Wednesday Grid Update, 12/17

It's all about Texas as Arkansas wraps up final exams and recruiting with more intense bowl workouts for the Dec. 29 game in Houston.

Robb Smith likes the balance in what Arkansas has done since closing the regular season the day after Thanksgiving. And balance includes recruiting, academics, strength and conditioning, development and game planning for Texas in the bowl game set for Dec. 29.

"I think we are right on schedule," Smith said. "We've gotten a lot done. We've been focused in the right areas in the right amounts of time. I think (head coach Bret Bielema) has put together a very smart plan and we are moving into the fun part now."

That would be implementing the game plan for the Longhorns.

"I think the great part of being a college coach is the time you get to spend with your players over the next couple of weeks as we get ready to play the bowl game," Smith said. "We had some time to get the plan together and now we are getting it implemented.

"I see the same thing from our players that I've seen all year long. They have worked hard on the details in every area we've given them the last couple of weeks and now it's going to be fun.

"We've got enough time to do a thorough job of getting the plan in and our players seem to understand it. Now it's about polishing it.

"I've had time to focus on the recruiting trail. It's clear that we have identified some players that share the same goals as far as the future of the Arkansas program. Now my focus is on Texas. I love this time of the year. Our players have done a good job with their academics and we can focus totally on the bowl game and Texas."

Speaking of balance, that's what Smith sees of the Texas offense.

"They have two good running backs, two good receivers and a quarterback who does a good job getting them the ball," Smith said. "Our guys are preparing for a good offense. I think they are excited because it's kind of like we've gotten to game week with Texas prep."

Smith was asked about developmental players during the bowl practices. One thing doesn't change, anytime someone asks about someone emerging, he says Santos Ramirez first.

"He's really done well," Smith said, noting the defensive back can help at both cornerback and safety.

"And, that means he could help us in the slot where you need a combination of safety skills and cover skills. He's got both of those."

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said there is still time set aside each workout for developmental periods with young players, but the top units are solid into Texas prep.

"We have had plenty of time to put our game plan together," Chaney said. "And, our players have shown some intensity in preparing for Texas the last couple of days. Real intensity. We are going to play a little football tonight with that in mind."

Chaney was asked what he's seen from the Arkansas offense this season.

"We've made improvement from this time last year," he said. "From the beginning of the year to now, we've gotten better. You are never happy and we have more work to do. We want to do everything better."

Chaney has seen development in some of the younger players that will help, some of it for the bowl game. Freshmen wide receivers JoJo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards have both flashed in bowl workouts. Robinson is still on the redshirt list.

"I think you see things in Robinson that can help us vertically," Chaney said. "I think Kendrick can do that, too. Hopefully, we see some things from him that help us in the bowl game. JoJo is coming on. He's got things to improve on, but he's getting better. I think those are guys, JoJo and Kendrick, who we have seen do things the last couple of weeks that can help us. They have the right skill sets."

Offensive line coach Sam Pittman said he's seen solid play in his unit in bowl workouts. He had extra praise for offensive tackle Brian Wallace and center Frank Ragnow. He said developmental workouts have allowed for some experimenting up front.

"We've looked at Denver Kirkland at tackle," Pittman said. "We've looked at Frank Ragnow at guard. We are just trying to see how we might line up in spring drills. We will be replacing Brey Cook (at right tackle) and we want to see all of the possibilities for there. We are going to find seven or eight good ones and then see what lineup suits us best. And, at the same time, we wanted to see if we have some versatility for the bowl game. We aren't going to burn a redshirt with Brian so we wanted to see if Frank might help us at guard or what we'd do if we had a player go down. You just want to be as versatile as you can with your best players."

Assistant coaches were asked about possible raises or new contracts after head coach Bret Bielema mentioned discussions with athletic director Jeff Long earlier in the week. Not one coach was willing to discuss anything on the record.

"I just try to focus on the day-to-day practice schedule," Robb Smith said. "I try to not dwell on other areas."

As far as specific jobs that might open up, Smith didn't go there.

"You may see things happen from one year to the next, but I love it here at Arkansas," Smith said. "I couldn't be happier. l love this staff. My focus is on getting ready for Texas. Maybe you get phone calls at some point, maybe you don't. That's part of the business, but I try not to dwell on that."

Secondary coach Clay Jennings downplayed the contract talks.

"I signed a contract," he said. "I learned a long time ago not to worry about those things. You sign them, you coach and work under those terms."

Jennings said he expects to be at Arkansas a long time. He made reference to coaching against TCU, his last stop, when the Hogs have a two-game set with the Horned Frogs in a few years.

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