FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas players gathered together on the floor in Bud Walton Arena on Thursday, posing as a photographer snapped a team photo on media day.

Eight players were up front, sitting in folding chairs. Eight more stood behind them along with team managers and coaches. The total number – 16 – was a big change from 2011-12, when depth problems plagued Arkansas before the season began.

“It looks like a football team out here” Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade said.

Arkansas, which is preparing for its second season under coach Mike Anderson, opens preseason practice tonight with optimism it has taken a step in the right direction in at least one regard this offseason. There is a full roster now.

The Razorbacks are convinced it will make a difference as they begin preseason practice with tonight’s Primetime at the Palace event in Bud Walton Arena.

The Arkansas men’s and women’s basketball teams will begin tonight’s event with an autograph session at 8 p.m. Short practices by both squads, a slam dunk contest and 3-point shooting contest then begin at 9 p.m.

“We have a lot of guys. A lot of good guys,” Arkansas guard BJ Young said. “It’s a lot of bodies. That’s going to help us out a lot. I know with the running we do and the way we do it, the bodies that are coming in fresh and the shape they will be in, it’s going to be hard for other teams to keep up hopefully.

“We’re going to run, run, run. That’s going to be our main focus – and getting stops.”

It was something Arkansas wanted to accomplish last season. But it couldn’t.

Departures in the offseason hurt depth and the Razorbacks entered the season with just 13 players – 10 on scholarship - on the active roster. Injuries trimmed the bench even more, with forward Marshawn Powell going down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament after two games and Michael Sanchez limited most of the season.

So running Arkansas’ up-tempo, full-court system was challenging with limited numbers. The Razorbacks raced out to a 16-6 start, but finished 18-14.

Anderson said his team simply ran out of gas. Assistants and players agreed.

“Our guys, they were giving 100 percent. They just couldn’t do it,” Arkansas assistant T.J. Cleveland said. “Especially down the stretch. I think we kind of faded out because this style of play is demanding. It’s very demanding. If you don’t have the bodies, it’s hard to carry it out for a number of games.”

Said Powell: “Everybody knew we were limited. Then the injuries. These coaches did a great job and then we just ran into a wall.”

But Arkansas is confident it won’t happen now with a roster that includes seven new faces. It includes Houston transfer Alandise Harris, who is still waiting to hear from the NCAA about his request for immediate eligibility. And Oklahoma State transfer Fred Gulley, who won’t be able to play until after the fall semester ends.

Newcomers Coty Clarke, Anthlon Bell, Dee Wagner, Michael Qualls and Jacorey Williams are ready and able to contribute when the season begins Nov. 9, though.

They’ll join a group of six returning scholarship players, which is led by leading returning scorers Young (15.3 points a game) and Wade (10.8 points a game).

“In recruiting you want to get pieces to the puzzle,” Anderson said. “And obviously, now, our jobs as coaches is to put that puzzle together and make it work to go along with the guys we have here who should be much improved from last year.”

Arkansas did get a valuable head start thanks to its summer trip to Italy. The Razorbacks were permitted to squeeze in a week of practice time before heading overseas, then played four games against foreign competition.

Young said it was a good bonding experience for a team that does have plenty of new faces. Wade said veterans were able to learn how newcomers would fit.

“These young guys are hungry,” Wade said. “They come in with so much energy.

“That gives the other starting five a little break and keep us fresh throughout the whole year. That was one of the biggest things coming in this year is the depth that we have. It’s going to be a big part of our success this year.”

There are still plenty of other things to sort out, of course.

Arkansas needs Powell – who said he is at 95 percent – back to full strength. The Hogs continue to wait for word from the NCAA on Harris’ availability.

Arkansas doesn’t have a set point guard, planning to let several players handle the ball on the attack. And while there’s more size and athleticism, The Hogs remains an undersized team, too, with just one player bigger than 6-foot-8.

But there’s a reason the Razorbacks looked and sounded much more optimistic as they prepared for the start of practice Saturday. They have more to work with now.

“I’m anxious to see how this team develops,” Anderson said. “But I’ve just got a feeling it’s going to be an exciting team.”