FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.(KAIT) – Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino and Ryan Mallett, Tyler Wilson, Isaac Madison and Jake Bequette spoke with the media Wednesday to preview spring practices. Below is a brief transcript.
Head Coach Bobby Petrino:
"We've had a good offseason. I was very impressed with how our players worked in the weight room and in conditioning drills. I think our attitude has been good, our work ethic has been very good and we've seen a lot of improvement. We have an excellent strength and conditioning staff, led by Coach (Jason) Veltkamp. With the one-on-one meetings he has with the players and the goals they set through the winter, I've been impressed at how we've been able to meet those goals."
"I'm excited about spring ball. I'm excited about the depth we have coming back and the guys we will have competing to try to take other guys' jobs. That's the first thing about spring football; it's about competition for positions. Everybody gets an opportunity to go out and see how they affect the depth chart. That's something I'm looking forward to."
"We have three new coaches, so we spent a lot of time in the offseason going back and re-teaching or adjusting our offensive and defensive schemes. That has been good for all of us. We have guys who are quick learners and guys with experience. The next part of spring ball is to go out and work on our confidence and executing what we do offensively and defensively. We've got players who are great competitors and want to win every drill but you still have to work on the team building aspect, even though it is competition back and forth."
On the quarterbacks:
"It'll be great. We expect Tyler (Wilson) to jump out with the ones and Tyler is excited about it getting a lot of the reps. He's certainly done a nice job in the leadership role. (Ryan) Mallett will just have to do a good job in the meetings and get a better understanding of taking reps, without really doing it. He's done that before during his first spring when he transferred. He's had a good offseason, too. He's continued to work hard in the weight room and leading without actually being in front to lead. Now we get to work three other quarterbacks with Brandon Mitchell and Jacoby Walker. I'm excited to see what Brandon can do. He's 6-4, 230 pounds and he can run. He adds some things to your offense by being able to make plays with his legs. He's got to show us he can be consistent throwing the ball, that he can convert third downs versus tight coverage. I know he's worked hard in the offseason and we'll see how it goes through spring ball with his ability to throw the football on a consistent basis."
"Jacoby (Walker) is a guy that we brought in mid-year. We got him at a time where we weren't sure if Ryan (Mallett) was going to come back and I tried to get him in here on a visit without offering him a scholarship. We decided to go ahead and be better safe than sorry and I'm really glad we did that. He's very mature and has a great understanding of football. That was the number one thing that impressed Coach (Garrick) McGee was when he went out on the road and sat down and visited with him. They went through offensive schemes, defensive schemes and his knowledge of the game of football was so high. Since he has been here, he has had great leadership ability. He's very natural at it and very confident. I'm excited to see how he does in the spring."
On the running backs:
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun. All four of them are very good with sparks of being dynamic. I think Ronnie (Wingo Jr.) is the guy that's going to go out and lineup with the first group. He certainly had a good end of the year. I was real impressed with how he ran the ball at the end of the season, particularly in the LSU game. He's had a great offseason. He's got the combination you like with size and speed. The other guys have done a great job in the offseason. We all know Dennis (Johnson) is capable of having big games. He's got to be able to stay healthy and not get knicked up and let that affect him."
"I thought Broderick (Green) did a great job for us last year, improving us as a football team in short yardage situations and goal-line situations. The thing I like the most about Broderick is when you give him the ball but don't block a play well and he's hit at the line of scrimmage, you still have a chance to line up and be second and six or second and five because he moves things and he falls forward. He gets yards after contact. "
"I think Knile (Davis) is going to compete with everybody this spring. His strength and speed-combination makes him one of the most impressive guys this offseason."
On the defense:
"Like we do every spring, we want to work hard on the principles of good defense and getting better at that. First and foremost, shedding blocks, getting off of blocks, not being able to stay blocked and a lot of that is technique and the other part of that is attitude. We have to improve on both of them. The second part of it is running full speed to the ball. Not just running to the football but running full speed to the football. I think, as a defense, we need to have all 11 guys improve on doing that. There are times when we had four, five or six guys running to the ball but not all 11 and that's something we are really going to work hard at this spring. We have to continue to tackle better. We did improve a lot from the first year to the second year on tackling and getting more guys tackling but we still have to tackle better, particularly in open spaces. The last part is to continually create turnovers. We certainly did a nice job of that last year, whether it's the second guy tackling or stripping the ball, playing the ball in the air or getting more pressure on the quarterbacks. We have to stop the big play. There are times in games that we played really good defense but then we suddenly let up an 80-yard go-route for a touchdown. We have to do better at stopping the big plays."
Quarterback Ryan Mallett:
"I'm ready to get back out there with the guys and be able to go full speed. What I have to do is take my time, not rush it and get ready for the season. The plan is to be in a walking boot a couple of weeks after spring break. My role this spring is going to be the same I am just not going to taking any snaps. I am going to helping others guys especially the quarterbacks and the young guys, like Jacoby (Walker). It is his first spring and I am not sure he knows what to do yet but he is a smart kid and very athletic and can throw the ball. I am excited to see him get out there with the pads and see what he can do at full speed."
On his injury:
"Obviously, I would rather it happen now if it was going to happen, than during the season. In season the only thing I would be able to do for my team if I sat out would be as a cheerleader. I can play now and that is what I want to do. It hurts that I am missing practice. Those are some valuable reps but it gives the young guys some experience in a full speed live scrimmages and practices. During fall practice I hurt it a bit and it was sore but not like when I broke it. I kept playing on it and wasn't going to let that stop me from going out there and playing."
On Tyler Wilson and the quarterbacks:
"Tyler is a mature young man. He is going into his third year and this is his second spring. You can see that in how he carries himself. He mentioned that he is a caretaker and its his team this spring because he is playing. I am very proud of him for that. Those guys have been working really hard. Jacoby came in and has really impressed me in the weight room and on the field. Brandon, you can just see it. He is athletic and is working on some techniques with throwing. If they have any questions they know they can come to me with any questions and when you have four strong quarterbacks and can talk about it, it makes the whole group better."
On watching his weight during his injury:
"When you can't run most people are going to gain weight and I am concentrating on still getting to the weight I want to be at. As far as diet goes, with the help of Coach (Kurt) Schmidt, I have been able to stay lean and keep fit. We sit down and he tells me to stay away from certain things and things that will be good for me on the scooter. It really helps me see what the plan is and how to follow it. I am about 228 lbs. right now.
On the offensive changes:
"We have added a couple of things, with Coach Klenakis and Coach Cinkovich. It is good for us and we are excited. We are going to miss Coach Summers and Coach (Paul) Petrino but we got really good coaches that filled their spots. There is not going to be a drop off and we will be doing the same stuff and not changing anything.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson:
On being the spring starter:
"I've been really looking forward to it. Through the fall I've made great strides to be more comfortable in that position for the spring. I've gained more knowledge and understanding and I'm so happy to be in this position."
On having trouble taking snaps in games:
"It's more difficult than some people realize because sometimes you work with a center in practice that you aren't working with during a game. It complicates things and makes them difficult but we've been working on it and I think we'll have a better handle on it this spring.
On Coach Klenakis:
"When he was at Nevada they were leading the nation in rushing so I definitely think he brings a lot of good things to the offensive line that will help our team tremendously."
On his new confidence:
"I think it's just maturity. I'm a lot more comfortable now knowing the offenses and how to read the defenses. It's not something I have to think about anymore, it's a reaction now, and I'm still getting better every day."
On the excitement for fall:
"It hit me last night in the weight room when everyone was ringing the bells left and right and really showing their enthusiasm for the upcoming season. I definitely feel a buzz about the team and I know we're going to do something special."
On taking over the spring for Ryan Mallet:
"This is my time to get better as player, quarterback, and person. I'm going to come in everyday like this is my team and my responsibility. The way the team is during the spring is a reflection of how it will be during the season so I take it as my duty to lead this team and get things ready for Ryan whenever he's able to get back on the field."
Cornerback Isaac Madison:
On how he feels physically:
"I'm feeling great. The knee is healing as planned. I'm getting stronger and faster as I've made the transition from the training room to the weight room. I've been doing a lot of running and cutting and doing all that I can keep getting better. All of my focus is set on getting back on the field and being better than I was."
On not being a starter on the spring depth chart:
"I understand that I didn't play last year and therefore didn't do the work to get that starting position but I will use this as motivation to get better and hopefully get a starting position back.
On the defense:
"We have a lot of guys coming back but it's critical for us to move to another level and do our best to help the offense as much as we can if we want to win games."
On how tough it was to watch the last season:
"It was tough, very hard to see all the guys I went through spring, summer, and camp with to be out there without me. I took that time though to watch and to learn my team and to learn how I am as a player to get better for this year. I gained a lot mentally."
On the excitement for spring practice:
"I'm really excited about spring ball. It's the first time that I've gotten to go out and actually compete and touch a ball. I'm fired up and ready to see where I'm at."
"I have had a really good off season so far. As a team we have worked really hard in the weight room. I can definitely say this is my best off season personally in the weight room as far as my numbers."
On the goals for the team:
"Coach has made it clear that we do have the pieces to contend for a national championship but we have not been too wrapped up in expectations. The first thing we have to do is go out and practice in the spring and continue to get better. The wins and losses will take care of themselves in the fall but we can't worry about that we have to focus on continuing to get better. Our number one goal in the spring is to bring that up."
"Our goal is to bring up the caliber of our defense, we always set our expectations high and in order to do that we have to be more consistent. We have to have those complete games and we are holding teams in singles digits and really shutting them down. We want to keep the ball in our offenses hands and allow them to be really successful."
On Isaac Madison:
"Isaac is a great corner. We really missed him last year and I think that was apparent on the field. He is definitely one of best and to have him back 100 percent as a shutdown guy will be really big for us."
On the mentality of the defense:
"The main focal point is that we have no warm-up games, just pick it up and be ready to go at 100 miles an hour from the start. We want to start out strong on day one and ready to go in the spring, summer and into the fall. We have to work hard every day. There are no guaranteed jobs. There are always young guys pushing you to work harder. Across the board on defense, we have some great new talent and we are excited to see what they can do.