One of the storylines out of last Saturday’s Arkansas scrimmage was the struggle of fifth-year senior quarterback Brandon Allen, who was just 10-for--23 passing.
Razorback defensive coordinator Robb Smith believes that his defense was a large part of that equation.
“I thought it was a really great day of work for Arkansas,” Smith said Wednesday before the Razorbacks headed out for a night practice.
“I think when you are around a team aspires to play really good football, there is give-and-take on both sides of the ball. I thought Brandon had his moments, I thought some DBs had their moments, I thought some receivers had their moments so it was good give-and-take all day.
“I think we are putting ourselves in good position to have a great scrimmage on Saturday.”
“I think collectively we had a chance to come in and watch the film and put it behind us. We needed a great week headed into our second scrimmage.”
Defensive line coach Rory Segrest saw the scrimmage the same way.
“I don’t even look at the offensive side of the football, I am tuned in to what we were doing on the defensive line and just executing what we are supposed to be doing there.
“I know if we have issues on the offensive side, they will get it fixed. It is our job defensively and we had plenty of corrections to be made that is for sure.
“I did think we did some good things, but I would like to see more consistency from those guys. We flashed here and there, we played the run well at times, didn’t play it well and gave up some big plays.
“I think the biggest thing right now is guys just being consistent and doing the proper thing every time the ball is snapped.”
Arkansas forced three turnovers in the scrimmage with Jared Collins and Ryan Pulley both picking off passes and a Sanchez Ramirez hit forcing a fumble.
Secondary coach Clay Jennings was happy to see the takeaways and hopes there will be more in this Saturday’s scrimmage, but also less missed tackles in the back end.
“Number one, I will be looking for great effort and great communication, keep the ball in front of us and eliminate those six missed tackles that we had in back end,” Jennings said.
Smith was asked if this season’s defense can be as good as last year’s that finished 10th nationally?
“I tell you what, we have one standard and one expectation, whether it last year’s or four years from now we want to play defense a certain way,” Smith said.
“We know to be successful in this league we have got to stop the run, limit big plays and have takeaways. That has been our charge and our approach and I like the effort that we have put into this so far and if we can stay on that track and that trajectory, then we will have an opportunity to do that, which would obviously help us win football games.”
Walk on linebacker Josh Harris has seen some first-team snaps this week at mike linebacker, which has also seen Khalia Hackett and Josh Williams getting reps as well.
“The one thing that you can say about Josh is he makes tackles,” Smith said. “He has continued to do that and we are going to continue to give him opportunities to prove himself.
“We are going to continue to reward guys that do things well. Josh has earned some opportunities in some situations and we feel really good about the core guys we have at Mike linebacker whether it is Hackett, whether it is Harris, Josh Williams even in certain packages.
“We like where we are there and competition is always a good thing and at the end of the day we will get the best guys on the football field.”
One of the position changes after the first scrimmage was De’Andre Coley moving from safety to linebacker.
“I think he (Coley) can do certain things for us in our base as well as the sub. We are experimenting with him a little bit. He is such a physical football player. He is an excellent tackler, which is needed at the linebacker level. We are trying to create some opportunities for him to get on the football field.”
Tackling is something that Smith wants shored up.
“The biggest thing we would like to do is tackle a little bit better,” Smith said. “The nature of the game is you only get so many opportunities to play in a live setting. So this will be our second time out at that and we want to make sure we feel good about where we are with our tackling before we go into our first football game. So we are hoping to see some improvement there.”
Coley could make the move because Smith feels really good about his secondary depth.
“I think it is really good,” Smith said. “We have got some guys that are smart football players and physical football players.
“I think Rohan Gaines is kind of a swing player for us because he can play both the strong and free. Josh Liddell is our free safety.
“Santos Ramirez, everybody saw the hit he made on Saturday. We have got three guys there right now that are doing some really good things and then you have the emergence of some young guys like Willie Sykes that jumps out at you to do some things as well.
“We feel like we are moving in the right direction there and at the end of the day we have to be creative to get our best football players on the field. We will continue to experiment and try to do that in whatever packages that we need to.”
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw and cornerback Pulley continue to shine in practice per Smith.
“Those guys are getting opportunities and they have really jumped out by taking advantage of those opportunities,” Smith said. “We are going to need them. You can never have enough depth on the defensive side of football and the more they mature and understand the system, the more we would feel comfortable putting them on the football field to be able to help us.”