Two weeks into camp, Arkansas has some significant injuries, but new coach Bret Bielema sounded up beat after a Saturday night scrimmage with the development of freshmen Dan Skipper, Denver Kirkland, Drew Morgan, Alex Collins, DJ Dean, Brooks Ellis and juco transfer Martrell Spaight.
Bielema even said Spaight's impressive hits have led to a new phrase among teammates. He said it's called being "Spaighted."
Bielema said the positive developments at tackle with Skipper and Kirkland continue to make him feel good about the offensive line and he also loves what he sees at linebacker with Spaight and Ellis emerging as contributors among newcomers. He called Jonathan Williams and Collins an impressive one-two punch at running back and also praised Nate Holmes, Kody Walker and fullback Kiero Small.
"I know Sam (Pittman, offensive line coach) is going to poor boy it, but I like the way depth is coming along," Bielema said. "With the departure of Otha Peters at linebacker, I still see good things there. Daunte Carr made two plays on the goal line tonight. I think Brooks and Martrell are doing well there, too."
But there were blows on the injury front. Wide receiver Demetrius Wilson has an ACL tear, is out for the year. He does have a redshirt and that will be used to allow him to play in the 2014 season.
Tight end Austin Tate has had shoulder surgery to put a plate there. Bielema said he is out six weeks, but is hopeful he will be able to return for conference play.
Linebacker Otha Peters has a broken arm and has had surgery. He's out six to eight weeks. He has a redshirt, but Bielema said he could return by the Texas A&M game, as well.
Travis Swanson, Kiero Small, Rohan Gaines and Byran Jones are back full speed. Keon Hatcher and Javontee Herndon did not practice tonight, but should be back early next week.
As far as the scrimmage, it was another positive night for Brandon Allen, according to Bielema. He said Allen led a 14-play touchdown drive that overcame two penalties, conducted a two-minute drive well and the offense moved the chains in a situational part of the scrimmage where, if the offense picked up a first down, they won.
Bielema said after moving the chains, the offense was able to run out the clock with the victory formation.
It was also a good night for freshmen tackles Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper. Both of those were with the first team (after Grady Ollison and David Hurd jumped offside) for back-to-back touchdown drives.
Linebacker play continues to improve. Bret Bielema said Robert Atiga and Daunte Carr are working as backups behind the clear starter at mike linebacker, Austin Jones. There was also positive news on the development of newcomers Martrell Spaight and Brooks Ellis.
Bielema said Spaight hits on the week have produced close to "three concussions" and also a "butt injury" from Spaight knocking someone down onto their rear end. He said there is a new phrase that players use to describe an impressive hit. Bielema said, "They say you have been Spaighted."
On injury policies, he said most around know the protocol, that parents are to be notified first about injuries and surgeries. In an obvious reference to Tim Horton "tweeting" the Tate injury before a media release, Bielema said, he forgot to get that protocol to the Auburn coaching staff. He called Horton Friday night "about 11 p.m. and we won't have that problem going forward."
Bielema continued to rave about Zach Hocker's kicking and punting. He said it was a good night for Hocker in front of two NFL scouts, especially when two kickoffs left the playing field. One was five yards behind the end line and the next went into the end zone seats.
Brian Buehner moved from quarterback to wide receiver, a position that seems to fit his speed and hands. There were no drops in the two practices Friday, but the former quarterback did have one drop Saturday night.
Freshman wideout Drew Morgan has had an impressive camp and Bielema said he may have been the leading receiver Saturday night. Bielema also praised freshman wideout Melvinson Hartfield, who had a touchdown grab Saturday night. He said Hartfield has speed, although fresh legs have helped him the last several days. Hartfield just got NCAA clearance to practice earlier in the week.
It's a clear pecking order at quarterback now. Brandon Allen is the solid number one, AJ Derby has been solid at number two and Austin Allen has slipped ahead of Damon "Duwop" Mitchell for the third quarterback, although Bielema said there are some packages that could favor Mitchell's running ability.
Saturday Grid Update, 8/17
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