Four practices into spring football drills, Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is going slow. That makes sense as new quarterbacks and receivers learn a system. But it makes more sense as the returnees learn the fine points.
It comes down to quarterbacks and receivers on the same page, something that probably was not possible when the lead quarterback and receivers were rarely on the practice field together last fall.
"We've spent a tremendous amount of time fine tuning," Chaney said. "We haven't installed a tremendous amount. We are teaching the technical side, eyes. It's on and on with details and that's every bit with quarterbacks and every bit with wide receivers, where are the eyes. Every bit had to be fine tuned."
It's the details that lead to winning. It's what I've heard Jimmy Dykes, the new UA women's basketball coach, talk about at length when he studied all the winning coaches, no matter the sport.
Quaterback Brandon Allen recalls last spring, when it was all the offense could do to just "memorize" the plays. There's still some of that with the youngsters – quarterback Rafe Peavey and wideouts Cody Hollister and Jared Cornelius, all mid-term arrivals.
"It's night and day difference this spring," Allen said. "Now, everything is so ingrained in our minds. It's been a full year. It's a lot smoother. We are trying to get better with the whole offense, trying to get better and know exactly what to do.
"Confidence is a big thing. We are not killing ourselves to memorize plays. We are all hungry coming off last season.
"There's been more film time. Mentally, we are different. We are all hungry coming off last season."
Allen is clearly a team leader, along with Trey Flowers on defense. Who are the emerging leaders at wideout where there really wasn't anyone to step up last year?
"It's Keon Hatcher and Demetrius Wilson," Allen said. "They are the guys right now. We do have some new guys who are trying to get some polish this spring. (Hollister and Cornelius) are getting the installation and polish, but this is different because it was all new to the entire team last year. The rest of us are fine tuning."
Hatcher had leg injuries throughout camp last year and missed much practice time before finally getting on the field at the end of the nonconference schedule. He wasn't in great condition until midway in the year. Wilson missed the season with ACL knee surgery.
There were times that receivers ran the wrong routes on reads, something that will leave the quarterback throwing to an empty space. That happened in the South Carolina game, resulting in a pick six. But there were other times that Allen forced the ball into coverage with bad results.
Chaney likes what he sees in that respect this spring. The turnovers have been reduced. Mistakes and forced balls are going away. Austin Allen, Brandon's younger brother, has stepped up in that regard, too. But Brandon is still the guy.
"I feel like that," Chaney said. "But I really like Austin's decisions. We chart all decisions. It's yes or no on everything they do. And, he's doing a lot of the right things."
It's that attention to detail that will bring winning play at quarterback.
"I feel great," Brandon said. "I'm more confident. I've worked at not forcing it, checking it down, being perfect at my position."
Allen was given a chance to talk about his challengers, his brother and Peavey.
"They are both doing well," Allen said. "Rafe has a learning curve and Austin has some confidence with a full year here. But I've seen both make some great throws."
It's enough to make the first teamer pay attention to the details.
Brandon Allen knows it's about attention to detail this spring.
Photo by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated
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