FOUR DOWNS — NOTES FROM PRESEASON CAMP
1. Highsmith Back In Action
Arkansas linebacker Alonzo Highsmith didn’t enjoy his spring away from the football field. But the senior, who was sidelined because of a torn pectoral muscle, said he’s making up for lost time on the practice field this week.
“It felt good to be back out there,” Highsmith said after Friday’s practice. “It’s been a long time coming. I’m starting to knock all the rust off right now.”
Highsmith has returned to the middle of Arkansas’ defense this week, teaming with senior Tenarius Wright with the first-team group. It’s the first opportunity he has had to work with Wright, who moved from defensive end to linebacker last spring largely because of Highsmith’s injury. Now, Highsmith believes Arkansas will benefit with the duo on the field together.
“It feels good to finally see me and him in action together,” Highsmith said. “We’ve been talking about it in meetings, but it’s finally coming. I like it so far.”
Highsmith said sitting and watching everyone last spring was tough, but stayed busy preparing for the season. He couldn’t lift weights with one arm because of the injury, but maintained his strength in the other. He also worked on conditioning as much as possible and feels it paid off.
It’s also good news for the Razorbacks, who are counting on Highsmith in 2012. The team’s leading returning tackler was voted a captain in the offseason and is on the Butkus Award watch list, which is presented to the nation’s top linebacker.
“It was tough,” Highsmith said of his rehabilitation from the torn pectoral muscle. “But then again, I was just looking at what I had to do to get back on the field.”
2. Second-team Bailey?
Arkansas guard Alvin Bailey is on the preseason watch list for the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy. But the junior has opened preseason practice with the second-team offense.
Bailey, who has started 26 straight games at guard, is positioned behind Luke Charpentier on the depth chart. The Razorbacks have said they’re expecting competition along the offensive front this preseason. It means no jobs, except for that of starting center Travis Swanson, are safe in camp.
“We’re doing a lot of rotation and stuff,” Bailey said when asked about working with the second-team offense. “I’m not sure. The best five will play. I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m just coming out to help my team get better.”
3. Good-Looking Kids
Arkansas defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell said his group of newcomers have been challenging to work with through two preseason practices. But he really likes the way they look.
“I’ve talked to all the coaches around here,” Caldwell said after Friday’s practice. “Three of those four, are three of the best-looking kids I think I’ve ever coached as freshmen.”
Caldwell was referring to the four-man group of Brandon Lewis (6-5, 235), Deatrich Wise (6-6, 240), JaMichael Winston (6-5, 250) and Taiwan Johnson (6-3, 245). He has a pretty good frame of reference, too, after spending 14 years as the defensive ends coach at Tennessee before joining Arkansas’ staff.
“With that kind of length it’s very exciting for a defensive ends coach,” Caldwell said, adding Arkansas would like to see two of them work into the playing rotation this season.
4. Familiar Name
There’s one player on the Arkansas football roster whose name will be familiar to the Razorbacks basketball fans. Scotty Thurman Jr., a freshman walk-on wide receiver, is the son of former Arkansas basketball great Scotty Thurman.
Thurman Jr., who is listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, attended Fayetteville High and is working with the rest of Arkansas’ new receivers this week. His father — who was a member of Arkansas’ 1994 national championship team — is the director of student-athlete development for the basketball program.