Chaney: Defense More Physical

Jim Chaney sees fewer mental mistakes on offense and more physical play on the perimeter from the defense. The Hogs worked behind closed doors outside on Tuesday.

The mental mistakes and missed assignments are disappearing. Jim Chaney saw that in Saturday's scrimmage as he graded tape Saturday night. And, the Arkansas offensive coordinator saw a defense that sometimes won the physical battles on the perimeter.

"We used to make a lot of mental mistakes every play," Chaney said after practice Tuesday. "That doesn't happen anymore."

There's more good news. Just playing sound on offense doesn't automatically mean a winning play for that side of the ball.

"We get beat sometimes by our defense, physically, get beat," Chaney said. "Our defense is better. Our defense is physical on the perimeter and I love that."

Chaney said there were 51 plays for the first team offense in Saturday's scrimmage with almost exactly 50 percent turning out to be "winning plays for the offense. If we lost a play, there were some mental mistakes involved, but not nearly as many in the past. What I've liked all spring is that our guys on offense have come back with good focus to correct those mistakes. They were good at correcting today."

There were other highlights in the scrimmage, including good plays from newly converted tight end A. J. Derby, although the senior did let a probable touchdown bomb slide through his hands on a perfect Brandon Allen throw.

That was among the items talked about in Tuesday's media opportunity, by Derby and fellow tight end Hunter Henry. Both came to the conclusion that Derby "was too open" on the play. That was laughed about for now. Among the other highlights in the media room was news that running back Korliss Marshall, held out three practices last week, was cleared and full speed for Tuesday's workout.

Derby said he does fully embrace the tight end move after spending a year at quarterback, starting the Rutgers game last fall when Brandon Allen was out with a shoulder injury. He said he didn't see the move coming until he was pulled aside after spring break by head coach Bret Bielema.

"I guess I have tunnel vision," Derby said. "I just was concentrating on the quarterback battle. But I listened to Coach Bielema. I knew he was telling me what was best for the team and for me."

As far as the dropped pass, Derby smiled. He said it's been talked about a lot and he knew the media would have questions about it. One of the first, what would he tell a receiver that dropped a TD bomb?

"Shake it off," Derby laughed. "I think that's the classic line. I heard that (from Allen). I think everyone decided I was way too open."

And, he said he was probably "way too bull headed" not to anticipate the move to tight end.

"It has been a smooth transition," Derby said. "I do think sitting in the quarterback room with Coach Chaney has made it smoother."

Tight ends coach Barry Lunney said no one ever saw Derby "wave the white flag in the quarterback battle. I don't think he's like that. He fought until the end, did everything he could in that battle. Now he's focused entirely on the tight end. He's been very good in our meeting room."

Henry said Derby's quarterback knowledge has been great in the tight end room.

"He knows Coach Chaney, what we are trying to do, so he's helped us with his football IQ," Henry said. "We've benefited from him being with us. He knows exactly what we are doing with the offense and he knows our plays."

Chaney knew that would be the case.

"We knew that with A.J.," Chaney said. "His football IQ has always been good. He has been good with that part and you knew he was going to help in that room."

Derby said the passing game aspects of the tight end position have come easily, but the running game is going to take time.

"I've got to get the footwork down in the running game," Derby said. "But I think I can get it. That's what I've talked to most about with my brother. I talk to him at least once every night and that's the focus of those conversations."

That's Zach Derby, a former starter at tight end for Iowa.

"I'll get the physical part of the position," Derby said. "I don't think that will be a problem. I was used to getting beat up from my older brother. He always beat me up.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity. The few times I talked to Coach Bielema convinced me that it was for the best. It's just a matter of getting the footwork down."

Lunney said that does not look like a problem.

"Blocking is about ability and want to," Lunney said. "He's got athletic ability and what we've seen, he's got the want to. Hunter had to learn the footwork in the blocking, but it didn't take him long. He had those two things, the ability and the want to. I already see (Derby) getting the footwork. I just don't see that as a problem with him."

Chaney said Tuesday's practice, closed to the media and the public, focused some on Auburn looks, as promised by Bielema on Saturday. The Hogs open at Auburn next fall.

"It was a little Auburn today," he said. "We also did a lot of red zone work. We had a good attitude. We made a few mistakes, but it was good. We added a few more concepts. The more you can have in the red zone, the better. We did add some new plays. We didn't get them perfect, but that's usually the way it works with a new play.

"The stuff we worked on for Auburn, we probably didn't do it at the rate we need, so we'll need some more work on that next week. But most of our installations are done, so we will have time for that."

Chaney said the move of Derby and Damon (Duwop) Mitchell to other positions has allowed more repetitions for Brandon Allen, Austin Allen and Rafe Peavey.

"Our two young quarterbacks (Allen and Peavey) need a lot of reps and it was also good to get Brandon as many reps as possible," Chaney said. "He's coming back from an injury and you can never get enough adequate reps. The math is now turned in our favor."

Brandon Allen has been good in the spring, Chaney said.

"Every play he runs, he gets better," Chaney said. "What we wanted this spring was to add some concepts in the passing game and we did.

"I think what you see in Brandon now is that he understands me and I know him. That's the big difference, we just know each other better. I know what he's thinking and he knows my thinking. He knows what I'm going to call.

"I'm still trying to get that with the two young ones. I think it's coming along."

Chaney was asked if Austin Allen held the ball too long in Saturday's scrimmage, hurting protection.

"Anytime you don't protect the quarterback, it's a combination of things," he said. "Sometimes we cut guys loose up front. Sometimes, the receivers run the wrong routes. The whole two group had some problems in that area. But we did protect better (with the starting unit), so that was a positive.

"I'm pleased with Rafe Peavey. He's getting used to me. I'm not sure he's ever had a quarterback get after him the way I have with him. But he knows I love him. Austin is getting used to that, too. He wasn't always with me all of the time last year. I think Austin and Rafe know Jim Chaney a little better now."

Chaney was asked if his three quarterbacks could make plays in the running game.

"Am I going to design up a bunch of plays for them to run it?" he said. "Probably not. But we do think all of them are quick enough to do some things with their feet. Right now, we aren't going to do much other than protect them with a quick whistle. But I think you saw Brandon make a couple of first downs with his feet late in the year last year. He can do that, and those other two can, too."

How has Mitchell taken to wide receiver?

"He looks like he's doing well," Chaney said. "We've seen him do some really athletic things."

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