Eye control and wrapping up were the phrases of the day in the media room for the Arkansas defensive players Wednesday night. Martrell Spaight knows exactly what assistant coach Randy Shannon means and Trey Flowers found himself as an example from assistant Rory Segrest on tape after practice earlier this week.
"It's all about alignment and keys," said Spaight, the Hogs' senior weakside linebacker. "Coach Shannon really emphasizes that.
"Sometimes, it's hard not to look at the quarterback. He says one thing all of the time to point out where your eyes should be, it's about keeping your eyes on your luggage."
Apparently, the quarterback is not the luggage, it's the keys in the offensive line that tell the linebackers where the ball is headed. Spaight said the Hogs didn't keep their eyes in the right place against Auburn last week. There is renewed focus this week on keys as the Hogs prepare for Nicholls State at 3 p.m. Saturday in the home opener in Fayetteville.
"We have worked hard this week to keep our eyes trained in the right places. And, we've had tackling circuits every day. But we have tackling circuits each day anyway. That's a focus every day."
Senior captain Trey Flowers said the focus is on wrapping up for the first man and not trying for the strip. He said he was guilty of doing that last week and found himself making that mistake in practice on Tuesday.
"I was on the tape that Coach Segrest put up last night, showing me going for the strip," Flowers said. "I knew it was coming. He'd already corrected me in practice so I figured it was going to be a clip in the tape and he'd say it again.
"I really like to go for that ball. It's a bad tendency so I got made into the example. I know the first man wraps up, the second man goes for the strip. That's how it's gotta be and I gotta do that. I can."
Shannon, the veteran linebackers coach and assistant head coach, thought he saw positives sprinkled in with the negatives in the Auburn loss.
"I'm focusing on those right now while we correct the mistakes," he said. "I want to get things fixed, but I also want to show the guys what they did right. I want them to know that we have improved.
"Now, we are part of a team defense. We are part of the running game and we are a part of the passing game. We gave up plays in both areas."
Shannon expects improvement, too, since most teams make the biggest jump after the opener.
“It was our first game of the season and the one thing we have to do is get that game out of our way," Shannon said. "We can’t keep worrying about what happened last Saturday. Like anything, last week’s game was last week, there were some ups and downs in the game, but we look ahead and now we get a chance to play a game at home in front of our crowd and our fans and get back on track by getting a win.”
Nicholls State is tough to figure for the Hogs in how they set their scheme because they have been balanced between four and five wide sets and two-back power sets.
“They’re multiple," Shannon said. "You see a lot of one-back spread stuff and then all of the sudden you’ll see two backs in the game so you don’t really know what you’re going to get. One back stuff they are probably about 45 percent, then it goes down to two backs about 25 percent and then bang, bang, bang from that standpoint.”
Segrest said the Hogs will just set their personnel based on what the Colonels bring on game day.
"We are ready for both looks," Segrest said. "It's a matter of adjusting in game to their personnel. That's what we do on a daily basis anyway."
There was some talk about the elevator issues at the Auburn game. Clay Jennings was part of the crew that didn't make it to the Arkansas locker room when there was a stall halfway down.
"Thank goodness I'm not claustrophobic," said Jennings, the secondary coach. "I've never been a part of anything like that. I actually have never been stuck in an elevator period.
"I thought the young lady at the controls was very sweet. It was a tough situation and we made the best of it.
"I know it was tough on the defense because we were first up in the second half. None of us had ever been a part of anything like it."
Flowers wasn't sure what had happened.
"I had my coach with me, Coach Segrest," Flowers said. "I didn't get that it had happened until we got to the break during the storm. That's when some of us realized some of the coaches hadn't been down. I was more focused on just my coach at the halftime and he was there."
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