Assistants: No Surprises
Arkansas assistant coaches know things will get tougher, but the first game was full of a lot of positives, according to the consensus Sunday night at a media briefing.
"Collectively, we competed for 60 minutes," said Jim Chaney, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "We wanted to try to play physical and we were very competitive in that regard.
"I thought (quarterback) Brandon Allen played very solid. He made one ill-advised throw, across his body on the move to his right in the red zone. He knew it as soon as he let it go. He won't do that again. Otherwise, he was very solid.
"Our goal was to establish the run and be efficient. We did what we wanted to get done. That's who we are, a physical running team. I thought the offensive line, the tight ends, the running backs and the wide receivers all did physical things. Travis Swanson and Kiero Small were very good, what we thought they would be."
Offensive line coach Sam Pittman was pleased. He said there were few mental errors and his group graded out well across the board.
"We have a lot of work to do, but I'm proud of the way they played," he said. "They were physical. We played against a front that showed a lot of movement and three fronts and we made some good adjustments.
"We hurt them early with our weakside (going to the right) and they adjusted after a few plays. When they did, Coach Chaney adjusted. It's not his first rodeo. He saw what they were doing and we countered it."
Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said he saw similar adjustments from coordinator Chris Ash on their side of the ball, especially in containment of Louisiana quarterback Terrance Broadway.
"There was a point early where their quarterback -- a great player -- had some rhythm," Partridge said. "And we changed things and our kids then played very well.
"I'm sure there were some nerves early. But as our guys saw how we were going to coach them and it was all business, just like practice, they relaxed and started to play very well. I thought you saw some things our of our ends that show the amount of talent and confidence they have in their technique. But our tackles played well, too. They did their jobs. It's hard to get much action against a spread inside, but they did well."
Ash said it was good to finally play a game and get a gauge on progress.
"It was good," Ash said. "We've been going through this process for a long time. I had no idea what to expect with these guys on Saturday. None. I didn't know if they would come out there and fall flat on their face or if they'd play great.
"Honestly, I think they did well. But is it good enough to compete in the SEC? No, it's not. I give a lot of credit to Louisiana-Lafaeytte's coaching staff and players. They've got a great team. But it's just not a good enough effort from our standpoint to compete in the SEC."
It's simple where Ash wants improvement.
"Effort and consistency," he said. "We've got to play with better effort and we've got to be more consistent in our responsibilities. If we can do those two things, Saturday will take care of itself. But we really have to improve on those two things."
Things got easier as far as corrections as the defensive ends took control of UL's perimeter game. Ash praised Trey Flowers and Chris Smith in particular.
"It makes a difference when you've got guys like that that can rush the quarterback and force bad throws or force them to throw it earlier than they want," Ash said. "It makes a complete difference in your pass coverage. I thought they did a great job of it.
"Deatrich Wise did a great job too. He got a couple pressures on some of the third down things when he was out there. It will make a difference if we can continue to do that throughout the course of the year."
Linebackers coach Randy Shannon said it was just a matter of relaxing.
"I do think we showed some jitters early," Shannon said. "But as you watched them fly around more and more and just play their technique, our guys got stronger. I'm pleased. For a first game, the linebackers did well. I thought our defensive line did a nice job of keeping Broadway in the pocket.
"It took maybe four or five minutes into the game for our guys to settle down, but they did. I think our older guys were playing well so we stayed with them and let them play. I thought they did a good job of correcting a few things after the first few minutes."
Running backs coach Joel Thomas joined Chaney in handing out special praise for Small.
"I counted on tape seven times where Kiero either cut his man or had a knockdown, seven times he had his man on the ground," Thomas said. "They all graded well, but Kiero had a really fine performance. There was a third-and-1 where he had a spin and got 4 yards after contact. That's a really nice job there, all on him.
"On Kiero's touchdown, he showed a lot of things. We realized we have a very valuable player. He is tremendous and does a lot of things for us."
Chaney said, "We got him seven touches and maybe that was unique for the way he was used in the past, but we know he's one of our best players. We know he's a weapon. It's not unique for the way I've used a player like that in the past."
Pittman said his group "is headed in the right direction" after the opener. He said Denver Kirkland got 18 snaps in relief of Grady Ollison at right tackle and both graded well.
"We got Denver two possessions, I think, about what we wanted," Pittman said. "It was a good starting game for him. I played about how I thought he would, a little big eyed at the start. We got what we needed from him, two long possessions.
"I'm pleased with Grady. He played hard and finished a lot of blocks. He's not quite where we want him, but he did well for a first game.
"We wanted to get Luke Charpentier in there at guard some because he had such a good camp. But Mitch Smothers got most of it and did well. It was a nice job at that position. We've got some depth across the front. There were not a lot of mental errors anywhere."
Tight ends coach Barry Lunney said the tape was about what everyone would expect who watched the game.
"I think there were a few plays like Hunter Henry's fumble and his penalties that everyone saw," Lunney said. "And everyone saw his catches. But what they probably didn't notice was that a freshman tight end played over 50 snaps. He handled himself pretty well.
"The rest of our tight ends handled themselves well, too. Was it perfect? No. Was it a good opener? Yes. We made some mistakes that will get corrected."
Pittman expects improvement.
"It has been my experience that the old coaching adage that you make the most improvement between the first and second game," Pittman said. "We're going to get some things fixed and we think that will be the case this week. We want it to be the case. We can play better."
Chaney was pleased with the two-minute drill at the end of the first half that produced a field goal, but not how it started. He said there were some issues as they changed personnel after coming off the goal line.
"Well, I don't know about the personnel," he said. "I'm pleased they made the play. but we expect them to make the play. they're out there performing for us. The overall execution was pretty smooth. We liked that.
"I thought we were a little fumbling moving into the two-minute from backed it up. It doesn't happen often. You don't get out of that big group, being backed up, into a two-minute mode very often. And it happened this time. we weren't real smooth with it. It's a point of emphasis for us this week to be able to move in and out of a two-minute mode a little bit better."
Chaney was asked about audibles from Allen. He wasn't sure of percentages, but thought the right checks were made throughout the game.
"Him audibling, I don't know, probably 20 percent of the time," Chaney said. "That's pretty routine, I think. I'm guessing now. I'd have to go back and look at the numbers. But he's asked to get us out of horrible plays and into solid plays. and I think he's done that pretty well.
It was a more than adequate job of changing plays.
"Oh yeah," Chaney said. "I think (Allen) has good presence of mind. It's pretty simple. If they're all over there, let's go over there. So that works out pretty good. We do the math. I'm from Missouri, but I can count to 11 and I know where most of them are at anyway."
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