The Arkansas defense has shuffled the deck with their backup linebackers, but no one is moving around with the ones where Braylon Mitchell, Austin Jones and Jarrett Lake are holding down their jobs.
As far as the backup spots, the same names are getting time at the three linebacker spots. It's Martrell Spaight, Brooks Ellis and Otha Peters. But Ellis and Peters have moved with Ellis at will and Peters at mike.
And, there have been no major changes in the depth chart at cornerback, although Jared Collins and Will Hines are splitting time with the starting spot opposite Tevin Mitchel. There are some times when Collins and Hines are with the ones together, with Mitchel getting a break as cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson looks for depth and versatility.
Rohan Gaines is still sitting out some of the work at strong safety as a bruised knee heals. He appears closer to full speed. Johnson said he doesn't have the trainer's report, but thinks Gaines may return to all action soon.
"He has an unbelievable spirit," Johnson said. "It's been my experience that when a player has great spirit, it's an indication he will be back out there soon."
Jones is still leading the way at mike linebacker. The walk-on feels good about a push that might land him a scholarship. He's kept the first-team spot since about the second day of practice and said "it's been a good camp."
Jones was one of eight players who came to the interview room, on a defensive day. Johnson was the only assistant coach to be available. The Hogs practiced once on the day. There will be two workouts Friday ahead of a Saturday night scrimmage, the time set for 6 p.m. to simulate conditions for the second game of the season. The Hogs worked at 3:50 p.m. last weekend, close to the kickoff time for the opener.
Johnson said it was a slow start to Thursday's practice for the defense, but things gradually improved.
"Today was not one of our better days," said Johnson. "But guys worked through it. I thought one of the good things was that the pads were popping. It's a day where we had a lot of meetings and that might have gotten into their legs for the start. I thought we got better by the time we got to one-on-ones."
Asked about turnovers, Johnson said there have been more pass breakups than interceptions. There was a chance for an interception Thursday but Collins had a pass bounce off his shoulder pads.
"We've had more pass breakups than interceptions," Johnson said. "Will Hines and Tevin Mitchel had some PBUs today. Jared broke on one today, but it bounced off his shoulder pads. I don't think any of our guys (at cornerback) are going to be wide receivers."
The emphasis on producing turnovers is constant. It's during film study, in meetings and with the drills throughout practice. The offense has been solid at avoiding the issues created by the defense, the coaching point of a Bielema team.
"We are working on every kind of drill I've ever seen," Jones said. "We work on stripping, scoop and score, everything."
Individually, Jones said he's felt good about his fall.
"I've had good springs the last two years, but this is a better fall," he said. "I've felt good each day. Right now, I feel like I'm having a good camp.
"I'm excited about my opportunity. I just come into each day trying to get better by film study and work on the field. I've tried to watch more tape and film over last fall. It's my senior year and I'm embracing the chance I've got right now.
"The key right now is to keep working on our run fits. I'm working on my craft as a linebacker. It's about knowing the keys so that I react fast to the fits. The keys tell you run or pass, whether it's inside shoulder or outside shoulder in the fits. I think we are all improving at linebacker."
Ellis said he's had to adjust to different keys from high school when he red the guards. And, will linebacker is slightly different than mike.
"I had mental errors in the scrimmage Saturday, way too many," he said. "I think my mental errors have been down (at will). My goal is to really improve Saturday in our next scrimmage over last week.
"I think they've moved us around a little to just see where we play best. We've all got a positive attitude about it.
"The goal Saturday night is the same, stop the run and reduce mental errors. I had more than I'd like last week. I guess some of the run fits I wasn't used to and that was my challenge at mike. I picked up the challenge. I'm about to get the run fits down and now I'm working more on pass drops and blitzes."
Ellis said he's excited to be working behind senior Jarrett Lake.
"To see he's a leader is an understatement," Ellis said. "It's wild how well he's playing and leading our defense. I'm learning from him and it's started to click this week for me at will. I think it's a good fit for me."
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