On a day when Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema put his team through a 100-play spring scrimmage, Razorback quarterbacks Austin Allen, Rafe Peavey and Ty Storey all took a step forward in the quarterback battle.
“This is probably one of the more enjoyable days of the year,” Bielema said. “This and the spring game. We've always traditionally had this day and the spring game be the biggest scrimmage days. To not have the pressure of winning a game but to see your guys go out and execute, run around. I thought there were a lot of positives.”
That included Allen going 14-of-18 passing for 200 yards and three touchdowns, Peavey completing 6-of-11 for 130 yards while guiding the second team and a score and Storey 6-of-10 passing for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Ricky Town completed his only pass for 19 yards, but saw little action in front a crowd that was less than 1,000 fans.
“I think on offense, really, all the Qs had a moment,” Bielema said. “They all had a series they did some things. Austin has been probably the most consistent guy all spring. Rafe has been really good, but today was a little bit of an up-and-down day.
“Ty by far had his best day, I think. And Ricky is still just kind of getting used to things. You could see he's got a live arm and got a conceptual, concept of what we're trying to get done. I really think he'll be a guy that can grow by leaps and bounds in a short amount of time.”
Allen, a redshirt junior is the clear frontrunner to this point for Bielema and offensive coordinator Dan Enos to succeed his older brother Brandon Allen as the starting signal caller.
“I thought his pocket presence was really nice today,” Bielema said. “There was a long ball that I think got down there in the red zone that I said, ‘If you had just stepped up a second earlier’ he probably would have been totally clean.
“He definitely has the best comprehension of what is supposed to go on as a quarterback at what time in what order and what fashion. He very seldom makes a mental error.
“I know Dan pushes the envelope with him which is great. But I think he is playing the game within himself. He is not worried about what kind of competition he is in. He is just playing football.
“The kids have a tremendous amount of confidence in him. I would have liked to have seen him compete that long ball to D(omnique) Reed but that might have been a little bit on D. Reed, too. I think his arms got a little short there. So hopefully we will get that tight because he really does throw a good deep ball. I am excited with Austin and what he is doing.”
Kody Walker led the tailbacks with 15 carries for 76 yards while Damon “Duwop” Mitchell rushed 13 times for 44 yards, Denzel Evans 10 times for 34 yards and Juan Day had four carries for eight yards.
It is a group that new running backs coach Reggie Mitchell has coming along.
“I think Duwop at tailback is going to be just fine,” Bielema said. “I really like the way he's caught on to the offense. I think Reggie has done an outstanding job with him personally, bringing him along. The first time he's concentrated solely at running back.
“Kody keeps getting better every practice. J-Day is just waiting for that play to kind of break out. He really hadn't played football in two to three years…I think he's just waiting, anxious.”
The receivers were led by Cody Hollister with 5 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown while Cheyenne “C.J.” O’Grady had 3 receptions for 82 yards, Jeremy Sprinkle 3 for 55, Keon Hatcher 3 for 52, Deion Stewart 2 for 51, Will Gragg 4 for 34 and a score and Reed 3 for 34 yards and two touchdowns.
“Cody's only enemy is himself,” Bielema said. “He gets so hard on himself. He gets frustrated. Just trying to get him to cut loose a little bit. Really had a nice day. Competes for the football. He's a big body, notice in the run game he can cover some people up.
“I think with those other guys playing as well, people have forgotten about Cody, but he's a guy that can be a nice big role for us in the fall.”
Hatcher missed last season due to an injury, but looks close to being fully healthy.
“Today just wanted to make sure he was all right moving forward,” Bielema said. “He was anxious to get out there so I think he's just kind of feeling his way. He should be full-go this week and really be able to play in the spring game good.”
O’Grady has decided to go by his first time instead of his initials, which brought a half-hearted laugh from his head coach.
“He will be O’Grady until he earns whatever else has happened,” Bielema said. “I know Cheyenne or O’Grady jumped offsides, I know that.”
There was one segment of the scrimmage in which freshman defensive end McTelvin Agim and sophomore offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt got into it.
“Sosa gets very chatty and talkative,” Bielema said. “You saw that little scuffle. I think that was some upperclassmen trying to put him in his place. He can't react with throwing punches. He had two personal fouls today, he'd be ejected form the game. He's got to take a step in maturity. He's a very talented player.”
Senior offensive lineman Dan Skipper jumped in an threw a punch as well instead of trying toi settle things down.
“I doubt very much that Dan Skipper is trying to settle anybody down,” Bielema said. “I don’t think the odds are good on there on that. He got poked in the eye. And I heard him telling Dre Greenlaw about his ancestry so I called those two over and just kind of said, ‘Did you mean to do this?’ And he said, ‘No, Coach.’ His eye was all red, he had to put a shield on.”
Skipper had texted his coach Thursday when Bielema was out because of his father in law’s heart surgery.
“Dan shot me a text over the last couple of days saying he was thinking of me and stuff,” Bielema said. “I started a conversation with him saying I was excited about his senior year. I think he is a very, very talented player.
“The monster he has is within himself. When he plays with tempo an pays with confidence and turns some of that anger that he sometimes unleashes in the wrong way with a little bit more composure and technique he will be a really good player. I am excited to see that come out.
“Sosa probably deserved what he was getting in the middle of the field there. That’s why I didn’t hop in too quick. He had two penalties for punching guys today and he is going to have to learn.”
The defense clearly got the better of the offense in the middle of the field while the offense won the red zone battles.
“Defensively really good in the first half,” Bielema said. “I pulled Brooks Ellis and Deatrich (Wise) out at the halftime mark there. Those two guys are playing exceptional football for us. Really felt to get out of there with them healthy is a good thing.
“I think guys up front that continue to impress us. Taiwan (Johnson) is still limited, wasn't able to do much. I think Armon Watts is doing a nice job up there.
“…I thought Dre Greenlaw is continuing to make strides, learning how to play middle linebacker. And Kendrick Jackson has really had a nice week and a half in practice. I'm very impressed with him.”
New secondary coach Paul Rhoads, the former Iowa State head coach, has made a big difference per Bielema.
“The back-end really have to clean up some things, but that group has really gotten their hands on a lot of balls,” Bielema said. “Paul has changed some things up to get them to attack the football.
“The guy that's jumped out there, De'Andre Coley has really made a couple nice plays stood out. I think Josh Liddell, Santos (Ramirez) and Coley and possibly Reid (Miller) can give us four safeties back there that can really play the game.”
Arkansas won’t scrimmage as much next week during the third of four weeks of spring practice.
“Next Saturday we will probably back off a little bit,” Bielema said. “On Monday we went with some early morning meetings last week. I don’t like having these four practices in here (a week), it’s just that I agreed to the spring game on April 23 so I couldn’t move to April 30.
“So Monday we will have a nice hour-and-a-half meeting just to go through the scrimmage film with our guys. We’ll go through an hour practice on Monday night.
“Tuesday will be a nice full-padded Arkansas practice with inside and we will actually put in tempo against our defense next week.
“Thursday will probably be a scaled back half practice and then Saturday I am looking at half practice and half scrimmage depending on the health of our guys.”