Thursday Grid Update, 10/16

Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith is listening closely to Randy Shannon this week. There is some past history between Shannon, the UA linebackers coach, and the Georgia brain trust.

Robb Smith relies heavily on the data that the computers spit out as far as tendencies. But, the Arkansas defensive coordinator knows he might not need all of those numbers this week if he can stay on the headsets with Randy Shannon.

“Randy has great recall on what is being done (at Georgia),” Smith said. “I'll throw out an odd number, say a third-and-14. Randy knows what the call is going to be (from Georgia).”

Georgia head coach Mark Richt was offensive coordinator at Florida State when Shannon was on the Miami staff. They had a heated rivalry.

“I'd tell him the situation and he'd tell me the call,” Smith said. “Then, I'd check the computer. He was right every time. Right, right, right.”

That's not to say Smith knows what to expect from the Georgia brain trust, Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. He said they come up with new wrinkles as far as formations and alignment each week to run their offensive packages. But he knows what will be the same.

“They are going to run the ball,” Smith said. “I would characterize their offense as pro style. There is a lot of carry over from going against Alabama and also from what our team does, especially where it comes to the run game, regardless of whether (Todd) Gurley plays. They are going to do the same things.”

Gurley is on indefinite suspension. He missed last week's 34-0 victory over Missouri.

Smith said there was “no new news” on Arkansas linebacker Brooks Ellis, injured last week against Alabama. Ellis has a bone bruise in the knee area. Junior college transfer Josh Ellis has handled middle linebacker when Ellis has been out against Northern Illinois and Alabama. Smith said he's “ready to go” and has practiced well this week.

“Josh is excited,” Smith said. “He's always working hard in the film room and is prepared to play each week.”

Smith said Ellis is prepared mentally, too.

“Brooks is always ready to go,” Smith said. “Mentally, he's ready. We'll make smart decisions in regards to his health, but he won't need a lot of practice time to play.”

Head coach Bret Bielema said on his Thursday night radio show that Williams would start. He said Ellis will be back "sooner rather than later," but that it might not be this week. Bielema said freshman Dwayne Eugene was working behind Williams in practice.

Bielema indicated that quarterback Brandon Allen, one of four team captains as voted by the team, had requested that North Little Rock native Martrell Spaight, a senior, stand in for him at the coin toss and serve as team captain.

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney called the preparation for this week on target and solid. He said it's the same each week, the team works with great effort.

“I love their energy,” he said. “They go right back to work and I admire that about them. I'm a farm boy and I like that quality about the team and they've done it again.”

Chaney was asked if Georgia compares to Alabama, a team that shut down the Arkansas run game?

“They do run (a 3-4 scheme like Alabama), but they have a great amount of speed,” he said. “Alabama has stature and can run, too. But Georgia has a couple of cheetah cats coming off the edge. They have a sudden nature off the edge. It will be a helluva task.

“We struggled in the area of pass protection last week and I'm sure Georgia has smart coaches. They'll see that, so we went to work on that area.”

Chaney said there was extra time spent on short yardage situation after the Hogs failed to convert in key fourth-down situations in the last two games.

“We spent some time re-structuring and looking at that,” he said. “If what you are doing is not working, then you have to change what you are doing in that area. You can call plays, but you better be able to block them. If you do it one week, and do it again the next, then you better look at yourself as a coach."

Chaney has a strong tight end group and likes to use it. Georgia does some similar things with the tight end. Interestingly, Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry had Georgia on his recruiting list down to near the end, in part because of the way Richt uses the tight end.

"I think the tight end is a critical position for both programs," Chaney said. "I know Hunter really liked Georgia, in part because of that. I think this is an important game to him for that reason and because he's going home. It's personal.

"I think it's a unique position for how Georgia uses the tight end, too. Coach Bobo likes the tight end they've always done things with the tight end (under Richt)."

Smith sees that.

"When you can run the ball, it makes it tough when the tight end slips out," Smith said. "They do that well at Georgia. We have to make sure we get our hands on that guy and then -- and I'm going to sound like a broken record -- our safeties have to have their eyes in the right position and read keys. They will throw to the tight end.

"When you study Georgia, you see a nice plan. They mix things up formation wise each week. They know their personnel really well and use them well. I have great respect with what they do."

There were repeated question to Smith about preparing for Gurley, or Nick Chubb.

“Hey, listen, whoever they have out there we’ll be prepared to play," he said. "The focus this week has been on us. I think it’s been a good week of practice. I think our guys are excited to get down to Little Rock and jump back in it and play another football game.”

Do some of the Arkansas defenders want to see Gurley, to get Georgia's best shot?

"Truthfully, my focus is just on us. We’ve got to defend whatever Georgia does and I’m excited about our football players," Smith said. "The Martrell Spaight’s, the Trey Flowers, those guys that are really coming on. That’s where our focus has been this week and we want to get better each and every week. That deals with us and not really about the opponent we play.”

Alabama natives like Darius Philon and Flowers had exceptional games against Alabama. Can they repeat it against Georgia?

“I’d like to think that we can get up to play every week," Smith said. "I think we prepared in such a manner that our guys would be ready to play. I think we stacked some good weeks of preparation together and I think that breeds into confidence when you play on Saturday. And I think when you have confidence when you play, that’s when you fly around and you play fast and you have fun. That’s the trajectory we’re on right now and we’ve got to continue to do that again this week.”

Hawgs Daily Top Stories