Allen continues to run with the first team at quarterback. His play was cleaner again than Brandon Mitchell, much as he was the previous two Saturday scrimmages.
There was a brief scrimmage Saturday with red zone and goal line plays. Mitchell had a pick six, with linebacker Robert Atiga stepping in front of a pass in the red zone on a first-and-10 play. Allen had three long TD passes to Javontee Herndon earlier in the practice, a team period with no live tackling.
Bielema announced afterwards that it would be ones vs. ones in the Red-White game next week for the first half, then he'll mix in the twos and threes in the second half. He seemed to indicate that he wanted Allen to work with the ones and to keep continuity with the rest of the first unit. The coach said he wanted the top matchups to attract a big crowd.
"I have been kind of holding out to talk about next Saturday," Bielema said. "Obviously it has been a steady crescendo from out standpoint with the coaches and players all the way to where we are today. We have a chance for some great weather next weekend and i know you have set a record the last two years with 45,000. I would like to break that thing with 50,000 or more.
"To entice it just a little bit we have gotten so much better every day because we have been going good against good and we haven't done any ones against twos or anything like that. We have been all ones against ones.
"So for the whole first half Saturday against something dramatically changes we are going ones against ones. So for the entire first half you will see the best of Arkansas going at it in every phase of the game. It will be a move the ball - we won't have a live kickoff situation but we will have punts, field goals, pat's - we will move the ball - just the standard, normal procedure. We will work on the scoring the first of the week but i want the best players to play together and i want them to play against the best competition we can field. That has made us better all spring and i think it will carry forward."
There were two phases to Saturday's workout in Reynolds Razorback Stadium with intermittent light showers. The Hogs went through a normal 21-period workout, then put the ball down for live work in the red zone and the goal line, but only for 16 snaps. Bielema said he didn't want another extended scrimmage like the last two Saturdays.
"To switch gears to where we are today, I thought our guys went out … we didn't … I just through the last two weekends, three weekends, we've really been very high competitive, a lot of reps," Bielema said. "We had over a 100 play scrimmage last Saturday. I thought we might be pushing the envelop a little bit if we did that again today for its entirety. And then go do it good against good next Saturday. So we backed off and went a normal practice except for down there during the red zone goal line.
"Really only one guy today, John McClure, got banged up with a .. early in the practice. Other than that, to play that competitive and be there at the end when it's in the red zone/goal line was really neat to see the guys compete. I thought our offense today at times in the early parts looked really, really good. Brandon Allen especially looked very crisp on some of his throws. Stepping up in the pocket and doing some things that we've asked him to do, and now finally grasping them a little bit. Brandon Mitchell continues to improve. Can't have a critical turnover there in the red zone.
"One of the selling points we've tried to sell to our kids is down there, the game of football is played obviously end zone to end zone, but in the red zone, everything's magnified times a thousand. You have a penalty down there, you have a turnover, a false-start, anything like that can take points off the board. So to have a turnover there was critical and a great teaching moment for all of us."
Left tackle David Hurd did not practice after sustaining a light MCL knee sprain last week. He also struggled with an appendix attack this week. Chris Stringer, who has also worked at left tackle, also was out with a slight knee injury. Austin Beck took that spot with the ones Saturday. Johnathan McClure left the practice with a minor injury.
Running back Kody Walker took some time at running back in live work for the first time this spring. Trainer Matt Summers cleared him earlier in the week.
Bielema praised the improvement of the offensive line, wide receivers and linebackers. He said offensive line has made the most progress of any group, but more is still needed before the fall. He said middle linebackers were challenged after last week's goal line work and they had stepped up this week in practice. He cited Daunte Carr, Robert Atiga and Austin Jones for the play in the middle.
Jared Collins moved ahead of Will Hines at cornerback this week after what Bielema called a "big day in the scrimmage" last week. Bielema said Hines is bothered by a hip injury. The coach said Tevin Mitchel, Collins and Hines provide a good cornerback rotation and Carroll Washington, slowed a bit by hamstring injury, gives a fourth solid corner for the fall.
Bielema was asked about specific areas of progress for the spring.
"Well, I think first, I've been hard on our wide receivers," Bielema said. "Them catching the ball today was very apparent. Obviously, probably the hardest conditions we've been in: Moisture slash wind slash a little bit cold and they caught it better today than they have all spring.
"Obviously I know that's a two-part thing. It's the throw and the catch. But I really, really like the progress they've made. I thought Herndon had a really good day. Excited because him and Demetrius Wilson, as upperclassmen, the more they can lead that group the better off we're gonna be. We've got some young guys that are talented.
"Keon Hatcher's kind of the teacher's pet. I really just love his attitude, his energy, his physical presence. May not be the most gifted guy in that group, but he's definitely a great attitude guy. So we've got a lot of bodies there I'm excited about and they're definitely willing to work, which is fun."
The offensive line was asked about specifically.
"Huge improvement," Bielema said. "If there's a group from when we started to where we are that had to change the most and have done that, it's been the offensive line.
"They went from a system that was hurry up and play, get as many reps as you can, lot of 3-step game, just different things offensively than we're asking them to do. They've kind of bought into their manhood a little bit. Changed their bodies physically so much at -- certain guys, have moved some personnel around. We'll continue to grow that position. I think they'll not only have the biggest jump right now in spring ball, I think they'll have the biggest jump in the summer, which leads to the fall as well."
Linebacker play was addressed several times during Bielema's post-practice session with the media. Specific questions were asked about outside linebacker Braylon Mitchell, then the middle backers.
"Robert Atiga and Dante Carr, we've challenged them a lot last Saturday after the goal line scrimmage," Bielema said. "Mike linebacker, I told them this story, back in the day when under defense was created and I learned this through Norm Parker who is a great defensive coach, you used to set the front by the mike linebacker saying give it to me right, give it to me left.
"Which meant give me the bubble. Put a one and a five and I'm going to man the middle and nobody is going to mess with me. The mike linebacker, you want to be able to put him in a dark room and he's the guy that should come out. He's a guy that nobody should be messing with. And I want them to understand. … now, we don't do that same thing here. But the principle is there and I want them to know the mike linebacker should be the guy that commands a presence out there and the calls and the attitude and the mentality.
"Both of them this week have been significantly better. Carr and Atiga. And Austin Jones has been doing a nice job when we pop him in there at mike as well. That's kind of a position in progress. Jarrett Lake (on the outside) has been real steady. I'm real excited about him. And kind of how he's continued to come along."
The first unit consisted of Mitchell and Lake on the outside, Carr in the middle. Bielema was asked if Mitchell, not in the rotation in past seasons, has surprised.
"No," Bielema said, noting he didn't have expectations in any regard for any players, keeping an open mind.
"But other people that have been around have made that comment, which I understand totally, just because he wasn't a guy I heard a lot about coming in, and things along that line. What I love is he just is a very, very matter-of-fact kid. He handles his business, grinds, he's been a pupil in coach (Randy) Shannon's office quite a bit.
"I know a couple of you have written stories that, you know our kids have just been a sponge. We've really - first we kind of had to let them know where our football offices were, to get them up in our offices and to be around us and we want them in our offices.
"We want to converse with them. We want to teach them the game individually, as much as they can handle. It's been a steady, steady diet that has grown every week, just the culture to get those guys understanding that we want them. Brandon's been a great example of that and he's playing at a high level because of it."
Bielema likes the competitive spirit of the spring. There were individual battles at the start of the workout, one-one-one hitting matches that featured hand-picked situations by the head coach. He said he liked situations that might lead to manhood, so to speak.
"One time when we really got rolling at the previous place, there was a point where in the third and fourth quarter there were some teams that would just quit playing the way that they started the game," Bielema said. "There was a quote from a coach that said they took a little bit of our manhood from us today.
"That year, it just spread like wildfire through our players. When you say something like that, everybody, as a man, you feel you can own up to your manhood and be who you are, what you are 24-7. If somebody threatens that, you hope it pulls on their courage a little bit. So the more we can stress that and emphasize it, the better we are."
There were some specific drills to test competition in special teams, punt coverage.
"That was punt vs. punt return," Bielema said. "We set up some teams. We wanted to see some competition.
"One of the things we've really tried to breed. … even with that Hhog drill at the beginning of practice, I make those matchups. So if I see two guys I know don't necessarily get along and they're a little chippy with one another, I'll purposely put them head to head.
"Or if I see a guy I kind of want to test his manhood a little bit, I'll put him against a really, really good player and see how he responds. And vice versa. Same thing with those punt team combatives in the middle. You want to see guys that you know are truly going to compete against one another."
There were no touchdowns in the three possessions of red zone work, all starting from the 18-yard line. An offensive pass interference wiped out one possession. Mitchell's pick six ended the next try. Allen was sacked by Trey Flowers on third-and-3, a coverage sack. Mitchell called for a snap and took a knee when he thought the defense moved on another possession, ending the drive when no penalty was called.
In the two possessions in the goal line work -- both from the 4-yard line -- Kiero Small scored from the 2-yard line and Patrick Arinze scored again from the 2-yard line. Small's TD was on third down.