FAYETTEVILLE — For a few minutes at Arkansas football practice Thursday, the defensive backs donned an unusual piece of equipment: boxing gloves.
The no. 23 Razorbacks held their 12th practice of the preseason with the season opener against No. 22 Cincinnati on Sept. 3. Arkansas’ cornerbacks and safeties ran a drill in which they had to defend against passes while wearing the bulky gloves. They could — quite literally — punch passes out of the air, but they couldn’t use their hands nearly as much in man-to-man coverage.
Defensive coordinator Barry Odom, who also coaches safeties, explained the logic behind the drill: keep the defensive backs from using their hands too much.
“If you’re getting tired, your habits start to slip a little bit,” Odom said. “A defensive back, when you’re in man coverage, what’s your first reaction? You want to grab a hold.”
It was the first time the Razorbacks had used the gloves in practice, and the players weren’t expecting it. Safety Simeon Blair had fun with the drill, throwing punches in the air in between reps, but said he saw the football benefits, too.
“It helps you work on really just moving your feet at DB,” Blair said. “You can’t play so handsy. You have to move your feet first, and then bring your hands. It makes it harder on us, most definitely, but it was fun to do it today.”
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During the drill, freshman wide receiver Quincy McAdoo made an impressive grab through the gloved hands of defensive back Hudson Clark, who might have intercepted the pass had he been able to use his hands.
Arkansas has mixed up its drills in the past. Blair said in preseason practice last year, the defensive backs spent a period wearing blinders. The purpose was to eliminate players’ peripheral vision and force them to focus on the man they were covering.
“I feel like the quirks just keep it new and keep it fresh,” Blair said. “It just adds a new spice to practice.”