Thursday Grid Update, 10/30

It hasn't been easy to communicate at practice this week for Arkansas and it wasn't so easy to hear after the Thursday workout. Will the Hogs be able to communicate Saturday night at Mississipppi State?

Jim Chaney enjoys humor, but it was tough to hear what he was getting at after practice Thursday night. But a few of the old timers – even those without hearing devices – got him loud and clear.

When someone asked how the team had handled piped in cow bell sound during practice this week in preparation for a trip to play No. 1 Mississippi State in Starkville, Chaney said, “I'm sorry, but I can't hear you.”

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema found a sound track with cow bell noise to play in Walker Pavilion to make it double tough on the Arkansas offense to hear in the huddle and as the team made checks at the line of scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said a switch was made to music in the outside practice Thursday, but was still plenty loud.

Chaney said the loud music was nothing new for what all teams utilize when they play on the road.

“It was good for us this week,” Chaney said. “We know we have to communicate non-verbally. You'll have to make the huddle tight and do what you can to hear.”

The checks at the line of scrimmage are especially tough on the wide receivers. They generally will have to react to the sight of the ball being snapped. But Chaney said the most difficult challenge comes for one of the top UA position groups, the tight ends.

“The wideout will have to key the ball, but the tight ends can't see the ball,” he said. “You'll know the quarterback is doing a good job with the cadence if the tight ends are getting off the ball. If he's moving with the rest of the line, the quarterback has done a good job.

“The tight ends will likely have to key off the tackles hands. That's tough to do because they have to keep their eyes on the (defensive end or linebacker) and know their target. So how do you see both the hand of the tackle and the man in front of him? That's really tough. You see, hear and do the best you can.”

Defensive communication is easy, since the State fans shut down the cow bells when their team is on the attack. It also will help that the top man calling the defensive signals, middle linebacker Brooks Ellis, returns for the Hogs this week.

But that's the only break Smith gets. He's challenged with stopping Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott, the run-pass quarterback with the 235-pound frame.

“You want to squeeze the pocket and set the edge to keep him there,” Smith said. “As best you can, you want a linemen or a linebacker to be the free guy to try to tackle him as far as your scheme. You don't want to be putting a defensive back on him trying to get him down. He's going to break that tackle.

“I have not faced many quarterbacks like that in college, but it reminds me of last year in the NFL when we went against Cam Newton for the Panthers. We had a play where he was one-on-one with a defensive back. That ended badly.”

Smith said the State offensive system as executed by Prescott resembles some situations close to what the Hogs faced in the opening week against Auburn.

“When you put one too many in the box, they go over the top,” Smith said. “It's similar to Auburn and I hope we've made improvement since then.

“They have a very good offensive line and cover you up. They have a good group of wide receivers with length.”

Chaney was asked about the State defense, seemingly weak against the pass, but solid in the red zone.

“I don't notice them giving up anything until the other team is behind and then teams wing it some against them,” Chaney said. “What I see is stature. They are among the largest and most physical defense we've faced. They have a big, physical football team.”

Smith thinks the Hogs will have a full complement of defensive players with the return of linebacker Brooks Ellis and cornerback Henre' Toliver. Ellis has been out since the Alabama game with a bruise to the knee.

“Our guys are excited for the opportunity to play (No. 1),” Smith said. “We expect to have those two guys back and it's good to have two more bullets. Brooks has come on to be a great leader for us and he's really good at studying and understanding what the other team is trying to accomplish.”

Smith said the scout team has done a great job of simulating the State offense, noting that the quarterback spot has been filled sometimes by Duwop Mitchell and other times by running backs.

“It's by committee,” Smith said. “It's been a quarterback sometimes, a running back sometimes.”

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