FOUR DOWNS — NOTES FROM PRESEASON CAMP
1. Arkansas Ranked No. 10
Arkansas hasn’t been shy about its lofty expectations for 2012.
Now the Razorbacks know what other coaches think.
Arkansas ranked No. 10 in the USA Today Coaches preseason poll, which was released Thursday morning. It is the third straight season the Razorbacks have been ranked in the preseason poll, but is the highest during that timespan after starting the season No. 14 in 2011 and No. 19 in 2010.
Arkansas was one of seven Southeastern Conference teams ranked in the preseason coaches poll, joining LSU (No. 1), Alabama (No. 2), Georgia (No. 6), South Carolina (No. 9), Florida (No. 23) and Auburn (No. 25). Half of the top 10 in the preseason poll is comprised of SEC schools.
The Razorbacks finished the 2011 season ranked No. 5 in the coaches poll after going 11-2 under former coach Bobby Petrino. Arkansas underwent a coaching change during a tumultuous offseason, but new coach John L. Smith said the expectations haven’t changed for a group led by veterans like quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis.
“Our goal is to be a national championship football team and that’s what we want to get done,” Smith said at SEC Media Days last month. “I know our players relish that as well as our fans and our coaches. That’s our goal for this year.”
2. Heat Check
Arkansas practiced in temperatures which eclipsed the 100-degree mark Thursday.
Fullback Kiero Small said when the team reported Wednesday night there’s no doubt it would be hot in camp. But it wouldn’t be a focal point of the workouts.
“We just try to block that out,” Small said. “It’s hot out there. Once you get that out of your mind, it’s time to go do what you came out here to do. If you let it take over you, then it’s going to be a longer day than what it already is.”
There were a few players who suffered cramps during the evening workout, including receiver Keante Minor.
But tight end Chris Gragg said it’s common the first practice.
“You want to go out there and do everything fast from the warmups and sometimes it will come back and bite you,” Gragg said. “But that’s the main thing you do in the first couple days of camp, you try to get in shape. So once we come together as a team everything is easier.”
3. Sprinkle Wrist Injury
Arkansas opened preseason practice with one member of its signing class out with an injury.
White Hall native Jeremy Sprinkle is sidelined after undergoing wrist surgery earlier this summer.
“He’s not ready yet,” Smith said. “He’s not back from surgery yet. He’s here, he’s just not going to be in camp. As soon as the doctors release him he’ll be on the practice field.”
One other signee — linebacker Vin Ascolese — wasn’t with the team. Ascolese has not been cleared by the NCAA.
4. Johnson On Hornung Watch List
Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson is on the preseason watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s most versatile player.
Johnson is one of 49 players on the watch list for the award, which was presented to Georgia’s Brandon Boykin in 2011.
The senior is being considered after a 2010 season in which he compiled 1,326 all-purpose yards. He led the team in rushing (670 yards), ranked fifth in receiving (255) and averaged 25.6 yards on kickoff returns.