During the Bobby Petrino era, Arkansas' scrimmages were blatantly set up for the offense to have success and the defense to just be around.
Last season, the defense wasn't good enough to cause much disruption and the lack of turnovers forced combined with too many by the Razorback offense were two big reasons the team went 3-9.
But the mindset of the 2014 defense – now under defensive coordinator Robb Smith – is flip the script on that.
“I think defensively we were creating turnovers,” Bielema said. “You hear our defensive players talk about it on every snap. They practice it every day. One thing I love about Robb and the defensive coaches every day is there is a tackling circuit and a ball disruption circuit. You can tell that it is a point of emphasis that carries over to the field.
“Obviously I want to have better ball security on offense. We came together (during the scrimmage) and talked about it. We only had one mishap after that so that shows that a point of emphasis does carry through.
“I think our defensive back end made some nice plays on the ball, lot more big hits, lot more breaks on the ball, a lot more disruption in this first scrimmage than I probably saw all of last camp. Very, very excited about that group.”
Freshman linebacker Randy Ramsey was the statistical leader on defense with six tackles, two sacks among his three stops for -22 in lost yardage and a fumble recovery in the end zone.
Bielema noted that he could see Ramsey pushing starting Sam linebacker Braylon Mitchell for playing time and certainly being a addition to him in games.
“I think Braylon Mitchell is a senior that has done a really nice job,” Bielema said. “We have to understand that Braylon is probably not a 60-play game guy. He's probably in that lower 40's or somewhere around there. He is a very, very good player but his breakdowns tend to come when he's tired and a little bit worn down. Randy comes in and gives us something.”
Ramsey will certainly play more than just on special teams according to Bielema.
“Again, when we’re in not pads, really just kind of a kid wandering around,” Bielema said of Ramsey. “But now he understands, like (offensive coordinator) Jim Chaney always says, ‘see ball, get ball.’ He’s a very, very intense player. He came in at 206 and he’s 224. He’s got the guns going and the chest. He’s just rock solid. He plays with his feet underneath him. He plays on the balls of his feet.
“(Razorback linebacker coach) Randy Shannon obviously knows he’s got to bring that kid along,” Bielema continued. “I think him and Dwayne Eugene are the two that can probably help us at linebacker the quickest.”
The other linebacker spots would appear to be bolstered with former safety Tiquetion Coleman backing up Martrell Spaight at the Will linebacker and a healthy Otha Peters and junior college transfer Josh Williams in the mix with starter Brooks Ellis at the Mike.
“TQ has been playing well over at Will and Otha has been coming along nice at the Mike linebacker. Josh Williams does some really nice things at the Mike so trying to distribute that wealth exactly. We'll have a big personnel meeting tomorrow and try to get all the guys in the right place.”
Bielema was also pleased with the overall play at safety – albeit there were a trio of big plays given up in the passing game – and those working in the secondary under new defensive backs coach Clay Jennings.
“I think Alan Turner is having a really good (camp). The only thing I got pissed at him today is when he grabbed J-Will's(Jonathan Williams) leg. He was playing intense and I get it. I love that kid to death. I think he is a leader in the back end. When he speaks, others listen. He's had a really nice camp.
“Rohan Gaines has had a really nice two days here. You saw a young man coming on behind him by the name of Josh Liddell and De'Andre Coley who are really, really good players. Again the state of Arkansas has got to be a premium recruiting ground for us because we had Josh Liddell in the camp. We liked him but he is a kid that played quarterback, played wide receiver, played DB, we didn't know - and he is going to be a phenomenal football player.
“I think he and Coley and Sleepy, Davyon McKinney for those who don't know Sleepy but after you interview him I think you'll know why they call him Sleepy - he's had a really, really nice camp. Aggressive, intense, strong, playing free, great on all of our special teams. I can't say enough about Coach Jennings and Coach Smith on the back end of their development.”
On offense, the quarterback snaps were split between starter Brandon Allen (12-of-22 for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns) and freshmen back-ups Austin Allen (16-of-20 for 190 yards) and Rafe Peavey (7-of-10 for 44 yards).
Drew Morgan led all receivers with 6 catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns while Keon Hatcher had 3 catches for 65 yards, converted quarterback Damon Mitchell 2 receptions for 48 yards, Hunter Henry 2 catches for 40 yards and A.J. Derby a pair of catches for 11 yards.
Freshman Juan Day had 5 carries for 31 yards to lead the rushing attack while Korliss Marshall (8 for 28) and Jonathan Williams (4 for 18) also logged carries.
“From the scrimmage standpoint, I really liked the attitude of both units,” Bielema said. “There were a lot of positives, definitely some things to clean up. One player that jumped out to me today was Brandon Allen, who was the guy today that we have seen all camp. Very confident, very in control. I think he has shown some leadership toward the players on the field when they do something well or they don't. I saw him jump Hunter.
“There weren't many drops out there today...I though Drew Morgan stood out on the offensive side of the ball and I think our two tailbacks – J-Will and Korliss – showed you that they can do some things when nothing is there. I was very, very excited about them. A.J. Derby, he actually bruised his knee a little bit yesterday and was really stiff when he got up today. I don't think he was quite in full effect. He was a lot better up until today in terms of production.”
Alex Collins – Arkansas' other tailback – sit out the scrimmage after suffering a groin injury on Friday.
The scrimmage did not include any special teams action – something that will be the focus of a Saturday night practice.
“You didn't see our kicking game and that's just by design. We are going to come back tonight under the lights and have a special teams practice tonight at 7 o'clock or 7:30. It will include all four phases of the kicking game in a night game situation. We can practice kicking during the one a days during the day, but it is just a totally different feel for returners in the evening. So the way I laid out camp this year is that our double days will be at night in the stadium with a huge emphasis in the kicking game.”
The second-year Arkansas head coach has liked what he has seen out of the first week in practice with John Henson and true freshman Cole Hedlund battling at kicker and senior Sam Irwin Hill handling the punting duties.
“I have been really excited about our kicking game,” Bielema said. “The first time we lined up and kicked field goals both John and Cole Hedlund went 4 for 4. The next day they went 3 for 3. They both missed the fourth one because I put them back pretty far under some tough conditions on grass.
“I like the way Sam Irwin Hill is hitting the ball,” Bielema added of an area where assistant Rory Segrest has made his mark. “Because of Rory's influence on our special teams I think there is an added awareness on the kicking game.
“I couldn't be more pleased as a head coach walking off the field today after six days knowing where we are at. I know we are so much further along than we were a year ago a this time and that to me is very exciting.”
Bielema was asked to address the big picture from the first week of practice.
“I would say this like I told you guys at the beginning of the week,” Bielema said. “I want to know who our football players are and who showed up a lot this week. To get those guys to fill in the packages we want and the schemes we want and what our best personnel groups are on offense, I think there are some things on offense that the fullback is appealing to but by the same account we don't have a true thumper like (former fullback) Kiero (Small) was. So how will we adjust to that? It will probably be 12 (formation with two tight ends) because know we have AJ Derby.
“Defensively I was excited to see how they tackled. You may think I am crazy but Otha forgot there was tackling on that one little crossing route. I think he was just showing restraint that we have been doing all week when you are playing your guys. He just kind of shoved the tight end when we would have loved for him to lay the guy out. But I think the personality of our defense really showed up today.”
• • •
Brandon Allen: 12 of 22, 191 yards, 2 TDs
Austin Allen: 16 of 20, 190 yards
Rafe Peavey: 7 of 10, 44 yards
Korliss Marshall: 8 carries, 28 yards
Juan Day: 5 carries, 31 yards
Jonathan Williams: 4 carries, 18 yards
Denzell Evans, 4 carries, 10 yards
Kody Walker: 2 carries, 12 yards
Connor McPherson: 2 carries 7 yards
Drew Morgan: 6 catches, 117 yards, 2 TDs
Jeremy Sprinkle: 5 catches, 26 yards
Jared Cornelius: 4 catches, 26 yards
Keon Hatcher: 3 catches, 65 yards
Alex Voelzke: 3 catches, 27 yards
Damon Mitchell: 2 catches, 48 yards
Hunter Henry: 2 catches, 40 yards
AJ Derby: 2 catches, 11 yards
Kendrick Edwards: 1 catch, 17 yards
Korliss Marshall: 1 catch, 12 yards
Patrick Arinze: 1 catch, 11 yards
Anthony Antwine: 1 catch, 11 yards
Kody Walker: 1 catch, 7 yards
Kohl Slaughter: 1 catch, 7 yards
Jonathan Williams: 1 catch, 0 yards
• • •
Ramsey 6, Coley 6, Spaight 5, Gaines 5, Carr 5, Ellis 4, Turner 4, Toliver 3, Eugene 3, Hines 3.
TACKLES FOR LOSS
Ramsey 3 (-22), Carr 2 (-19), Coleman (-7), Watts (-6), Winston (-6), Roesler (-5), B. Mitchell (-3).
Carr 2 (-9), Ramsey 2 (-12), Watts (-6), Winston (-6), Roesler (-5)
Turner, Collins, Gaines, Liddell, K. Richardson
• • •
• (Did not scrimmage): RB Alex Collins (groin), DB Santos Ramirez (calf), DT Bijhon Jackson (ankle), WR JoJo Robinson (hamstring), Tevin Mitchel (shoulder), DL Mitch Loewen (shoulder)
• Injuries (During scrimmage): RB Jonathan Williams (hamstring), FB Patrick Arinze (shoulder), LB Braylon Mitchell (heat), DT DeMarcus Hodge (heat), DB Davyon McKinney (unspecified)
• • •
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema addresses his team during Saturday's scrimmage.
Korliss Marshall had 8 carries for 28 yards during the scrimmage.
Brandon Allen makes the call in the huddle as A.J. Derby (11) and Jared Cornelius listen in.
Arkansas secondary players listen to assistant coach Clay Jennings during Saturday's scrimmage.
Razorback offensive lineman Dan Skipper (76) prepares to battle Tevin Beanum.
Defense Takes a Stand During Scrimmage
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