Arkansas linebackers coach Randy Shannon said his inexperienced group played just about like he expected in the team's 34-14 win over Louisiana on Saturday.
Thus he wants more out of them in game two Saturday in Little Rock against Samford.
"We did some good things for the first time those guys had ever played in a college football game," Shannon said. "It was a lot of improvement. Those guys flew around, they hustled, they made some plays.
"But like anything, as a coach you want more from them as a linebacking group," Shannon said. "We have got a lot to build on. It is a starting point and we have a long way to go."
The starting trio of seniors Jarrett Lake and Austin Jones and junior Braylon Mitchell all saw their first significant time.
Lake and Jones both played over 50 snaps while Mitchell played less as he was replaced when Arkansas went to a nickel defense.
"(Austin) did well," Shannon said. "He made a lot of plays. He had a high ratio of making plays. I think he was like 1-for-4 so that means every four plays, he made one. That is a good ratio when you have a linebacker that is really active like that.
"For him lining up and getting us lined up as the middle linebacker, he did a phenomenal job," Shannon said, "but like anything he was nervous when he first started and then all of a sudden he got tuned in and started making plays and doing a lot of good things."
Jones, who said he graded out with a 90, confirmed he was a little anxious starting the game after seeing action in just two games in his career before Saturday, but says that quickly went away.
"It was awesome," Jones said. "That was my first start and I had my butterflies, but after that first snap took place it was all over and it felt natural. I have been playing the game since I was little so it just felt like I was out there playing and having fun.
"I don't know if it is because I am a little older (22), but I put all that nervousness away because I don't have time to be nervous or time to make mistakes," Jones added. "This is my last season so I went out there real confident."
Shannon also got in freshman Brooks Ellis, junior college transfer Martrell Spaight and senior Price Holmes for some snaps although there wasn't much depth needed last Saturday per the coach.
"We looked at it after the first quarter and it was like 20 plays and at halftime it was maybe 30-something plays," Shannon said. "After that, it was just five, 10 plays here and there and it was't really like anything was going on.
"We will continue to grow and to build depth," Shannon said. "I never take any opponent lightly and this is team that I won't take lightly. The guys that are ready to play in the game, I'll play. The guys who are not ready to play, I will not play them in the game."
Shannon said he was looking for things to be cleaned up in game two.
"We have to make sure we don't make the same mistakes as last week and keep improving that way," Shannon said. "The hardest thing about playing football is that if you keep making the same mistakes then it is hard to fix the problem.
"We have to improve on the things we did last week and come up and make some plays this week and put out fires real quick," Shannon added.
Shannon said that he and Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash go into each game with the same mentality – pitch a shutout.
"I'm like Coach Ash – no yards, don't want no touchdowns or anything like that," Shannon said. "The opportunity for those guys to get yards are things we harp on all the time and opportunities when they score points. More than anything it is the communication aspect of things – communicating with each other, understanding here is the formation, here is the play that is about to come out of this formation – make the play and believe and trust that it is going to happen."
Shannon said that FCS Samford (1-0) has gotten his team's full attention – especially since eight FCS programs beat higher level teams on the opening weekend of the college season.
"You have to make sure you understand that eight FCS schools beat BCS schools last weekend," Shannon said. "We have to be a team that comes out and stays focused.
"The running back – No. 2 (Fabian) Truss - is an unbelievable athlete on special teams and also at running back," Shannon said. "He is very explosive and he can give you fits.
"The slot receiver (Kelsey Pope) - number 11 - is a guy that can get you in one-on-one situations that can make people miss in space and we have got to make sure we do those things and take those two out of the game," Shannon said.
Shannon noted that it takes each part of the defense to hold up its end to have a great defense.
"Our whole defense worked hand-to-hand," Shannon said. "I think you have to give a lot of credit to the coverage in the back end and also with pressure from what we are doing up front. Those two things work hand-in-hand.
"...We work as a unit and we are going to continue to stress getting guys in third downs because that is the biggest thing we have to do," Shannon said. "The more we can get guys on third down, we need to create turnovers and get a feel for those things now."
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