Tuesday Grid Update, 4/8

Arkansas line coach Sam Pittman doesn't like the protection issues from Saturday's scrimmage. Jim Chaney tried to spread the blame, but Pittman would have nothing of it after practice Tuesday.

Jim Chaney and Sam Pittman took turns looking out for the other, but the bottom line is that everyone needs to do a better job of looking out for the quarterback. That was the takeaway from the two veteran Arkansas assistant coaches in a look back of Saturday's scrimmage.

Chaney, the offensive coordinator, was first into the interview room Tuesday after the sixth Arkansas football practice of the spring. He said the 13 sacks in the 101-play scrimmage -- heavy on third-down situations -- were not as much the fault of the line as they were other positions on the field.



That wasn't the way Pittman, the O-line coach, looked at it when he got to the media a little later in the session.

"I love Jim," Pittman said, "but the offensive line has to protect the quarterback. I thought as many as 10 were our fault. There were about four that were from the third group and that's going to happen. But we had way too many (sacks) from the line."

That was the main takeaway from the media session. Alex Collins was into the interview room for the first time since spring break and there were no mention of any thoughts to transfer, something that was rumored two weeks ago.

Among other notes, running back Korliss Marshall was back at practice, but not cleared for full contact. He participated wearing a green jersey. He was held out of practices last week on Thursday and Saturday while waiting on medical tests, according to head coach Bret Bielema. Wide receiver Eric Hawkins, out because of a concussion, also returned.

There was no debating what Chaney and Pittman spent Tuesday trying to clean up, the pass protection.

"We didn't spend much time with run game stuff today," Pittman said. "Our quarterback is doing a nice job. He really is. I think he's improved. We need to help him.

"We just had too many sacks. Most of them were from the O-line and I'm the O-line coach."

Chaney said the scrimmage was "a lot of hot and cold. It wasn't so much what we did, whqt we didn't do. I left the day thinking we didn't protect the quarterback well enough. It wasn't so much the line, but it was other areas. There was a time or two it was on the quarterback. And there might have been the wide receiver running the wrong route. We didn't get the hot route run. It all goes together in protection. We have to be better."

Chaney said quarterback Brandon Allen, 17 of 20 on the day, had an accurate day. But he just needs more time.

"That's what everyone had to work on today," Chaney said. "Protection was emphasized."

The amount of offense installed might have something to do with the protection issues. There weren't a lot of screens or draws called during the long stretches of third-down situations worked on during the scrimmage.

"There's no doubt that we could run draw or screens," Pittman said. "I think what we want to see is can we protect it without those plays. We should be able to do that. We are working on a line with two new guys and another playing a different position.

"I think we can run a screen, but the question I want answered is can we protect without doing that with their pressures."

The pressures were from all angles. There were a handful of cornerback blitzes, three that produced sacks.

"As coaches, we have to do a better job of giving them things they can counter that blitz," Pittman said. "We are doing a lot on defense. We've got a lot of pressures and I'm glad because it's going to make us better to work against what they are running this spring. It's quite a bit.

"We didn't do a good job against it Saturday. Today was a good day, but I came in here still thinking we could have protected better."

Pittman saw good things in the scrimmage. He said right tackle Brey Cook graded out the best of the first team O-linemen. He liked what he saw of tackle Austin Beck and guard Grady Ollison on the second team.

How were the centers where Luke Charpentier and Cordale Boyd are waging a battle to fill the spot of four-year starter Travis Swanson?

"We are getting better, but we've got a ways to go and they know it," Pittman said. "It's not that I want them to be Travis Swanson, but I want them to execute the snap and their blocking assignment."

They also have to make the calls up front, what Swanson did to near perfection over the last couple of years as the bell cow of the UA front.

"Recognition, that part is hard for them," Pittman said. "The defense is doing a nice job of disguising things. We've got to get our eyes in the right places. It's really incredible what we ask our center to do in this program. If I told it all to you, it would be pretty quickly that you'd say, 'You got to be kidding me?'

"We've got three playing their positions for the first time with our first group. They are getting better. We are making progress and we are going to be good there eventually.

"Cook is playing well at tackle. He got his highest grade and is getting better. He's playing faster and physical. He's doing some good things as far as leadership. I didn't think anyone played terrible in the scrimmage and Cook was our best."

Tight ends coach Barry Lunney had good things to say about his thin group. There's steady improvement from Hunter Henry, Jeremy Sprinkle and Alex Voelzke. Henry sparkled with a 67-yard touchdown catch that was mostly run.

"We've really improved our route running," Lunney said. "Hunter, you can tell he's able to do some things he couldn't in the fall and some of that is just being healthy.

"Hunter's long play, he couldn't have made last year. He couldn't run in the open field the way he did Saturday on that play. He was never healthy enough to do that. Now he can open up and run in the open field.

"Our guys are learning the position. You think back of last year, we started the year with Austin Tate out and the top two on our depth chart (Mitchell Loewen and Henry) had never played tight end before and Sprinkle was a first-year player. That led to a lot of mistakes because they were learning the position for the first time. We are so much further along now."

Loewen was making the transition from offensive tackle. Henry played as a flexed end in high school.

"We are definitely making progress," Lunney said. "They are super willing and dialed in. We don't have depth right now, but we are more experienced and physically more mature. I'm excited about the progress we've made."

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