State of the Hogs: Renowned Playcaller

When Arkansas fired Bobby Petrino what they lost is clear. He was perhaps the nation's best playcaller and most creative offensive mind.

Paul Petrino didn't dodge the question. He was asked what his brother, Bobby, brought to the table as Arkansas coach.

"Bobby was renowned as a playcaller," the media type asked Friday afternoon after the scrimmage. "What can you do to replace that?"

Paul didn't hesitate. He said, "You are right he was renowned. But I can be the next one. I'm going to call the plays next season. I believe I can be the same thing. I really do."

Especially with the weapons at his command. That has been clear over the last three weeks. This Arkansas offense is equipped to be special. And calling plays might be easy -- for someone who knows the offense they've been taught.

And man can they run that offense. That's been clear in the three extensive scrimmages this spring. Tyler Wilson has gotten better as the springs have gone on, despite the defense improving, too.

Petrino and Wilson seem to have meshed and it's a thing of beauty to watch. He's only missing two or three throws per scrimmage, according to Petrino. That's discounting the one or two that must be thrown away because of coverage or rush. Rarely does Petrino have to point to a different receiver as a missed read.

I wouldn't want to be Paul Haynes trying to install a new defensive scheme with Wilson running the show.

But one thing is clear, Haynes is getting things done. Tackling is improving. And there is a blitz package being installed.

There were eight sacks Friday by the top two defensive units. But don't think the pressures were the reason. Haynes said the good news is that they didn't need all-out blitzes.

"Most of that was with a four-man blitz," he said. "We sent (linebackers) some based on reads, but there weren't a lot of calls," he said. "We have put in some calls, but what I like is that we can get pressure with this front and that allows us to cover. That's the basis of our package. Then you can tackle the catch. That's what we try to do."

Petrino likes what he sees of the defense.

"They give us all we want," Petrino said. "They have installed some blitzes. We want to see blitzes. We've let them do what they want in that regard. Our guys need to see that. Sometimes we've done well against the pressures. But they've gotten us, too."

There weren't many missed tackles, so few that perhaps one major escape stands out. Dennis Johnson busted through hits by Darius Winston and Austin Jones early in the scrimmage. But the rest was solid tackling, by those players and the rest.

"We haven't had a lot of that," Haynes said. "That's been the focus of our technique and fundamentals. We've seen them improve during the week before the scrimmages and they've held up when we've gotten into the scrimmage."

The back end of the defense seems to be settling down. Jerry Mitchell has split reps with Ross Rasner at safety, taking first team snaps when Rasner is at linebacker.

Austin Jones and Jarrett Lake are splitting reps at inside linebacker. Tenarius Wright is taking all of the first team reps at the other inside linebacker spot.

Terrell Williams and Robert Atiga are taking the second-team reps at inside linebacker. At the outside spot, Rasner and Matt Marshall are splitting time with the ones. Braylon Mitchell is also in the mix for reps and is making plays.

Tevin Mitchel returned for the first part of the scrimmage after sitting out most of the spring with a hamstring problem. Winston is the other No. 1 corner, with Kelvin Fisher taking the one snaps when Mitchel needs a break. Davyon McKinney is behind Fisher. Keayon Kellybrew is behind Winston.

At safety, Eric Bennett is the best cover man and is a sure tackler. Jerry Mitchell seems to be improving and made a play in the end zone late in Friday's scrimmage. Alan Turner and Rohan Gaines have gotten backup snaps at safety.

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