Arkansas finished off the last of the major work of fall camp with a scrimmage Saturday of around 90 plays for the top two units, with the key part of the team escaping major injury.
Head coach Bret Bielema talked in the post-scrimmage press conference as much about the arrival of Southern Cal transfer Ricky Town than anything else, noting the four-star quarterback picked the Hogs because of their pro-style attack, something that clearly is setting the program apart. Town is enrolled and will begin practice Monday, the first day of school.
"It's a very unique situation," Bielema said of Town. "I didn't know much about this and it happened quickly. We are getting known as a pro-style team.
"He got here Wednesday and I tried to spend as much time with him as possible."
Bielema said quarterback numbers are always a high priority and he reminded of a situation at Wisconsin where the offense got down to just two. He mentioned his first year at Arkansas when numbers were low.
"I'm scared about that," he said. "I want to always have five. We have been walking on the edge since I've been here. Whether we an keep all of these quarterbacks for next year, I didn't want to go into the fall with just two after Brandon Allen graduates. At Wisconsin we were one play away from a disaster at one time."
Bielema said he talked to the three underclass quarterbacks earlier this summer when two other transfer quarrterbacks came to campus, but there wasn't time for that this time. He said offensive coordinator Dan Enos delivered that message this week, remind them of a time when a junior college quarterback was added at Michigan State when he was the starter.
Among other major topics after the scrimmage was the improved pass protection and a better week from middle linebacker Khalia Hackett with a push from Josh Harris. They split time with the first unit this week. Hackett was given a helmet stripe to help coaches monitor his eyes and focus on keys.
"I think that worked," Bielema said. "I've always been at schools with a stripe on the helmet. It really helps you in practice.
"This was a better week for Hackett."
It appears that a possible move of Brooks Ellis back to middle linebacker is not going to be needed.
Bielema said Denver Kirkland had a good week at left tackle, improving after line coach Sam Pittman altered his stance. Protection was solid for quarterback Brandon Allen compared to last week, although Kirkland got beat on an inside pass rush once.
It was a better day for Allen than his scrimmage last week. The senior quarterback was 17 of 22 for 245 yards and four touchdowns. There were two interceptions, a screen pass that bounced off Dan Skipper's shoulder and went to Jeremiah Ledbetter. Keon Hatcher bobbled one twice before Santos Ramirez picked it.
Austin Allen was 10 of 17 for 186. He had one TD and one interception. Bielema said afterwards that Austin Allen had separated himself in the battle for the backup job.
It was ones versus twos today. There were no major injuries to front-line players. Deatrich Wise did some work on the side, sitting out with a sore shoulder.
Kody Walker rushed 10 times for 71. Raleigh Williams had 6 for 45 yards.
There were around 90 plays with the ones and twos of live work.There were also a few series with the threes, and some no tackling periods with the ones late in the practice.
Keon Hatcher led the receivers with six catches for 110 with one TD. Drew Morgan also had six catches for 87 and one TD. The others: Hunter Henry 3-51, 1 TD; Jeremy Sprinkle 3-40, 1 TD; Dominique Reed 2-69, Cody Hollister 2-23, Jared Cornelius 2-14, 1TD. Alex Voelzke 2-2, Eric Hawkins 1-10, Luke Rossi 1-14, Anthony Antwine 1-19.
Alex Collins did not scrimmage. Both punters boomed it. Kicker Cole Hedlund had a pre-scrimmage miss, but not in the scrimmage. Bielema said Hedlund has pushed ahead in the race for the placekicker position.
Bielema said it's been a productive camp. A lot of the work in the last two weeks has been with SEC opponents in mind. They will begin work on UTEP on Monday. Bielema indicated that there will be a mock game Friday night and the team will likely get Saturday off, if all goes well this week.
Bielema said the most serious injury was probably to Tyler Colquitt, a likely high ankle sprain. Colquitt had not been working out at fullback and will probably move to running back or linebacker.
"There's nothing with Alex Collins (as far as injury)," Bielema said. "We were not going to go with him today. We wanted to give Kody Walker and the freshman Rawleigh Williams more work with the ones."
Jared Collins turned an ankle late in the scrimmage, but should be fine. Kody Walker had a hard hit to the shoulder, but returned. Mitch Smothers went out for a few plays with a knee tweak, but Bielema said there are no issues there, either. Tevin Beanum had tweaked a knee last week and wasn't in certain situations Saturday, allowing Jeremiah Ledbetter more work. Brandon Lewis, battling a sore knee, was not able to finish the practice.
"That was probably our last major scrimmage," Bielema said "I would have liked a little more juice, but it's two and a half weeks in. They are tired of going against each other."
Concerning the two interceptions, Bielema said one was slightly behind Hatcher that resulted in the double tip by the wide receiver. The screen pass, Bielema said, speaks to the work that's needed on the play.
"It came against a pressure," Bielema said. "Everyone thinks that's an easy pass, but there is a lot of stuff going on. We still have some more work to do on the screens. We did use it earlier against a pressure on the goal line and it worked well. It just takes work and we had some successes with it this week."
Hatcher worked over Ryan Pulley, the freshman corner getting a lot of praise in the last two weeks.
"Keon should win that," Bielema said. "I will say that Ryan has been going through some stuff. His grandfather is in a touch situation. Keon has had a great camp."
On the job of picking out the top wideouts moving forward, Bielema mentioned a top six. At the Z position, it's Hatcher, Morgan and Damon Mitchell. At the X, it's Jared Cornelius, Cody Hollister and Dominique Reed. If the Hogs add a slot receiver, that would start with JoJo Robinson followed by Luke Rossi and Morgan.
"We have some plays we want Reed in for," Bielema said. "Luke Rossi has surprised."
Bielma suggested that Kenderick Edwards might redshirt.
There was talk of a nickname for the defensive line, an obvious camp highlight. Line coach Rory Segrest suggested the front be labeled "Front 4orce."
"You will see shirts around campus," Bielema said. "I think you will see our defense go as far as this defensive line will take it.
"We really have good depth there, maybe 10."
There may be a new role for one of the defensive ends. Mitchell Loewen was converted from tight end to defensive end two years ago. He ran some plays at both end and tight end this week.
Bielema tried to simulate game situations for his staff. There were coaches in the press box, as they will when they open on Sept. 5 against UTEP. Game time for the season opener is 2:30 p.m. at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.