One of the goals of fall camp for the Arkansas football team is to perform to a level that eliminates the need for two-a-days. Brandon Allen and Sebastian Tretola spoke to that after Thursday's practice, the first of fall camp.
But Allen has a bigger goal for himself and it sounds simple. He wants to lead an offense that scores more touchdowns and more points. To do that, he has set a goal for himself to improve accuracy.
On that first part, the Razorbacks know that to avoid double days, as coach Bret Bielema calls them, they must do well in single days. Bielema announced two weeks ago that if his third team performs like he thinks in fall camp, he'll eliminate the twice-a-day practices that all football players dread in the August heat.
“We were all excited,” said Allen, the fifth-year senior and team captain. “But we know that's a reward – if we practice the way he wants. He wants to cut them out. But it's up to us. If we are sloppy, then we are going to have to come back for a second practice.
“It's a neat deal because it is up to us. If we respond, we can (avoid two-a-days).”
The NCAA allows up to seven days of fall camp to be two-a-days. But none of those are early. So it was just one practice Thursday, in shorts and helmets. Allen said the players were up beat from start to finish with energy and excitement. He pointed at offensive guard Sebastian Tretola as an example of a big man who handled the heat and intensity of the first day to the end.
“Sebastian was dancing and having fun at the start and he was still that way at the end,” Allen said.
Allen also pointed to junior running back Alex Collins as an in-shape player with sharpness all the way to the end. Collins had issues with his weight climbing during spring break last year – after the first week of spring drills. That's not an issue now.
“Alex went hard all day,” Allen said. “He showed his quickness all the way through. He's got better endurance. He hasn't always been able to sustain that in a two-hour practice. There was no let down today.”
Tretola said he's preaching to the youngsters in camp that today was a breeze compared to what two-a-days could be like if they don't maintain intensity and sharpness.
“I've been through four sets of August practices at the college level,” he said. “It's nothing like what I'd been through in high school. I've told the young guys that. Just keep pushing. We don't want those two-a-days. It can be like nothing you've ever been through.”
Both Allen and Tretola mentioned junior college transfer Dominique Reed after the opening practice. The wideout from Camden Fairview has done amazing things in summer workouts.
“He's been really good so far,” Allen said of Reed. “He's so fast. Keon Hatcher has taken him under his wing and is teaching him the offense. We've seen that Dominique is a bright guy. He's caught on pretty well so far. But every repetition he can get in camp will be beneficial.”
Tretola said, “Dominique is something out of the ordinary. He's crazy fast and can jump so high. He'll have an impact on this team. He's got an adjustment to make. I was there 12 months ago when I got here and it's an adjustment. But he's going to make the adjustment, just like I had to make it. I think he's going to do well.”
Allen mentioned another young wide receiver. JoJo Robinson sparkled.
“He had a great day today,” Allen said. “He really did. He was flying around. He made two or three diving catches. He had a great day. What I see is that he lined up right and knows the offense.”
One of the things that was easy at the practice was figuring out who was who. For the first time under Bielema, even the quarterbacks were easily identifiable. They still sport green “no contact” jerseys, but they now have numbers for the first time.
“I like it,” Allen said. “We know each other so we can tell on film. But sometimes someone wants to wear some of the gear like the other guy and we knew that would make it tough. So we kept it the same. Now we don't have to do that.”
Allen was smiling broadly when he met with the media. It's obvious that he has knowledge of what's going on in his third camp with Bielema, but he said it's not just him.
“It's different,” he said. “There are just more guys who have been through this and we can help the new guys understand what's going on. We've been through some ups and downs and we just are more comfortable with everything.”
Allen likes the offense under new coordinator Dan Enos, the new quarterbacks coach.
“I think this offense is going to be more balanced,” Allen said. “We'll be able to keep defenses off balance. We'll spread them out a little and keep them from putting nine in the box.”
One of the keys will be the “run tags” added by Enos last spring. Allen said he has operated with them in his early days at Arkansas, but not the previous two years.
“We had them some my first two years,” he said. “But we may have more now.”
What's the definition of a run tag.
“It's a nuance to the offense,” he said. “It's kind of like a run play, with a pass play attached. You see a certain thing, you know that a route is going to be there. A guy doesn't have to block and he's open. You see a cornerback doing a certain thing, you know there is something to go to there.
“It just gives you the freedom to do certain things and if they want to load the box, you can make it hard on the defense. Our players love it. Our running backs love it. They are all excited about what we have added.”
What about his accuracy in the passing game?
“I've worked hard all summer and I continue to improve in that area,” Allen said. “That's a big goal of mine, to be more accurate. I think I am more accurate.”
Tretola is excited to be a part of that accuracy in some new plays. He was asked about more screen passes. For a big man, Tretola is outstanding on pulling plays and screens.
“It's a little more work for a big guy, getting out and being on the move (in blocking schemes on a screen pass),” he said. “Lots of running in practice. But it's a chance to get out on a little guy and we like that. I think it is something we can do and I'm looking forward to it.”
That's another reason to avoid double days. Linemen don't want to be running screens at the end of that second practice.
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