Both the upside and the downside of the form chart are holding after the University of Central Arkansas Bears’ initial days in pads and two-a-days.
"Our defense, I think, is spot-on right now; they are playing hard and playing fast," UCA coach Clint Conque said. "Even our players who have had some injuries, Derrick Boyd and Trey Lippe, are healing fast. It’s also very good when you have all the kicking game installed at this point. Now it’s just reps and polish.
"We are beat up on offense, which has seemed to be par for the course the last couple of years."
The most serious injury is to wide receiver Willie Landers, a 6-foot-2 junior, who is the Bears’ leading returning receiver (and the most experienced) with 44 catches for 735 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Landers injured a knee while stretching out for a deep ball in the Bears’ first preseason practice. Originally thought to be a contusion, the injury now requires surgery, which will happen Tuesday.
Conque said he will not know how long Landers will be out until after the surgery. The wide receiver was in shorts and moved about freely in watching the Bears’ morning session Wednesday.
Other offensive players held out of Tuesday’s action, with injuries more of the nicks and bruises variety were offensive linemen Lane Freiwald and Will Merritt, back strains; fullback Nick Cowger, knee; and quarterback Nathan Dick, tricep strain.
Among the newcomers, Conque said defensive backs LaDarius Winston, Marcus Dumas, offensive linemen Corey Howard and Roger Govan and tight end Marcus King are progressing nicely.
"During the afternoon session (Wednesday), we bounced around a little better and played faster than we have played," Conque said. "Overall, it was a pretty good day."
The coach said running back Anthony Blackmon is having an outstanding preseason camp was well as running back Brent Grimes and wide receivers T.J. Adams and Brandon Kennemer.
"A person also having a really good camp and one of the people we really need to have a good camp is Rico Moss at tight end," Conque said. "He’s a physical presence with experience. He gives us a good vertical threat and he can run."
Moss, 6-1, 236, junior, played in four games last season and started two before sustaining a season-ending injury.
The Bears are now on basically a two-and-one schedule for two-a-days, which means they’ll practice twice a day one day, then once the next. An exception will be Sunday, when there will be no morning practice because of church services.
After morning workout Wednesday, the UCA players and coaches were treated to watermelon by the student ministry of New Life Church.
Conque also moved the Bears’ first major preseason scrimmage from Saturday afternoon to 7 p.m. Sunday at Estes Stadium, the first of three preseason scrimmages. The Bears will have a short scrimmage Wednesday, mainly as a special event that will be tied to a pep rally for students arriving on campus. UCA will go through its second major scrimmage on Aug. 22. The season opener is Sept. 4 at Hawaii.