Tuesday Grid Update, 8/6
Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will have a better idea of what kind of football team he has on Wednesday when the squad puts on shoulder pads.
That's after the Razorbacks' first two practices in just helmets and shorts – or underwear as Chaney called it.
"We have been out there running around in our underwear so we are going to find out when we put our (shoulder) pads on and that will take place tomorrow and Thursday with eventually full pads on a Friday," noted Chaney, referring to leg pads – and thus full pads - going on the fifth day of practice.
That said, Chaney does like what he has seen the first two days.
"So far, so good," Chaney said. "The carryover has been good from the spring to the summer and we have been excited about that. The kids are working hard – the same old stuff. Practice two looked good and we will see what it looks like tomorrow when we put the pads on.
"The day two installation went in and we didn't miss a beat," Chaney added.
One thing Chaney has noticed for sure is how the team is in much better shape after a summer under strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert.
"We are running a lot of routes out there and pushing a lot of things and I haven't noticed any fatigue," Chaney said. "I think the endurance is better. I was concerned with the stamina of our group when we left spring and I feel really comfortable in saying I don't notice that a bit right now."
Chaney lauded what starting quarterback Brandon Allen has done the first two days.
"I think Brandon is doing really well right now," Chaney said. "He understands the offense, has familiarity. You guys have heard me say that a lot and it rings true. The more reps he gets, the better he gets."
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema mentioned improved leadership from Allen after Monday's practice and Chaney reiterated that on Tuesday.
"I see that a lot more and more," Chaney said. "When kids get more comfort and invest more they tend to have more leadership. That is what has happened to Brandon. He has put a lot of time in to become a better football player. And with that he feels a little bit more comfortable vocalizing it. That is what I am seeing right now.
"But he ain't a senior and is a young kid that is still figuring his way out and right now he is doing a good job with it," Chaney added.
Allen agrees that he is coming along, but has a lot to learn.
"I am getting a lot of help out there," Allen said. "The o-line is doing a great job, the receivers are making plays and I am excited about the way the season is going to go because of that.
"Our o-line has gotten a lot bigger and stronger and the receivers are a lot faster and quicker," Allen added. "Working out hard all summer has really helped them all out."
Chaney also likes what he has seen out of back-up quarterback A.J. Derby.
"He has looked really good the past two days and stepped forward from where he was in the spring," Chaney said. "That's been good to see."
Allen agrees with Chaney's assessment of Derby, a former highly-recruited quarterback who went to Iowa and then matriculated to junior college before arriving at Arkansas this spring.
"A.J. is doing a great job," Allen said. "He is taking his reps, completing a lot of passes and running that offense at a high level, which is what you want from any quarterback."
Arkansas brought in a pair of freshman signal callers in Fayetteville's Austin Allen and former New Jersey prep standout Damon Mitchell.
"They are fine," Chaney said. "They were here most of the summer so they understand quite a few of the plays right now so after two days of install they are doing okay. But after three, four, five days we'll see if there is some smoke coming out of their ears, but for right now they are doing fine."
Allen commented on the progress of the youngsters so far.
"Duwop (Mitchell) and Austin are all getting their reps and doing a great job," Allen said. "It's obviously a new offense, but the strides they have made is tremendous. They have come a long way."
Chaney was asked about the running backs, but again will have a better opinion once the pads go on.
"They are doing fine, but when you are running the ball out there with no pads on, it is a different experience," Chaney said. "What we are looking for is alignment, assignment – the technical part of the game that you can improve on daily and they are doing the things we ask them to do."
He lauded sophomore wide receiver D'Arthur Cowan for his efforts the past two days and notes the offensive line is definitely ready to put on the pads.
"D'Arthur Cowan has had two very nice days as have all the receivers," Chaney said. "They are playing good. The O-line they are just excited about getting pads on so we can go pound on people. That will be fun to see tomorrow."
He did not want to go overboard on any of the new rookies.
"I hesitate to say anything about any freshmen right now," Chaney said. "I think they are all out there working hard. I haven't noticed any freshmen who look like ‘oh, my God.' Sometimes you say that, but I haven't noticed that one bit. They are fitting in good, they are competing and most importantly they are getting along with the upperclasssmen, which is incredible when it comes to moving into a new situation."
Chaney believes Arkansas' 20 seniors – led by tight end Austin Tate, center Travis Swanson, fullback Kiero Small and wide recievers Jevontee Herndon, Julian Horton and Demetrius Wilson - have led the way this summer in preparing the youngsters for camp.
"In college football because of the time constraints put on us, the only coaches you have got is the leadership of your squad throughout the summer and those kids are great," Chaney said. "We are fortunate that we have a senior tight end in Tate, a senior center in Swanson, a senior fullback in Small and Herndon and Horton and Wilson and they move around and do all the things there.
"We don't have anybody in the quarterback room so I have to lean on Brandon and A.J. has been around the block a little bit," Chaney added. "The kids understand right and wrong and I think they have done a great job nurturing those youngsters."
Chaney is very plain spoken when assessing the first two days.
"I haven't notice anybody going to pot," Chaney said. "Everybody is doing their job."
Brandon Allen gets instruction from Jim Chaney during a spring practice.
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