Arkansas coach Bret Bielema seemed up beat on Monday after one of the squad's "best" practices of the year.
The Hogs are coming off a bye week. They play host to Auburn at 11 a.m. Sunday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Game time for the Oct. 31 game with Tennessee-Martin was confirmed for 3 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Bielema said the Sunday workout was just 12 periods, about 30 minutes shorter than normal.
"It was our best practice of the year," he said Monday at his weekly media opportunity. "The question I asked Sunday night to our staff and I will continue to ask with our players is why, why? Does cutting 30 minutes make tha much different?"
The comments came after a report asked what Bielema's secret has been on good performances after open dates. The 2-4 Hogs are trying to bounce back after a 1-2 SEC start.
"What brings success for one might not for another," Bielema said. "Some don't even practice during an open date. Our kids need to work and develop so that's what we do."
The bye week consisted of varied segments, including scrimmage time on Wednesday with what Bielema called the developmental group.
"Our guys took advantage of the bye week," he said. "We did conditioning, got a jump on Auburn and a lot of developmental work."
Bielema said wide receiver Jared Cornelius would probably not play this week against Auburn. Kody Walker, battling back from a broken hand, should be available after getting his cast significantly reduced in size.
"He had been practicing with what looked like a boxing glove," Bielema said of Walker. "This is much smaller and I think he can have a role."
Interestingly, redshirt freshman Juan Day also is available. He scrimmaged Wednesday with good results.
"Obviously, we have Alex Collins and Rawleigh Williams, so we want to add Kody and then you have Juan," Bielema said. "Can you have a role with four? Maybe we can.
"As far as Kody, I wanted to get him out there, but one thing about that boxing glove, you see that and you don't want to put them out there and set them up for failure."
Bielema praised several developmental players. Tight ends Will Gragg, C.J. O'Grady and Austin Cantrell are progresing, although Cantrell missed some of last week with an ankle injury.
"JDay returned and did fairly well in the scrimmage," Bielema said. "He could see action this week. Daytrieon Dean has put on weight and looks great. T. J. Smith can do some really good things (at defensive tackle) and Nate Dalton did well in the secondary. Deon Stewart has gained some weight and is really fast and does some good things."
Bielema was asked about tight end Hunter Henry and the ability to target him more.
"We have targeted him, but for whatever reasons sometimes we couldn't get him the ball," he said. "Maybe sometimes he wasn't open and some other times Brandon Allen was under pressure and couldn't quite get it to him or maybe Brandon was a little off.
"We do want to target him more, along with Drew Morgan, Jeremy Sprinkle and Dominique Reed. We think we could get the ball to those guys and they can make plays."
Bielema was asked repeatedly about the importance of the Auburn game. He's called it a big game in speaking engagements in the offseason. He said it's just a natural thing fans like to hear about and he knows that there are a lot of Arkansas connections on the Auburn staff. Obviously, he knows head coach Gus Malzahn is from Arkansas and coached previously with the Hogs.
"I just thought that throughout the Arkansas fan base, that was a team they realy would like to beat," Bielema said. "There are always certain teams the fans think about. They know that Gus used to coach here."
Bielema praised Malzahn for the "consistent" way his teams produce on offense.
"He uses his good players well," he said, noting the Tigers used their bye week well in adding some new wrinkles with great use of their solid offensive tackles for their victory over Kentucky.
"They have done some good things in the Wildcat package, too. You always have to prepare for the double pass and they use it in different formations and sets. It's always something have to expect."
The Hogs made one depth chart change for the Auburn week. Josh Liddell slid in front of Santos Ramirez at free safety. Liddell was the starter there in the opener, but Ramirez had replaced him since the Texas A&M game, although both play a lot in a three-man rotation with strong safety Rohan Gaines.
"I'd call them 1A and 1B, with Josh and Santos," Bielema said. "Josh made a nice pick against Alabama and Santos did, too. Josh has moved ahead because he's been the most demonstrative. He is not a natural talker. He needed to talk better and we've seen that the last couple of weeks."
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said the change in safeties is consistent in looking for matchups to use players best.
"We want to use our players in the best way possible," he said. "Everyone has strengths and one of the things Josh does very well is get lined up correctly. That's especially important this week. Josh played hard and he played well against Alabama."
Smith said Malzahn's creative use of formations puts pressure on that phase of the defense. He said the number of formations used by Auburn present a real challenge for defensive calls and alignments.
"Our focus is on getting lined up right and stopping big plays," Smith said. "If we don't do that, we won't have a chance to win.
"As far as formations, they have a great method in what they are doing. They do a lot of things as far as splits with their wide receivers. It makes it difficult for you to set the edge in the run game. We also know we'll see some form of tempo with their offense. They will pick their spots.
"It's about your eyes this week. If you make one mistake there, it's a big play. They will do some things with their formations to get their wheel route (open). And, they are good with play-action. So it's about your eyes."
That may explain the switch to Liddell. Ramirez gave up a big play on a double move against Alabama that was caused by wrong eye placement.
Bielema was asked about the Auburn team the Hogs will see this week compared to the one the Hogs played to open the 2014 season.
"It's much different," he said, noting the defense with Will Muschamp is much different as far as scheme. "So they have different personnel on offense and then you have the changes that they made on defense. It's so different."