Jim Chaney has a complex plan and knows the passing game has improved with quarterback Brandon Allen and a larger cast of wideouts, but wants something simple with the Arkansas offense. He said he's gotten it in the last couple of practices, better ball security.
"I don't think we put the ball on the ground today," Chaney said Thursday after a full pad practice. "I don't remember a ball on the ground, or an interception.
"You ask me what I'm looking for in our scrimmage Saturday, it's the same thing. I'm real tickled when the ball is not on the ground. On Saturday, we are hoping to eliminate pre-snap penalties, secure the football and play to the whistle. I'm probably going to say our goals are a lot the same when we play games and I'd add one thing then, winning."
Chaney singled out quarterback Brandon Allen for a successful string of practices. He said the junior quarterback continues to sparkle.
"Brandon has had a wonderful camp," Chaney said. "He's ready to go play. We are a long way from playing a game and there are things that we have to do do still. But he's ready and I'm excited to see him play. We just have to continue to clean things up (all around the offense)."
The backup quarterback spot is still a work in progress, although most agree that Austin Allen is ahead of Rafe Peavey. It was Allen getting the bulk of the snaps late in the practice in a two-minute drill.
"Austin did a good job in the two-minute drill today," Chaney said. "He's doing OK, but he still needs reps. Really, both Austin and Rafe need reps. We have a hard time getting them both enough.
"Some of what they are learning is through Brandon and what he does. But that's the way it is everywhere, at all positions. It's hard to get the twos enough."
Brandon Allen seemed up beat and confident in his time in the media room. He likes what he sees elsewhere in the offense, both with the wideouts and the offensive line.
"The offensive line is so much more comfortable with what we are doing," Allen said. "We have a lot of guys who know our scheme, our calls and the blitz pickup. Last year, one guy, Travis Swanson, had to make all the calls up front. Now, we can get the calls from the tight ends or anyone else in the line. It's made blitz pickup so much easier.
"The good thing about what we are doing, our defense has a great variety of blitzes so we are seeing a lot. And, we are picking it up. I stay clean. I don't think we had many sacks last year and I don't think we will this year."
On the backups, Allen said his brother is getting some work with the ones and the bulk of the two work.
"But really, what they get to do a lot of the time to learn is signal in the plays," Allen said. "Especially, in the two-minute drills, they have learned the calls through the signals. They are getting better and better at their knowledge of the offense."
Allen is pleased with what he sees at the wideout position.
"It's depth and ability," he said, about the difference. "We have great competition. It starts with Keon Hatcher and Drew Morgan. They are really competing. Competition lifts everyone up."
What about the scuffle in Wednesday night's practice between Morgan and cornerback Carroll Washington?
"You like it from the competition part of it," Allen said. "You want to see them go at it. You don't want it in two minutes (drill). And you would rather not have Drew hurt his hand on Carroll's helmet. He didn't. Really, from what I saw, it wasn't much (of a punch). I think he missed.
"That part of it is good, because I really need that hand. I talked to him about that and the coaches talked to him. We can't have him hurting that hand.
"Football is a heated game. Things will happen. But with our team, it stays on the field and we saw that afterwards that everyone was fine. We are going to have a scuffle now and then."
Wideout coach Michael Smith said he's been in his share of practice fights and didn't object.
"I just don't want him trying to hit a helmet," Smith said. "We got that covered. I liked the competitive fight. I don't want any punches. Let's be smart with those hands. I think I was when I played. Take care of those hands. They are important."
All agreed that Saturday's scrimmage, set for 2:30 p.m., will help in evaluation because of fans.
"I think Bret (Bielema) is right about that, 100 percent," Chaney said. "We need to see how some of our young ones react in front of fans. We want people out there. Now, we may not show everything, but we want to see how some of the guys perform with people in the stadium."
Allen said, "We probably don't want to show anything, that much is right. But we still want to put on a good show for the fans. We want people to come. I think a lot of my teammates are excited that fans are going to get to see us."
Chaney said the offensive line is making great progress with their leverage and physical play. There are a good mix of older players and newcomers in the rotation and that makes for a challenging practice.
"We've got some very talented newcomers," Chaney said. "Cameron Jefferson and Sebastian Tretola are impressive. And I think Brian Wallace and Frank Ragnow are special. They are learning what we want as far as leverage. The key is that they need to know scheme first. As you know scheme, you can turn your mind to leverage and physical presence.
"I think Cameron came here because he wanted to get that physical aspect of his game. He knew we would here. He's getting it. He's a wonderful athlete and is smart. We are getting better in the offensive front. We have more players. It's a nice mix of older players and new guys and very talented. Brian Wallace is very special."
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