Tuesday Grid Update, 4/14

Robb Smith can't help but admire what he sees on the other side of the ball, especially from senior quarterback Brandon Allen.

The ball came out on time and with big-time zip. Safeties Rohan Gaines and Josh Liddell were closing on the tight end. But the pass hit Hunter Henry between the 8 and the 4, a completion in the seam, a strike for a big gain.

Defensive coordinator Robb Smith shrugged when the play was described later in the interview room. He likes what he saw -- from fifth-year senior Brandon Allen, the quarterback who gunned it to the tight end. He later did the same thing to Jeremy Sprinkle in a seam route.

"Those were special throws," Smith said. "That was a senior recognizing things and making a quick decision. The ball had incredible zip. He's done that a lot this spring."

There was nothing wrong with the coverage. The safeties were breaking on the ball, but just couldn't quite get there. The top two tight ends were running great vertical routes.

"We are having a dilemma in what do you try to stop," Smith said. "Our technique at quarterback, at wide receiver, at tight end and with the running backs is all very good."

It's a compliment to offensive coordinator Dan Enos, Smith said. He's making it tough on the defense, just what the doctor ordered.

The practice started inside Walker Pavilion because of rain showers in the area. After taking a water break after period 15, head coach Bret Bielema sent the team outside to finish some special teams work and then red zone and two-minute work.

"We had a good day," Smith said."We are having a good spring. We have had good work in these first three weeks. We are just trying to fine tune the details now. Our carry over from last fall has been good. Now, it's just about working on some situations."

There was some scout team work for both sides of the ball to look at opponent plays for the fall. The scout offense ran some quarterback runs to simulate some of the things the Hogs will see against teams like Auburn and Tennessee in the fall.

"Coach B does a great job of giving us situations that are going to help us," Smith said. "We've worked on a lot of critical areas and then we got some work against opponents today. We run a pro style offense and we do play a lot of teams that are not pro so we needed to do some of that this week."

It's all of the little things that show the development of the program and that includes taking days in the spring to work on the opposition. Smith loves it and loves what he sees from the quarterback even more.

"I'm a big Brandon Allen fan," Smith said. "So are our defensive players. We respect what he can do. We go against it every day because we are ones against ones. Our guys know what he means to our team. You can see in pass rush situations, no one is going to put him in harm's way. We know what he is for our team."

The velocity is up for Allen, Smith said.

"I think you can see that pretty easily," he said. "I think you can see what Dan has done with him. And, I think you can see the overall touch that he's had with the offense. You see what an offensive coordinator can do as far as putting pressure on us. And, it's a special advantage for Dan to have a senior quarterback."

Smith is pleased with his safeties and the competition between Santos Ramirez, De'Andre Coley, Liddell and Gaines. Ramirez did not practice Tuesday, still recovering from a flu bug that knocked him out of Saturday's scrimmage.

"We've got four guys really competing at safety," Smith said. "That's going to make everyone better. Really, the competition is pretty good everywhere on defense. We are very pleased with the development at linebacker. We have been able to get a lot of different looks at a lot of spots at linebacker.

"I think you see Brooks Ellis really settling in to the weak side linebacker spot. Khalia Hackett has done some really good things at both mike and strong and you see Josh Williams and Randy Ramsey doing well, too. Josh Harris gives us some depth at middle linebacker.

Hackett had one of the highlights in Tuesday's practice. There was no live tackling, but there was contact. Hackett sliced in on a downhill charge to meet Kody Walker square on an explosive hit that fired up the sidelines. That play -- along with some of the passing work of Allen -- made for a spectacular practice.

"What we have is a lot of combinations and ways to get matchups against different teams. We've looked at a lot of different possibilities and that goes for up front in the line, too."

Smith said Deatrich Wise switched sides at defensive end last week with devastating results in the scrimmage with four sacks.

"It's the spot he worked at last spring and was so successful, opposite Trey Flowers," Smith said. "We wanted to see what we had with Tevin Beanum and Jeremiah Ledbetter on that rush side. And, Deatrich looked like the guy we thought we had in August before he got hurt."

There were sets that included four former high school defensive ends -- Taiwan Johnson, Ledbetter, Wise and Beanum. Smith said that was the idea of line coach Rory Segrest

"I think Rory does a good job of finding out the strengths of our players and then look for a way to use them," Smith said. "I liked that combination. You want to be able to rush the passer, but we know what the strength of this team needs to be and that's to be able to run the ball and stop the run. We've had some battles this spring."

Along with Ramirez sitting out, the Hogs were also without running back Alex Collins. He turned an ankle in the scrimmage and was held out for precautionary measures Tuesday. Line coach Sam Pittman for family reasons. He will be back Wednesday.

The scrimmage set for Saturday will be situational and may or may not include tackling to the ground. It will begin at 11 a.m. and is open to season ticket holders and Razorback Foundation members.

One of the big battles that will continue Saturday is at placekicker where Cole Hedlund has pushed Adam McFain of late. Hedlund came to the interview room Tuesday. He said the redshirt season was no fun, but of great benefit.

"I'm stronger," he said. "I knew there were things I needed to work on. I'm definitely more powerful now. Hedlund knows the competition at placekicker is good for the team.

"We know Coach Bielema is not going to make a decision for awhile," Hedlund said. "We'll compete on into fall camp. It's a daily battle."

Hedlund was the star of Saturday's scrimmage. He was mobbed by teammates and lifted on their shoulders after ending the day with a 59-yard field goal.

"That was pretty awesome," Hedlund said of the ride. "It's probably the best moment I've had since I've been here. I'd rate that over even making the kick."

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