Arkansas worked in full pads Thursday, with AJ Derby at tight end. It was the second practice Derby has worked there after making the move from quarterback on Tuesday.
The Hogs spent the day preparing for an open Saturday scrimmage. Head coach Bret Bielema announced that the Saturday workout would be open to the public, with the same time as last Saturday's workout. Gates will open at 11 a.m. with the scrimmage set to begin around 11:45 a.m.
Derby didn't get a lot of snaps in team segment, working behind Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle. But I saw him show up quickly in special teams as a blocking wingback on field goals. There won't be any quarterbacks playing that position. He's wearing a red No. 11, no more green jersey.
Austin Allen took the snaps with the second team at quarterback with Rafe Peavey stepping in at times. But Peavy was mainly with the third team. It's apparent that both Austin and Rafe are getting a lot more repetitions with Derby now at tight end.
Cordale Boyd and Mitch Smothers swapped spots. Boyd took snaps with the ones at left guard. Smothers moved to center with the twos. Boyd is a beast.
In the inside run part of practice, it was easy to spot the beast on the field. It was Denver Kirkland. He moves so gracefully, but delivers a punch. He's much better than he was in the fall. His quickness in his feet is so amazing for someone in the 350 range.
Cornerback play continues to impress. The improvement there throughout the depth chart -- and that's still fluid -- is most noticable. Tevin Mitchel and Carroll Washington are working with the ones, but there is good competition in the next group with Jared Collins, D.J. Dean and Will Hines. Robb Smith mentioned all of those five after practice as stepping up.
The physical nature of the corners at this point in spring drills from last spring to this point this spring is like night and day different. Smith told me that physical play at corner can change a defense the most.
Former NFL head coach Dave Wannstedt, who is close to Robb Smith, was at practice Thursday and will spend the next three days with the new defensive coordinator. Smith said he knows that Wannstedt, who was on the defensive staff with Smith at Tampa Bay, already has a full notepad. He said he's fortunate that Wannstedt is on a diet and won't be asking for steak. Smith said, "He's craving barbecue so that might be good."
Wannstedt watched practice Thursday with UA athletic director Jeff Long at his side. Long was Wannstedt's AD at Pitt.
Brandon Allen had a good day throwing. He seemed on target throughout the day. But so did his younger brother Austin and Rafe Peavey. One thing Brandon seemed to do in goal line situations was not force the ball. He tucked the ball when it appeared outlets were covered.
There was a lot of goal line installation Thursday. In the team segment to end practice, Bielema asked both sides to hold blows and save them for Saturday's scrimmage when it will be live. They seemed to oblige and slow themselves down at the point of contact.
Running back Korliss Marshall was in a green jersey for the second straight practice after sitting out Saturday's scrimmage. Wide receiver Eric Hawkins, who had a concussion last week, was also in a green jersey. Both rotated in on team segments and did not seem slowed.
Smith said he was pleased with the first eight practices of spring, but said the defense "is still a work in progress. We are cleaning up what we've installed. We've got out base line in and it's good that we are going to get several more (scrimmages) in before the spring game."
Smith said he was pleased that the defense was allowed to turn loose a lot of their blitz package in the first scrimmage. He said there was cooperation from the offensive standpoint from coordinator Jim Chaney. He said it was a joint decision from head coach Bret Bielema across the board with the staff to allow the defense to make aggressive calls.
"Bret hired me and wanted us to be aggressive," Smith said. "We worked on a couple of new wrinkles last week. Coach Chaney has been good to let us work on some stuff. He's on board with what we are doing."
One of those involves playing safeties at linebacker and nickel. Alan Turner got some work at inside linebacker in the dime and Tiquention Coleman got to work at outside linebacker, too. Both are regular safeties.
"TQ is a safety by nature, but we are going to match personnel when there are a lot of wideouts on the field and he allows us to play different looks," Smith said. "We are looking to find our strengths and weaknesses. We are looking at different combinations this spring."
There were different combinations at defensive end in Thursday's practice and some of it was because of a heavy academic load at that position late in the week.
"We are moving guys around both inside and outside so don't take too much into depth chart in what you see," Smith said. "Some guys were in class this afternoon and we'll have them back for the scrimmage."
Deatrich Wise, one of the standouts in the scrimmage, was mentioned by Smith. Jamichael Winston stepped up on the outside. Trey Flowers didn't scrimmage last week but was back at his first team end spot.
"I respect what Bret is doing there with Trey," Smith said. "We know what he can do.
"As far as Deatrich, I'm a fan of what he's done. It's too early to say too much, but he's got a nice start to the spring."
As far as the blitzes, Smith said it was all about getting the ability to "fine tune them. It's invaluable to work on these things in spring. Bret and Jim are good about that. If you are going to do it, fine tune it."
The aggressive nature of the defense has excited the players.
"It is exciting to play this style," said Tevin Mitchel, senior corner. "I love it. We all do. Coach Smith has been fun for us, so has Coach (Clay) Jennings. We have bought in to what they have given us."
The cornerback play has pleased Smith.
"That's been a big positive this spring," Smith said. "Those guys have bought in. We wanted to play an overall physical brand of football and when your corners are physical, it raises everyone up.
"That's been a big emphasis this spring. Our corners have been physical."
Jennings, who coaches the secondary, has seen plenty of positives there.
"Our corners have been physical," said Jennings, who closes on his Fayetteville house on Friday. "Those guys have to fit in the run game. We aren't going to play with cover corners. We are going to play with complete football players. On the same line of thinking, our safeties are going to tackle, but they are going to play the go and the post.
"I tell our corners every day in the meeting room that their position one of the big items is that physical play is an occupational hazard to the job. One of the premises of playing corner for us is that they be physical."
Jennings handed out plenty of praise.
"As far as physical play, Carroll Washington has been great," Jennings said. "So has Tevin. I see D. J. Dean doing a good job and Jared Collins has done better there. Will Hines has shown up with physical play, too."
Thursday Grid Update, 4/10
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