During the last part of Saturday's Arkansas football scrimmage, several of the defensive players began to whoop and holler as the offense was getting ready to come back on the field.
They had every right to as once again Saturday the defensive side of the ball showed improvement in what turned into a 101-play scrimmage at Razorback Stadium.
Senior linebackers Tiquention Coleman and Martrell Spaight – neither of which saw a great deal of action last season – both had 10 tackles to lead the effort while sophomore-to-be middle linebacker Brooks Ellis added 8 stops, defensive end Deatrich Wise and defensive tackle Darius Philon six.
The defenders also had 12 sacks and Ellis, defensive back Carroll Washington and Coleman all picked off a pass while Ellis also forced a fumble and Washington recovered it.
It was the second straight weekend that new defensive coordinator Robb Smith's bunch showed up better than it did at this time last spring.
"The three things that are going to jump out right away, he and I share an idea in simplicity," Bielema said of he and Smith. "You want to make sure that it's something our players can understand and comprehend in a short amount of time and be able to execute. I think that is very much true. I think our players know what they're doing. They're able to play fast. They're able to play more physical.
"The second thing is, he's on them constantly and all the coaches," Bielema added. "He's doing a nice job of coaching the coaches to get the details of what we want. If you can't let the receiver across your face, then you can't let him across your face. It's not allowable. It's not acceptable. Being very demanding on that point.
"And the third thing, he does a tackle circuit and a strip circuit every day in practice," Bielema continued. "I think we're just tackling a lot better. There's some guys making some nice plays out there today, but there are some really nice individual one-on-one tackles, which gets you excited."
Coleman was one of those guys as he continued his transition from a little used safety last season to a Will linebacker this one.
"We moved TQ to Will linebacker," Bielema said. "He was playing Will and safety a little bit in certain situations. But I couldn't be happier. I've know this since we recruited him: TQ loves contact. He's a play-maker type guy. I kept trying to encourage our guys last year to put him in a position to - maybe in some sub packages - so I give a lot of credit (to Smith)."
One of his few mistakes came after he picked off a Brandon Allen pass on Saturday and celebrated at the end of the play by flinging the ball forward.
"You know I jumped his tail because he threw the ball in the air, but he made a great break, a great read," Bielema said. "He's done a nice job and I think that's going to continue to grow."
Spaight had three tackles for lost yardage.
"Another guy that jumped out to me was 47 Spaight," Bielema added. "Made some plays. Really down on the goal line, red zone area and also out on the field. He's very quick and athletic. I really think here's a great example of if you had that kid for a redshirt year and you have him for a little bit of time. He's really making some huge strides right now."
In addition to his interception and fumble recovery, senior cornerback Washington also had two pass break ups as he bids to grab a starting spot.
"Carroll's done a nice job," Bielema said. "Carroll loves to compete. Again, case in point, we brought him in as a junior college kid a year ago. It took him a while to learn how we want things done and he's finally getting it.
"If there's unit on our field that's the most improved, it's definitely the corners," Bielema added. "Between 23 Tevin Mitchel, between Carroll Washington 21, and Will Hines. D.J. Dean continues to do some good things. Jared Collins 29. Where we were struggling a year ago, and I know we're not playing the SEC schedule right now. But you really feel good about those five guys competing."
Ellis was another standout in the scrimmage.
"The thing about Brooks is he is very athletic, kind of sneaky in a way – functionally he reads things very, very well – so that pass was a deflected ball. He does a nice job," Bielema said. "Even last fall when he got in there and made some plays, you could see that he had a good feel for the game.
"The Mike linebacker – I don't know if it is his natural position because I think he may be more suited for the outside, but for us right now he is doing the best job and I am excited to see him grow," Bielema added.
The Razorbacks scrimmaged again without senior defensive end Trey Flowers, who practices during the week but is held out by Bielema for scrimmages.
"It's something I've done in the past with guys that have been in those type of situations," Bielema noted about NFL prospects. "So what he does is he comes in and gets an early workout with Herb (strength and conditioning coach Ben Hebert) that's kind of generated more towards him. Just keeping a development. The more muscle he can add to his frame the better off he's going to be.
"In the fall we'll scrimmage him," Bielema said. "But here in the spring I just decided to keep him out of all live situations and it's worked well in the past and I expect it will here, too."
In his absence, redshirt sophomore-to-be defensive ends Brandon Lewis, JaMichael Winston and Wise flourished while classmate Taiwan Johnson saw time at both tackle and end.
"We're really thin at D-line," Bielema said. " So I was impressed the way those twos kept responding there at the end. a guy that's really done a nice job for us, BLlew, I'm excited for. Jamichael has continued to move forward. The biggest thing Deatrich has gained a level of maturity I think and continued to move forward. So I like the way those guys are moving. But it's definitely an area I can't wait to get some of our freshmen in there just to get some more bodies for them."
Arkansas hosted former NFL and college head coach Dave Wannstedt this week for Thursday and Saturday workouts.
"It was awesome," Bielema said. "Dave came in on Wednesday. He really just had an open key to the program, sat in our staff meetings, offense, defense, positional meetings, practices. We met early on that first day and I gave him about a half a dozen things I'd really like to have some information and feedback on. Anything was welcomed. He gave me that and more. Very encouraging things, but also some critical things you need to hear.
"He's a guy that's won on every level," Bielema added. "National championship as an assistant coach at Pitt. As a coordinator at Miami, defensive coordinator in the NFL, Super Bowl. He gave a great message to our guys this morning. I don't allow a lot of people to come in and talk to our team just because I want to be able to understand the message. It was very clear to me after day two that he'd do a good job and he knocked it out of the ballpark this morning. So it's been awesome."
Freshman defensive end Tevin Beanum didn't participate because of a concussion.
Bielema also confirmed that defensive tackle Horace Arkadie was currently indefinitely suspended.
Bielema said he will mix some things up in practice in the last two weeks.
"After three weeks you need a little bit of pace," Bielema said. "So we'll really go hard into Auburn and Texas Tech prep. And work on some of those early nonconference opponents. On top of that, I think that the biggest thing for us is keep getting better at the things we don't do well."
Arkansas Defense Rises Up
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