Defensive coordinator Robb Smith is excited, but he might not match the level of redshirt freshman safety De'Andre Coley as the first full scrimmage of fall camp approaches.
Smith wants to see who can tackle to the ground, something the defense can do for the first time in a Saturday morning scrimmage, closed to the public at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
After briefly moving to the third team this week behind true freshman Josh Liddell, Coley wants to continue his push of the last two days to convince coaches that he can play at warp speed and not just produce an occasional big hit. He wants to pass them out play after play.
Smith knows he'll get to evaluate the newcomers (and that includes Liddell) in a big way with the scrimmage. The new defensive coordinator wants to see if his freshman linebackers can tackle and get assignments right after five days of absorbing the base defense.
"What we've tried to do is give them the base and the details of the base," Smith said. "Now we will see who has learned it and can go out there and play at a fast pace."
Smith said all of the freshmen linebackers -- Randy Ramsey, Khalia Hackett and Dwayne Eugene -- have "flashed" at times.
"We get to see who can do it live tomorrow," Smith said. "We get to see who can defend in a scrimmage situation."
Coley thinks he'll set the tone. Certainly, the Miami product does not lack for confidence when it comes to hitting.
"I want to make an impact tomorrow," Coley said. "I don't think I'll sleep tonight, I'm so excited. I like it live much better than what we've been doing the last three days, thudding up. I like tackling and I don't like thudding it up."
But coaches have asked for more consistency from Coley, now at free safety behind Rohan Gaines. Lidell is also working at free. Alan Turner Turner and Sleepy McKinney are at strong. McKinney is cross training at both spots.
"You want five," Smith said. "Really, there are times you have to play both. Alan Turner is our eighth man down in the box a lot, at strong. But you don't want the quarterback to get a read on that so there are times that Rohan comes down and is strong. You want to disguise it."
Gaines said it's a matter of knowing both. He's played plenty of strong, too. He likes free, but he bulked up to 200 pounds over the summer and can handle both spots.
"It was a major goal of mine to get to 200," Gaines said. "Used to, at 185 or so, I absorbed the blow. Now I can deliver it. I think that extra weight gives me confidence that my body is going to hold up. I feel great."
Coley has gotten to as much as 212, most of it in his legs. He was in the 180 range when fall started last year. He's lived with a "one gallon jug the last 12 months." Getting properly hydrated has helped both Coley and Gaines hold their weight.
"It's me and the jug," Coley said. "I have my water jug everywhere I go. I'm the jug man."
Gaines said, "I'm like that, too. It's made a difference to get the right hydration."
The Hogs may have only been "thudding up," but linebacker Brooks Ellis got a square thud in Friday's workout, that went inside because of showers.
"Korliss took a toss sweep and I came up and hit him a little bit," Ellis said. "Korliss is fine. I just talked to him. He said something to me just now."
Coley saw it, but didn't think it was a Coley-type hit.
"Naw," he said. "It was good, but not like mine."
Smith said there is something to that.
"Coley hits different than everyone else," Smith said. "You don't have to see it to know it's him. You just hear it and say, 'That had to be Coley.' The first couple of days when we didn't have pads and it was just helmets, well, Coley was alright. But you put on the pads, it was different. You started hearing him."
The two days without pads were not Coley's best work, that's for sure.
"Coach (Clay) Jennings told me I was not showing my speed," Coley said. "I wasn't getting to the ball and was lazy. He told me to pick it up and showed me the other guys. He put a freshmen in front of me and the last two days I showed him I could get to the ball.
"And tomorrow (at the scrimmage) you guys are going to see my name a lot. Get used to it."
The move to free safety agrees with Coley.
"I like it a lot," he said. "It suits me better. I like getting to the ball at free. I can play it. I've gotten faster and smarter."
Smith liked what he saw in Friday's practice, especially the way the team adjusted to the quick move from outside to inside Walker Pavilion when rains hit.
"We didn't miss a beat when we moved (inside)," Smith said. "We just kept working."
Some of the work was related to pad level.
"We really worked on leverage," he said. "Now, we are excited about seeing everyone take that to the scrimmage, get people on the ground at a high level."
Have there been highlights?
"Yes, and I'd say one of them is those two inside linebackers, Brooks Ellis and Martrell Spaight," Smith said. "I'd include Trey Flowers, Darius Philon and Alan Turner. Alan has really been coming down (in the box) at safety.
"But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what we do tomorrow. That's when we get to evaluate where we are at."
Cornerback Tevin Mitchel and defensive end Brandon Lewis, both coming off surgeries in the spring, probably won't do a lot in the scrimmage.
"We are going to be smart with those guys," Smith said. "We will pick out spots and get them ready (for Auburn)."
Smith has always been happy with the play of Deatrich Wise, the number one end on the side opposite Flowers.
"It's been pleasing," Smith said. "We need him to be a force and step up and he has. You know that everyone is going to look to help on Trey's side. That's going to give Deatrich a lot of one-on-one situations so we need plays from him. He's done that so far this camp.
"We need Bijohn Jackson to continue to step up behind DeMarcus Hodge. Taiwan Johnson is the guy stepping up behind Darius Philon. We also think JaMichael Winston can come down from end and help behind Darius and Taiwan."
Smith said Johnson has impressed in camp.
"Taiwan is a guy who really plays with great leverage and knows how to use his hands," Smith said. "We like him a lot. And Winston shows us he can slide down inside."
Wise can, too, in third down packages.
"That's my favorite down," Wise said. "And, I love it inside, getting a matchup on a guard. That's my time. And, I know that everyone is going to start out double teaming Trey. He's a great player.
"But if they double Trey, it means I'm going to the buffet. That's great. I'm going to get the single. And eventually, maybe they have to double me and that turns Trey loose. But I would take single blocking all day if that's how it works. That would be fun."
He's met one road block in camp, though. Anthony Tretola is a giant. Tiquention Coleman, a hybrid safety/linebacker, said Tretola might be as big as 370 pounds.
"No, he's not that big," Wise said. "I'd say only 360 or 365. He's not 370."
Then, chuckling to let that settle in, Wise said, "He's a giant, really big. I don't get anywhere with a bull rush against Tretola. Can't bull rush that man."
One of the camp developments has been the comfort zone everyone feels about cornerback. It appears in the base that Jared Collins is with the ones at field corner with Carroll Washington with the ones at boundary. D.J. Dean takes over at boundary when Washington moves inside to nickel back.
"I like boundary because you get to press and disrupt," Dean said. "That's my role, to explode on someone.
"We do like the press against the receivers. We like to get up under them and into them. We are much more explosive with our hands now and that takes confidence away from receivers. That's the way a corner wants to play. I think the play physical and cause turnovers, that's our game."
Friday Grid Update: Scrimmage Next
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