Robb Smith: Finish Spring

Defensive coordinator Robb Smith likes what he's seen as far as energy in the first 11 practices of Arkansas spring drills. Now, he wants a strong final four.

Robb Smith sees "great effort" and has noted an impressive "energy" throughout the first 11 practices of Arkansas' spring drills. Now he wants to maintain those qualities in the final four practices.

Arkansas prepped behind closed doors Thursday for a closed scrimmage Saturday. Smith said it was another solid workout. He said it mirrored a lot of the other practices as he's installed a new scheme.

"I've seen the hunger and desire all spring," Smith said, noting it was there Thursday.

"We just want continued improvement in our scrimmage. We'll install a little more of the scheme. We've done a lot of our technique and scheme work. Now we just want to have great practices the rest of the spring."

As far as where the Hogs are on defense right now, Smith didn't go into detail, just calling the overall aspect "a work in progress." But he liked the overall attitude as far as intensity.

"The most important thing I've seen is that we've got a great attitude," he said. "We've got a hunger and desire. I've seen that as far as the work we've done on technique. I've seen them put in extra time in the tape study.

"We are still a work in progress, but the effort is there. We continue that, we'll be fine."

Head coach Bret Bielema announced that the week's practices would be closed as they put in some specifics for early-season foes Auburn and Texas Tech. Smith said that was some of the focus Thursday.

"We dabbled in a little (Auburn and Texas Tech)," Smith said. "Those teams are different than what our offense does so this will give us a chance to be a little more successful against those teams."

But he said it was more about just emphasizing the techniques. He was pleased with the energy displayed Thursday, something he emphasizes, especially when there is a big play or a turnover or a physical play.

"I do," he said. "Football should be played with energy. Football is supposed to be fun. Why shouldn't you get excited when there's a turnover. If you don't, you are probably playing the wrong sport."

The physical aspect is something linebacker Martrell Spaight loves, but the senior on the weakside said he's trying to do more than deliver the big hit.

"I think that got me in trouble last year, going for the big hit too much," Spaight said. "I have learned to be more patient. I think some teams used it to their advantage, me trying for the big hit.

"I still like that aspect of the game, but I'm going to let it come to me naturally. I need to focus more on my technique, the scheme and the things that are important in our defense. I don't want to make a mistake because I'm going for the big hit. I think they will still come."

Spaight is going through his first spring. He had to finish a class last spring after signing with the Hogs. He said that was a setback. He knows what he missed now.

"I think you hope to get adjusted to it as fast as you can," Spaight said. "I think I can speak for all of the junior college transfers (from last year), we are much more confident with the scheme this year. It allows our abilities to speak for themselves."

Spaight has been working with JC transfer Tiquention Coleman, a backup strong safety now working at weakside linebacker in special packages.

"I'm pushing Tiquention and he is pushing me," Spaight said. "It's a playmakers position. I've pretty much played it since junior high. I am trying to help him."

Linebackers coach Randy Shannon said Coleman has worked at weakside linebacker the last few days, but still considers him a safety.

"The first two weeks of spring, TQ was a safety and he still is a safety," Shannon said. "But there are times when there are going to be certain teams like Auburn and Texas Tech that put a lot of wide receivers on the field and we'll substitute packages for them. TQ fits in that role.

"He's really more of a nickel, dollar and dime back. He can play that role in our defense and we are getting him looks there this spring."

The Hogs are looking for speed in their packages, with an emphasis for attacking up the field. One defensive linemen who has blossomed in that respect has been defensive tackle Taiwan Johnson, a converted end.

"Taiwan has a great burst," said Rory Segrest, defensive line coach. "He's got a quick twist. He can turn his hips and go. He's made a lot of progress this spring. He's done very well."

Johnson fits in what Segrest likes as far as attacking, instead of a style that was emphasized last year.

"We've gone from a style of playing laterally, to getting up the field and squeezing gaps," Segrest said. "It's a transition for sure, but I see a lot of guys making progress."

There's been an emphasis on finding more defensive ends to play opposite senior all-star candidate Trey Flowers.

"Holding Trey out of a lot of things has increased the opportunity for the others," Segrest said. "We were a little thin there with some guys out for class. It's still a work in progress at defensive end, but guys are getting a lot of reps in scrimmage with Trey not out there."

Spaight sees the growth right in front of his eyes as the ends in front of him roll in and out, young defensive ends.

"I think all of the guys like this style and they like it up front for sure," Spaight said. "It's a very exciting, very aggressive style. It's 11 people running to the football.

"What we know is that running to the football breeds championship teams. Everyone has bought into the system. You see guys getting better every single day. The kids are getting better. It's a great scheme and we are learning it."

Smith said, "The young defensive ends have really come on. Coach Segrest has done a great job. We have really developed as pass rushers on the outside."

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