Arkansas is gaining confidence in the secondary with the return of corner Tevin Mitchel against Texas Tech and some improvement by safety Rohan Gaines in the last two weeks. Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said it's a matter of adding good play after good play.
"I believe there are two things that are important to building confidence," Smith said. "One, it's preparation. Two, it's positive actions."
Smith saw both of those with Mitchel, out until last week with a hamstring injury. And, after a rough outing against Auburn, Gaines made plays against both Nicholls and Tech.
"It wasn't Rohan's best day to start the season," Smith said. "But he made a couple of positive plays against Nicholls and he made some very good plays against Tech. He's had a good week of practice in preparation and so has Tevin.
"With Tevin, everything was the right approach. He was doing the right things. He got himself ready to play with good preparation. I've seen a lot of growth and I've seen positives as far as results. That builds confidence."
Smith joined offensive coordinator Jim Chaney in meeting with the media on Thursday afternoon following what both said was a good week of practice.
"We had a good week and built on a very physical game last week," Chaney said. "We worked on some things, then tried to get them polished. It looked like a good football operation.
"When you practice like this, it limits the anxiety of the coaches, but you really don't know until Saturday. I take each week as a one-game season. You keep building on what you've done, but in reality Saturday of last week seems like a long time ago."
Smith said the key is to keep making positive steps.
"It's like you are earning chips (at a gaming table) and you keep piling them up each time," Smith said. "You are just hoping that someone doesn't come along and knock them all over."
It sounds like the coordinators have respect that Northern Illinois could do that.
"NIU is well coached and very physical," Chaney said. "They play at a high rate. They have very few flea schematically. You think you see some things, but they take them away before you can get to them.
"They are able to shut down the run in their base defense. I don't think they'll change a whole lot because they've been doing the same things for a long time and been successful. That's not what good coaches do, change a lot. They will stay in their routine and do it well."
Smith said, "They do a great job with their offensive line, their personnel fits their scheme and they know the scheme very well. They do some things really well. They play tough and physical. They can gap it and they can reach you. That offensive line understands what they are trying to do very well."
Smith said the Hogs will likely have to play more base defense and that means a strongside linebacker is in the scheme more than in the first three weeks -- as long as NIU doesn't go with a formation with three wideouts or more.
"We'll go with a variety of linebackers (at strong)," Smith said. "Randy Ramsey, Braylon Mitchell, Daunte Carr and Dwayne Eugene are all in the rotation (with Brooks Ellis and Martrell Spaight). How many we play will depend on the tempo that (NIU) operates."
Smith expects there to be a fast tempo.
"What we expect is what they've done and that will be that they try to go tempo," Smith said. "That's what they've shown."
What about the Hogs? Will they show more passing?
"We are comfortable with our passing game," Chaney said. "We can throw when we need to or want to. As much as people might have thought we couldn't pass last week, we could, but it just wasn't in the game plan for what we needed in that game."
Is Korliss Marshall in the game plan? The sophomore back didn't get many carries last week after coughing up the football.
"Korliss had a solid week of practice," Chaney said. "He understands that he left the game with the thought that he didn't secure the ball at a rate good enough. He knows that and he's in a better position this week."
Still, Chaney knows the bread-and-butter has been Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins running the ball.
"Those are very good players," he said. "You become a better play caller the better the players you have. Everyone knows that. Those are good players and I feel comfortable handing them the ball."
Thursday Grid Update, 9/18
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