Observers of Arkansas' scrimmage on Saturday night might not have noticed too many missed tackles, but Razorback defensive coordinator Paul Haynes saw them on film.
"One missed tackle is too much," Haynes said.
"We still got a long way to go in all of our eyes – both coaches and players," Haynes said. "The things that we pride ourselves on, we didn't do a great job in and that's tackling. We have got to do a better job of tackling.
"But when you start watching through it, there was also a lot of good things also," Haynes added. "There was some stuff to work on, but it is a long season and we can't peak now. We don't expect to be as good as we are going to be in November."
"There is a term ‘step to contact' and when you watched the tape, that is what they weren't doing," Haynes continued. "When you don't do that, you are going to lunge to contact and reach to contact. You are going to reach against very good guys and we have got good guys over there.
That problem has been rectified in practice this week according to Haynes.
"We stress to our guys that every time we have got to stress to contact," Haynes added "We made it a point to our guys in practice this week in practice – all week this week – that we are going to do a great job tackling and we have done a great job so far."
That area likely will get better with the return anyway with the return this week of injured starting linebackers Tenarius Wright and Alonzo Highsmith and rehabbing first team safety Eric Bennett.
They are all being eased back into action according to Haynes.
"Nothing has really changed with those guys," Haynes said. "We are being smart about it. It is a long season. We don't want to pop those guys in there and do something crazy and stupid. They are getting mental reps and doing a good job. We are pleased with them."
Linebacker was certainly a question mark entering preseason camp, but freshmen Otha Peters and A.J. Turner have stepped forward.
"Those young guys are coming along," Haynes said. "I look at A.J. and I look at Otha and those guys have been making plays out there and running around. I think they are getting more confidence, too.
"Even (junior) T(errell) Williams is doing a better job for us with his confidence and talking and leading the defense and being the general," Haynes added. "They are all coming along and we are going to need them to be good for us."
Jarret Lake has settled in at the hybrid Star (safety/linebacker) position.
"We battled so long with him with his weight – get up here, get down there – and now he feels comfortable because he doesn't have to worry about that," Haynes said. "He can be productive, real productive for us, at that Star position.
There's also the addition of senior fullback Kiero Small, who has seen lots of linebacker time the past two weeks with Wright and Highsmith out.
"Having Kiero jumping in over there has kind of filled that void with that leadership a little bit," Haynes said. "Those back-up guys are getting better. And I think we are going to need them if we play the way we want to play, play physical. We are going to need all those guys."
Haynes expanded on Small and his transition.
"The kid is just a big-time football player," Haynes said. "Whatever we ask him to do, he does. The things that you thought he would be limited at, he makes up for it with – we use the term FBI. His football intelligence is so high.
"I think going over to the over side (offense) and being in those meetings still (helps)," Haynes added. "I mean when I go to clinics, I don't go to defensive clinics, I go to offensive clinics because I like to hear how offenses like to attack defenses. With him having that knowledge of how they are going to attack quarters, how they are going to attack (cover) 2, I think it helps him on the defensive side."
Arkansas will practice Thursday and then hold closed practices with no media or fan access on Friday and Saturday.
They will then begin game week practices for the season opener the following Saturday with Jacksonville State.
"We are starting to work on them some, but also continuing to work on fundamentals and technique," Haynes said. "We still want to make sure we are concentrating on our base fundamentals and technique. We still have to get better at the things we do first."
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