Saturday Grid Update, 4/18

Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema got out some old tape before the Razorbacks' workout on Saturday as a motivational ploy and it seemingly worked.

It’s normal for college football teams to go to the tape before completely understanding how they did in that day’s practice.

But Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema - whose team just finished up its next-to-last week of spring drills - actually went to the tape ahead of Saturday’s workout - the 12th of the 15 the NCAA allows.

Bielema wanted his team to see how far it had come in a few years and how far he had left to go.

“I tell you what, I challenged our coaches to get these guys a little bit riled up for today's practice, get them in a frame of mind to come out and practice hard and they did,” Bielema said. “I thought that was a really two-and-a-half hours of good work.

“Can't tell you how much I enjoy being around these guys. I think they practice very, very hard.

“I started out today with a team meeting. I pulled out some clips from two and three years ago with inside drill and Skelly (pass skeleton) and compared it to what we're doing now and it was very entertaining to watch some of these guys that are playing for us now as well some players that are playing in the NFL and show where they were two or three years ago and where they are today.

“It was kind of my motivational tool to show them what practice can do for you. Things don't happen in 12 games or the 13th, 14th, 15th game in the fall, they happen in all these practices.”

Bielema lauded several players, including starting quarterback Brandon Allen.

“Brandon Allen continues to impress me,” Bielema said. “ Some of the throws he's making. Showed some red zone clips of him this last week, was very impressive.

“The way Keon Hatcher and Hunter Henry, Jared Cornelius, (Damon) Duwop (Mitchell), couple other guys catching the ball extremely well.

“Defensively doing some good things, as well. We've got to take advantage of every teaching moment. We don't have a lot of big-name guys, but I thought they played really really smart.

“(Safeties) Rohan Gaines and Josh Liddell and DeAndre Coley have done a really nice job. Santos Ramirez, in the back end, just communicating with some guys up front and getting things done.

“(Linebackers) Brooks Ellis and actually Khalia Hackett really had a nice week of growth at the MIKE linebacker spot. Josh Williams is a natural at SAM. Fun to see some of that growth.”

He noted Saturday’s practice was a step back for tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, who has been lauded as one of the best player this spring.

“That was Sprinkle’s worst practice,” Bielema said.

“Here is the case in point - Jeremy Sprinkle, if I could buy stock in him, I would buy as much that would be legal on the New York Stock Exchange.

“But I think that the part Sprinkle realized today is that we had a 10 o’clock meeting this morning and he showed up at 9:50 and was sleep walking through the first half of practice.

“He dropped balls, he ran wrong routes. I jumped him because he has been a skyrocket since his first day at spring ball and today he regressed.

“But we got together for that fourth quarter and I said ‘I don’t care if you have the best practice or your career or the worst practice of your career, it is about what you do this point forward.'

“He caught two balls and played extremely well. We had a nice moment there after practice and my guess is that will the last meeting he walks into 10 minutes ahead of time.”

Tailback Jonathan Williams has been held out of Saturday scrimmages as a precautionary measure, but took part in drills on Saturday.

“We were giving him a little bit of grief before hand if he knew what day it was,” Bielema said. “He was out there practicing. I tell you, (new running backs coach) Jemal (Singleton) has done just a tremendous job of building a relationship with those guys and I didn't know.

“I wasn't going to make J-Will necessarily do it, because I told him coming into it that Saturdays were going to be his day to kind of gather himself. But again, just if you know anything about J-Will, he wasn't going to miss today.

“He knew it was an opportunity to get better. Of those clips I showed before practice, it's interesting to see him three years ago, lining up and just his body and the way he's put together now and his mentality is just so strong. I'm just excited to see him play.”

Alex Collins, Williams’ backfield mate, should be back for next week’s Red-White game.

“Injury-wise, Alex is still a little banged up,” Bielema said. “That’s really the only guy on offense. You saw Kody Walker out there in the green. He had a stinger on Tuesday, so we put him in green for the week.

“Alex I think should be back for us next week and involved in practice. Really other than that, everybody on offense I think was pretty much full-go. The guys that we've been practicing with on defense, Rohan Gaines, you saw him in green. Just a shoulder issue. Isn't a real issue there. And then everybody else is going on the defensive side of the ball.”

Bielema noted that Austin Allen is ahead of Rafe Peavey in the race to back up Brandon Allen at quarterback.

“I would say off the top of my head, Austin right there at the end of the two-minute drill, just throwing the ball extremely well,” Bielema said. “I don't know how much I'd say he's ahead of Rafe because Rafe is doing some really nice things. Just the longevity.

“Austin’s been in our program a little bit longer. More in-tune. But I think Rafe has continued to come along and is right there nipping. If not 2A, 2B more than anything. And I"ll tell you what, (freshman) Ty (Storey) had a nice week as well. Ty's playing as well as he has since he's been here.”

While answering a question about JoJo Robinson, Bielema noted that fellow sophomore-to-be wide receiver and Florida native Kendrick Edwards had earned a second shot with the Razorbacks.

“Jojo has had a nice spring and has caught the ball really well,” Bielema said. “We had to remove Kendrick and I think he (Robinson) has followed his own oats.

“I am going to allow Kendrick to come back during the summer. He won’t be with us the rest of the summer, but I will allow him to come back and join us in summer classes as kind of a probationary status.

“If he does what I have asked him to do and what we ask him to do and what we expect him to do - he has grown a tremendous amount in the last three or four weeks and has been unbelievable in the classroom. He has shown up on one list.

“He comes in and lifts with Coach (Ben) Herb(ert) in the weight room and hasn’t missed or been late for one thing so Kendrick has continued to grow.

“But Jojo has done better through his absence so we have got to make sure we don’t regress when that happens.”

He also noted that linebacker Randy Ramsey - another Florida native and sophomore-to-be- had been taken out of practice.

“I removed Randy Ramsey as well and let him focus on academics,” Bielema said. “If he does that, then we will see where that goes, but as of right now he is not with us either.”

Same policy as Edwards?

“Yes, but he has got to have some urgency in the classroom immediately. No off the field (mistakes), just got to get him going in the classroom because we invest a lot in them and we hope to have our biggest returns when they are sophomores, juniors and seniors and getting better.

“If we invest all this time in them and they are not going to be here, we should invest in some others. That is kind of the message we have.”

nother player that stood out on Saturday waas walk on linebacker Josh Harris.

“He's very instinctive player,” Bielema said. “I think he reads very very well. I think he's going to be a dynamic player for us in special situations, maybe some critical downs. Maybe a nickel backer, something along those lines.

“Also I think he'll be a terror on special teams. He's very explosive football player. A guy that we'll definitely search to find roles for. The only time, obviously, he gets himself in a little bit of trouble is when he gets absorbed by a very physical lineman, SEC-type guy, every down.”

Jeremiah Ledbetter, Arkansas’ junior college transfer defensive lineman, is part of a package called Cash, which defensive coordinator Robb Smith uses to get his best pass-rushing group on the field.

“Coach Smith has his currency situation,” Bielema said. “Cash is a coverage for us, but with that being said, we want to have our four best pass rushers and Led has been very impressive the last two weeks. He is starting to get it.

“He is actually pretty good on the inside three technique rushes. We are trying to our four best pass rushers out there. He has really had a nice couple of weeks for us at R- that rush position.

“And I tell you what, Deatrich Wise had by far his best week of practice. From where we were last Saturday to this Saturday, it is really fun to see guys grow.”

Kicker Cole Hedlund, who ended last Saturday’s scrimmage with a 59-yard field goal, was injured on Thursday.

“Cole actually strained his quad a little bit on Thursday so we didn't have him in it but we went perfect today,” Bielema said. “Lane Saling went 5 for 5, the last one at 52 yards. Fun to see that happen. (Adam) McFain hit it fairly decent as well.”

Robb Smith

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