Screens, Fire Zones and Tweaks

Arkansas has good energy and some new twists -- starting with some screen passes -- through five days of spring football drills.

There's a lot of the old in the new Arkansas offense for new coordinator Dan Enos. But there's some new twists that not everyone wants to reveal in several areas. In fact, line coach Sam Pittman tried to be coy when he was asked about the changes being installed this spring.

"I am probably not going to give you the answers you want," Pittman told a TV man asking about some of the new wrinkles after Thursday's closed practice.

That's why you have closed practices, someone quickly suggested. Pittman finally interjected, "We have a lot of the same run plays."

There was some mention of the new twists from players. And some of it is old stuff to fifth-year quarterback Brandon Allen. Running back Jonathan Williams said there's plenty new for his group.

"We've got some new concepts this year in the passing game that are familiar," Allen said. "It's some of the same things as far as route combinations, the trees, that we had under Coach (Bobby) Petrino. The terms may not be exactly the same, but I recognized the concepts and the routes. I told Coach Enos that."

Enos mentioned the similarity, too.

"It was good that he has seen some of those things, and he mentioned that Petrino used them," Enos said. "That has helped him pick up some of the concepts quickly. He is smart and he has great recall. He's seen a lot. Remember, he's had four different offensive coordinators here. That's helping him now as we install some of the new things."

Williams said the running game plays have expanded over last year when it was primarily a gap read blocking scheme.

"We've added some zone stuff to go with the gap stuff," Williams said. "And, then there are the screens. We are doing some things new in the screen game."

Allen said, "We have a few new screens that the defense hadn't seen. They have worked well. We'll keep those in."

Pittman thinks the screen game has improved as the offensive line has shed a few pounds and gained some speed with the move of Frank Ragnow to guard.

"We have guys who can run," Pittman said. "I thought we would be a decent screen team. I think we will be.

"You look at our guards for screens and pulling plays, we've got some speed. Frankie can really run, I mean move. Sebastian (Tretola) has gotten quicker, too. What I see from Sebastian isn't so much that he's faster -- he is -- but from last fall, he's practicing much harder. He's learned how to practice and that's the big difference. But he has some speed, too, after dropping about 40-something pounds."

Enos liked the speed and energy of the practice. He had never been through a set of spring practices split by spring break, but sees the benefit now. He understands the concept better now and why head coach Bret Bielema likes it.

"The retention was really good," Enos said. "I know it's what Coach Bielema is trying to get with it. You get more teaching between the workouts.

"As far as how I approached it, I considered it like what they do with the NFL. They have mini camps with breaks. We had a three-day mini camp where we installed some things, then came back 10 days later with another camp. It works just fine. I know Coach Bielema has been doing it for a long time but I hadn't done it like this. I thought giving them things for three days and then sending them away to let it marinate a little was helpful to them.

"We got a little fatigued late in the Tuesday practice but it was a good day and we came back with another good day today."

Enos sees improvement each day. He likes what he's seen of Allen. He said it's the same with all quarterbacks, even veterans. They can improve things and there were several items that have gotten some tweaks.

"There are tons of things to work on, always," he said. "I don't care who you are. We found some technique things to improve, some footwork. We tweaked his throwing motion.

"But the main things we are working on are overall concepts, just how you approach the fire zone (blitzes), everything. It's constant development. Brandon is excelling with everything we've done. He's got excellent recall. Some of the things we are doing meant something to him from his days with Petrino."

Enos drew some questions about redshirt freshman wide receiver JoJo Robinson. It was all positives.

"He's done really well," Enos said. "He's done things really natural. He sticks his routes. He runs well. He's made a lot of plays. He's gotten some separation. He's been a pleasant surprise. Now, it's not been a surprise to the other coaches who have seen him practice, just for me because he wasn't on any of the game tapes in a redshirt year."

There's been other positives in the passing game, including the continued development from converted quarterback Duwop Mitchell. He was all smiles in the interview room.

"I'm strictly playing wideout," Mitchell said. "I want to do whatever the coaches ask me to do to help our team win. There may be some things in special teams, some roles there. But right now, it's just wide receiver.

"I'm just trying to get better. I'm learning my keys."

Mitchell said the concepts introduced by Enos have made things simpler.

"It all just makes sense," he said. "The terminology we use for the formations are easier. It makes it easier to focus on other things. It's a lot easier to understand the offense.

There are some things that come natural for an old quarterback.

"I think making the ID on coverages are easier since I played quarterback," he said. "That's the first thing you have to learn at quarterback."

The rest of the quarterbacks came up in the conversation with Enos. He had good things to say about Austin Allen, Rafe Peavey and Ty Storey. All have logged at least some backup time.

"We've done a lot of situational work with the quarterbacks and all of them have jumped in there at times," Enos said. "Ty is a freshman, but he's gotten a lot of reps. He had never taken a snap under center so he's learning some things.

"Austin has shown a lot of poise. He's got a very good arm. He's very calm. He makes quick decisions and has done a nice job with pre-snap reads.

"Rafe has great feet. He's nimble and has change of direction. He has all the tools. I thought all of them have done a great job of extending the plays and he's shown that, too."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories