FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- When a team returns all but three
starters from the previous season, spring depth charts can be
Arkansas released its first update after spring practice with no
big surprises Wednesday. Casey Dick is still the No. 1 quarterback,
and the rest of the lineup should look pretty familiar to
Arkansas returns 10 starters on offense and nine on defense from
last year's team, which went 4-7 for the Razorbacks' second
straight losing season. Most of the depth chart is elementary:
Darren McFadden and Felix Jones are the top two tailbacks, and
Peyton Hillis is the No. 1 fullback.
Dick replaced Robert Johnson at quarterback for the final four
games of 2005, going 2-2 as the starter. But Johnson had the more
impressive stats in the Razorbacks' scrimmages the last three
weekends. Spring practice ended Saturday with the Red-White game.
Coach Houston Nutt praised his top two quarterbacks.
"We are going to leave Casey Dick right there where we ended
the season last year," Nutt said. "Robert Johnson, I thought
really made tremendous strides. Robert is going to have another
hernia surgery here in a few days on the other side. He has had
some tough luck. But he is improved the most."
Nutt said some of Dick's struggles were the result of trying to
learn a new system. The Razorbacks hired former Springdale High
School coach Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator in December.
"Casey Dick, he would probably tell you he is disappointed in
his spring, but he was thinking a lot," Nutt said. "He was
dealing with a new system and some new things were thrown at him.
He was feeling his way. ... I think he got better as he went
Nutt also complimented Alex Mortensen, the No. 3 quarterback on
the depth chart. Prized recruit Mitch Mustain is also expected to
compete for the starting job.
There were some changes from the previous depth chart, released
about a month ago before the start of spring practice. At that
point, Randy Kelly was the top free safety and junior college
transfer John West was No. 1 at strong safety. Now Michael Grant --
a backup cornerback on the previous chart -- is the No. 1 free
safety, and Kelly is the top strong safety.
Arkansas is trying to replace Vickiel Vaughn, who started at
both safety spots as a senior last season.
"We made the move of Michael Grant to safety. I think that is
going to help us," Nutt said. "Randy Kelly has the most
experience back there at the other safety. He improved. Again that
is the thing that you feel good about is that you have some guys
that answered the bell for you."
Zac Tubbs remained the top right tackle -- he entered the spring
at that spot after missing much of the last two seasons with
injuries. Hillis is again the No. 1 punt returner after being
passed by Jones pre-spring. Jones had only one punt return last
season, and Hillis led the Razorbacks with 16 for 165 yards.