fans will have to do some learning.

Thompson and old coaching buddy David Wommack are revamping the Arkansas defense.

On the depth chart, there will be one inside linebacker instead of two and two safeties instead of one. Bandits are no more.

Offensively, Zak Clark is the only scholarship quarterback available. And former defensive lineman Sacha Lancaster is among those who will get a look at fullback.

Thompson and Wommack have been close since they were graduate assistants at Arkansas in the early 1980s. Wommack was an assistant when Thompson was defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi and then moved up after his friend went to Memphis following the 1998 season.

Wommack is one of three new coaches. Nutt hired David Lee away from Rice to coach quarterbacks and George Pugh left Alabama-Birmingham to coach wide receivers.

Thompson coordinated the Arkansas defense during the final two games of the 2000 season, but spring will be his first opportunity to put in his entire scheme.

Arkansas used two inside linebackers last year _ Quinton Caver and J.J. Jones, and only safety Ken Hamlin was ahead of them in tackles. Caver, Jones and Jim Ed Reed have completed their eligibility.

Jermaine Petty, a defensive tackle last year, will be an inside linebacker along with Shane Collins, who was redshirted last year.

Caleb Miller, who played inside some in 2000, will be an outside linebacker. Ditto for Tony Bua, a bandit last year. Free safety Jimmy Beasley and Gavin Walls, a junior college transfer, also will be outside linebackers.

Up front, Curt Davis, Jermaine Brooks, Carlos Hall and Raymond House have experience.

Orlando Green returns at one corner, but many believe that Lawrence Richardson will beat out Green. Harold Harris, who played well until he was injured, is at the other corner along with Eddie Jackson.

Corey Harris, a rover in 2000, will be a strong safety in the spring. Hamlin is back at free safety.

Clark will get all the snaps he can handle because Robby Hampton, the starter most the year, recently underwent shoulder surgery. He is expected to be ready in August. Some freshmen, particularly Tavaris Jackson, also will get a good look when fall practice begins.

Offensive lineman Shawn Andrews, linebacker Jeb Huckeba and defensive back Ahmad Carroll are other freshmen who could contribute immediately.

The Razorbacks have a hole at right tackle because Nutt dismissed Gary Hobbs from the team in January. Hobbs started nine games last year, including the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Nevada-Las Vegas. Mark Bokermann and Bo Lacy will be at the spot during the spring.

Left tackle Shannon Money, left guard La'Zerius White, center Josh Melton and right guard Kenny Sandlin are back.

Running back Cedric Cobbs, who was hurt in the third game of the year, is ready for spring practice, but Fred Talley isn't. Brandon Holmes, who carried 58 times for 238 yards in the Razorbacks' final two regular-season games, is still a possibility at running back.

The Razorbacks will practice in shorts Thursday and Friday and then put on pads Saturday. They will have 15 practices, including a dozen in pads.

``We've got to get better fundamentally, better as a football team, better at tackling, better blockers and better in the kicking game,'' Nutt said