Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said the seven bowl practices to date represent a lot of things to the Arkansas football team. Obviously, the Hogs are getting ready to play Ohio State in the BCS Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 4.
"But it's good for our young players to get ready for spring practice," Robinson said. "They are learning our defense and they are going to be ready to compete for jobs when we start spring. In reality, what we've had is seven workouts and that's about half of a spring practice already."
Robinson said there is an interesting battle taking place for playing time in the Sugar Bowl at outside linebacker where senior Anthony Leon, the starter for most of the season, is getting a push from redshirt freshman Terrell Williams. Leon had to sit out the first half of the LSU game. Williams got the nod there and performed in solid fashion.
"We are rolling them in and out (in practice) and we'll see how that plays out," Robinson said. "They are both doing well. To be honest, this position is like what we do everywhere on a daily basis. That's what we want to do at every position.
"We haven't had the luxury of getting any of our linebackers much rest during the season, so maybe our depth is coming on at that spot. We haven't gotten Juice (Leon) much rest. We can give him a break now. And it's also good that Terrell is testing him as far as these workouts. Williams was very productive against LSU."
Williams got a look in both spring ball and in the fall with the ones at outside linebacker before Leon moved there from strong safety to take over that spot.
"He had some chances and it didn't fall in place for whatever reason then, but he didn't pout about it," Robinson said. "He just kept working and he got the Xs and Os down and when he got his chance at the end of the season, he was prepared. He took the attitude that he was getting his scholarship and he needed to earn it. He just worked. He was a different player when he got his chance this time.
"I think it speaks to the way Coach (Reggie) Johnson kept working and preparing him. Williams has learned and he' was a very physical player when he was on the field against LSU."
Robinson was asked if any young players have had standout days in the bowl workouts. He said several have turned heads.
"I think what's happening is some of them are realizing that this is their unit," he said. "They are learning how to communicate and be a part of this defense. They are getting better each practice. They've had half a spring and they are getting a chance to see themselves on film.
"A guy like Chris Smith (at defensive end) stands out. We've known he's a special athlete and we see him coming on. Darrell Smith at safety is a special talent and now we see him grow in the Xs and Os. There might be four or five others that you could call a blue collar player. Guys like Ryan Calendar are getting better and they are going to get more practices before the bowl."
Robinson said the Saturday morning workout in Walker Pavilion was more physical with more intense hitting.
"I think we turned it up today," Robinson said. "It was a really good practice. Today we picked it up. We've worked on the Xs and Os and fundamentals and then today we added the physical part. We tackled -- the whole nine yards."
What does Robinson think of the Buckeyes?
"They are very physical up front and have a powerful running game," he said. "Then they are very skilled on the perimeter. The running backs are big-time downhill runners. Then they have a magical quarterback. He's got great feet. He can create and is a dynamic player. He's very willing to put it all on his shoulders.
"Up front, they are a Big Ten offensive line that can drive you, sit down on you and bring the direct runs. They are going to challenge you physically. That's the challenge to accept that physical challenge and then be true to your reads and not get beat for the big plays."
Saturday Grid Update, 12/18
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