MONTICELLO — Arkansas-Monticello offensive coordinator Matt Middleton’s voice could be heard all around UAM’s practice field, signaling that the Boll Weevils began their first practice of the preseason.
Middleton’s voice was not the only thing familiar to UAM’s practice. Jamal Nixon was catching passes from quarterback Hunter Leppert, who was back on the practice field after tearing the ACL in his right knee in the third game last season.
Senior offensive lineman Seth Oxner and senior quarterback/wide receiver Damon Wicker were also back on the practice field, even though both were not the team during the spring.
Oxner had another year of eligibility due to an injury he suffered during his time at Arkansas in 2010. He had already graduated and did not intend to return for another year until earlier this summer.
“I was lifting at the high school and went down to the field and started working on O-line stuff. I don’t know why, I just was,” Oxner said. “I just said to myself ‘I miss this.’”
Wicker was in the red quarterback jersey. Wicker was one of two quarterbacks who filled in after Leppert went down with his injury last year.
Wicker did not take part in spring practice, but was back for the first practice of the preseason. While he was wearing a quarterback jersey, he is listed on UAM’s roster as a wide receiver.
“He is our flip guy,” UAM coach Hud Jackson said.
Jackson was just happy to be out on the field instead of doing the paperwork that comes with the start of the season.
“Leading up to practice has to be the most frustrating things,” he said. “NCAA paperwork, physicals and making sure everyone is in their rooms. When you finally get them to the practice field, it makes it all worth it.”
The team was in helmets, jersey and shorts for the first day of practice and will be in full pads starting on Monday.
Even though practice ran a bit long, Jackson was very pleased with how the first day went.
“I think everyone was good and hopefully we can build on it,” he said. “If (Thursday) is an indication, things will go great.”
Jackson even put a little forth a little strategy to Thurday’s practice. He had the newcomers do most of the drills instead of the returners to get them some extra work.
“I think that’s beneficial and that part went good,” Jackson said. “It motivated our older guys because they were watching.”
The only problem came when freshman lineman Maceo Walker had to be carted off the field and taken to the hospital due to body cramps. Jackson said Walker was taken to the hospital quickly and probably had some intravenous fluids put in him.
The lone setback did not underscore how Leppert thought the practice went, though.
“The first practice, always a little nervous and don’t know what to expect, but it went well,” he said. “It was very clean and we were all locked in. Thought it went well.”