Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema couldn't be more pleased with the results of the just completed spring practice. The development under new offensive coordinator Dan Enos was one of the many positives Bielema discussed Wednesday afternoon when he met with the media.
The top news was that Marcus Danenhauer has only a bone bruise and is in the top two at right guard. He will be full go by the summer work.
One of the highlights of the spring was the emergence of Kody Walker at running back, perhaps to a level where he can challenge Alex Collins in the top two. Walker and Collins were listed as co-second team in Bielema's post-spring depth chart announced Wednesday.
But an obvious highlight was the quick mesh between Enos and Brandon Allen, the fifth-year quarterback. Bielema was asked about his remarks earlier in the spring about the Hogs being "a good team." He said that had to do with a lot of factors, including the offensive scheme and Allen's ability and experience.
"The point I was trying to make, not to the people that are listening, but to our players is you're a good football team," Bielema said. "You should be expected to have success. You've got good players at key positions, you've got a fifth-year senior quarterback, you've got two thousand-yard rushers, you've got five offensive linemen that played really good football. You've got a couple tight ends that I think are good. Defensively, we have a scheme that I think is very, very success-oriented.
"The teams I've seen run it have had a lot of success, even though they might not have had marquee names or players. So I felt good about that. I just wanted our players to understand, we're expecting to win some games, but on the same account, we've got to kind of tear them down a little bit to build them up and let them understand there's no tackle or touchdown from last year that's going to appear on this year's stats. You've got to go out and do it all over again.
"I just wanted to get that point across to our guys …. As we have coaches come in and visit, we had a lot of staff come through this year in the spring make comments about how we just look different and we play different and we practice different. I appreciate all that, it's just I want our players to understand it, too."
Bielema praised Kody Walker, the leading rusher in the spring game, now listed even with Alex Collins, a returning 1,000-yard rusher. Walker is also listed as the top fullback.
"After watching Kody Walker we really feel that we probably will use him more as a running back," Bielema said. "He's a fullback in certain situations, but to give him a shot at being in the top two rotation of our running backs."
Is that motivation for Collins, recovering from a high ankle sprain and chastised for coming back from spring break heavy?
"Yeah, I would agree 100 percent," Bielema said.
Is there a serious challenge from Walker for Collins?
"I do," Bielema said. "I just think because he's so reliable. He's so dependable. He's got a really nice patience with some of our run game, maybe not the outside sweeps and stuff like that but the inside power plays, the counters to the weak side, the inside zones and stuff like that he has got very good patience."
Collins gained nine pounds during spring break, but he's lost all but seven of those pounds at this point. Bielema said it's been a positive stretch for the running back who begged to play in the spring game.
"He's really done a nice job," Bielema said, noting the plan of strength coach Ben Herbert.
"Herb's put together a six-week program for him that was really trying to lean him up. He came back … He actually put on more weight than player in our program during spring break. He put on nine pounds, which which his body size was the biggest percentage gain during that week.
"That's when we really kind of jumped him about taking care of yourself. All these other players are gaining ground or moving beyond you as you get older in the program. You should become more physically prepared for the next level.
"Alex has been given a lot of gifts. He's physically very gifted and talented, but as you get further down the difficulty, the SEC and then the next jump would be the NFL, you've got to continue to gain ground. Otherwise you're going to get left behind. He lost, I believe, seven pounds. He looked great. He'd come in and make two sandwiches every day. He made sure he walked by my office with his little lunch box. So he was taking a lot of pride in it."
Bielema is still waiting to see the academic results from the spring from linebacker Randy Ramsey, wide receiver Kendrick Edwards and defensive end Anthony Brown before he knows if any of those suspended players would be around for the future at Arkansas.
"Randy Ramsey dropped below 12 hours so he wasn't eligible by NCAA rules for spring," Bielema said. "So we have to see what his grades are in the next couple of weeks. We'll see how he finishes. If he's eligible to return, I'llmake a decision, as well as with Kendrick and Anthony."
Bielema was asked about wide receiver JoJo Robinson, not on the two-deep released Wednesday.
"When it's the good JoJo and he's locked in, he's in our two deep," Bielema said. "We'll see how he finishes the semester (with academics)."
But it's more than academics with Robinson. Bielema wants him to be more focused on the field to the details.
"When he lines up right and does everything right, he's good," Bielema said. "But he's got to prove to me he's going to be here and do it all right. He's got to run the right route every time."
Bielema was asked about offensive tackle Dan Skipper's weight. He's listed at only 307, skinny for a 6-10 lineman by Bielema's admission.
"He had a broken finger that was fixed and had that cast," Bielema said. "That affected his ability to lift and he lost some strength. He's about ready to lift and we'll have a plan for him this summer. (Strength coach) Ben Herbert will have him between 320 and 330, a good weight for him and he'll have his strength back."
The arrival of Enos continues to pay dividends. Bielema was pleased with the way things worked in the Red-White game on Saturday, especially with Enos on the sideline.
"I do like him down there. Only thing I get afraid of a coach (as coordinator) on the sideline. I did it, but a coach that can't control their demeanor. I've seen coaches that don't control their demeanor and then it can kinda go in reverse, you make the players scared and you have the players intimidated and now you don't have control of the sideline."
Bielema is pleased with his staff. There are plans for some visits to pro camps in the next few weeks.
"It's going to be fun, Dan, Robb and I will go do some professional development with some NFL teams in the next month," Bielema said. "It's kind of fun be around a group of coaches at 7:30 before I let them go recruiting yesterday afternoon, I told them how much I appreciated the room, because in my coaching career it might be one of the better rooms I've had.
"From A to Z there is not a weak link, there's not guys you gotta worry about if they are carrying the torch in the same way, or speaking the company line all the time. It starts with our two coordinators, they've been great. Dan got a little fiery Saturday. There was a little volatility on the headset which was fun to hear. Robb is pure entertainment anytime you get near him. I think two of those guys, they are different backgrounds but they both capture that same automatic confidence and borderline cockiness which I think is good. I'm also appreciative of the staff. Robb is a lot more comfortable on defense than he has been in the past with everybody -- Vernon has been a home run. Then, on offense, Dan and Jemal have been absolutely a blessing. It's truly been amazing what they have done in our staff room with our roster and also in recruiting."
Bielema Positive About Spring
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