FOUR DOWNS – NOTES FROM PRESEASON CAMP
1. Helping a Friend
Nick Holt didn’t have to work this fall after receiving a hefty buyout from Washington. But Arkansas’ new on-campus recruiting coordinator explained why he is on John L. Smith’s staff in a non-coaching position Thursday.
“I think more than anything I wanted to help out coach. More than anything,” Holt said. “When we had some conversations about possibly coming down here – this was back in the summer – this is why I took it: to help out a good buddy that’s been great to me throughout my 25 years of coaching.
“I felt, quite honestly, obligated to help him out.”
Holt, who was fired as Washington’s defensive coordinator in December and will receive a $650,000 from the school, was officially named to the Arkansas football staff on Wednesday. He has been around the team throughout preseason camp and said his goal is to help the program in his new administrative position.
Holt has long ties to Smith, working on his staff at Idaho (1990-94) and Louisville (1998-2000). He was Idaho’s head coach in 2004-05 and had two stints at Southern California as a linebackers coach (2001-03) and defensive coordinator (2006-08).
So working as an on-campus recruiting coordinator with a salary of $55,735 is a stray from the norm. But Holt, who said he’s not overqualified, is getting used to it.
“It’s a little different than what I’m used to, but it’s going to be good,” Holt said.
Holt wants to do whatever he can to help Smith and the Razorbacks enjoy success.
“I’m fired up about it,” Holt said. “John L. and I have been friends for a long time. It’s a great opportunity to help him out and be in the SEC, a great conference, and be around some great players. I’m enjoying myself.”
2. First-Team Work
Redshirt freshman Davyon McKinney has been working with the first-team defense the past few practices in place of sophomore Tevin Mitchel, who has been slowed by an apparent groin injury. McKinney said the promotion has been “tremendous.”
“I’m getting great reps,” McKinney said. “It’s been a great experience learning how fast the offense works from the second-team to the first-team. It’s a different speed.”
McKinney came to Arkansas as a wide receiver last summer, but was moved to cornerback. He changed numbers, too, going from No. 41 to No. 13. But McKinney native said he’s settling in at cornerback and hopes to contribute this season.
“I’ve gotten better with my hip mobility, and strength-wise, back-pedaling,” McKinney said. “It’s a big change going from receiver to DB.”
3. Camp Legs
Safety Ross Rasner said the Razorbacks were starting to feel the effects of preseason practices Thursday. Arkansas held its 15th practice in 17 days.
“I’m kind of starting to feel the grind of camp in my legs,” Rasner said. “It’s kind of getting to us. Everybody’s a little banged up. We’ve just got to grind through it.”
The Razorbacks are closing in on the end of camp. The team will take part in the annual kickoff luncheon this afternoon and will practice at 4:30 p.m. The Hogs will participate in Fan Day on Saturday, which will conclude with a scrimmage at 7 p.m.
“Some of those bruises are getting deeper and deeper and we need to get tougher and tougher,” Arkansas linebackers coach Taver Johnson said. “That’s the biggest challenge for us right now is to make sure mentally — and physically — that we challenge ourselves on that toughness on a day-to-day basis.”
4. Exchange Problems
Quarterback Tyler Wilson and center Travis Swanson are two of the most experienced members of Arkansas’ offense. But even they have endured a few mistakes this month, botching a handful of quarterback-center exchanges.
While they weren’t evident in the spring, Swanson said it’s not a concern now.
“It’s just wear and tear,” Swanson said. “You’re tired and sometimes you get a little sloppy with technique and stuff on my end. That’s just something we’re going to get corrected before the season.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau