As someone who doesn't have an issue in putting the ball in the air, Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos echoed head coach Bret Bielema’s remarks from last week about this season’s offense.
If it is better to have three or four wideouts and just one tight end on the field in the 2016 season than multiple tight ends, that is exactly what will happen.
“Yeah, we're going to play the best 11,” Enos said after Arkansas’ 12th spring practice ended Tuesday. Right now we haven't had a second tight end step up. We have one tight end that we feel we can win with. The other guys are very, very inconsistent. We're going to play the best 11.
“And we'll mix personnel groupings and do that. If our best 11 is one tight end, one back and three wide receivers we're certainly going to do that the most, like we did last year with 12 personnel. We felt that was our best personnel grouping. I think we were 55 percent 12 personnel grouping on the season last year. So we will certainly continue to -- it's not over.
“We have a long way to go before we play our first game. But part of being an offensive coach is every year you need to find your identity. You need to find the formula if you will. Certainly we're a work in progress in figuring that out right now."
Senior Jeremy Sprinkle is expected to be one of the nation’s top tight ends, but freshmen Will Gragg, C.J. O’Grady and Austin Cantrell have yet to step forward in the manner Arkansas would like this spring.
“It's a process,” Enos said. “What we do is very multiple. We put them in a lot of positions. It's formations, it's protections, it's routes, it's detail. So there's a lot to learn.
“I think we are trying to put some pressure on them because we need one of them or two of them. Would be great if all three of them could step up and contribute. They're all very capable of doing that.”
Arkansas named redshirt junior Austin Allen, the younger brother of three-year Razorback starter Brandon Allen, as its top quarterback last Thursday.
He was excited to finally be named the starter.
“It was a great feeling,” Allen noted. “Kind of one of the things, you think about it your whole life and when it finally happened, it was pretty awesome to finally hear it. Really just means I've got to keep working and try to get better to lead this team.
“…I mean I came in when I signed here and I always wanted to be the starting quarterback for the University of Arkansas. That was my dream growing up.”
Enos said the job was not handed to the young Allen.
“He's earned it,” Enos said. “Now the hard part is keeping it. That's the thing we talk about. We've got a lot of guys in there that are pushing and chomping at the bit. Austin is certainly very deserving of it, but he's got to come out here and continue to work every day and try to get better.
“He's very capable. But I think there's a lot there left that he can get to. We've got three practices left and a whole fall camp to get ready.”
Enos noted that the older brother - preparing for the NFL draft - has left the young one alone this spring.
“Brandon hasn’t been around very much and I think that is on purpose,” Enos said. “I think he is trying to let these guys pave their own way if you will. That is probably a good thing in a way that Brandon has that kind of respect for people. He probably wants those guys to have their space.”
Brandon Allen was a forceful leader, something that Austin is trying to become.
“I go in there every day with the same mentality - trying to get better - and I hope that rubs off on my teammates,” Allen said. “Trying to get in the film room, learn, watch the film. That's what I’m all about and hopefully that rubs off on the offense.”
Enos has seen that as the case.
“Austin has been trying to lead the entire spring and obviously when you are named the starter you have a little more weight on your shoulder,” Enos said. “He has done a good job trying to step out there, but he needs to continue to do more.
“As I told him, you get named the starter and now the hard part starts - you have to keep it.”
Allen and back-up Rafe Peavey both tried to step forward in the offseason.
“I know that he tried to organize a lot of things in the winter and I think all the guys did,” Enos said. “They are all workers. They all work extremely hard. I think through the winter - Brandon and Rafe and all those guys were really instrumental in trying to bring those guys together to get some extra."
Because Arkansas has an offense full of quiet players, Bielema thought it would help things if Allen was named the starter.
“Coach Bielema instigated it obviously and I think he felt like we needed a little direction,” Enos said. “We don’t have a lot of real natural leaders on our offense. We have a lot of guys that lead by example.
“We have a lot of quiet guys. Jeremy Sprinkle is very quiet, Frank Ragnow is very quiet, Kody Walker is quiet. I think Coach was feeling like we needed some direction and Coach and I both felt that Austin had taken a step forward and deserved to be named.
“He had really not just through the spring, but last year and all the way up to this point.”
Arkansas has practices left on Thursday and Friday as well as Saturday’s noon spring game to close out the 15 practices.
“Just continue to get better every day,” Enos said off what he wanted the last spring. “We have got to take steps. We have a lot of new young players playing.
“We have got a left guard that has been playing for 12 practices, we’ve got a left tackle that is a freshman, a right guard that hasn’t played very much football, a new quarterback, we have got running backs hurt so we have a lot of youth and they need experience and they need game-like experience so as much as we can put them in game-like conditions in practice, I think it will benefit all of us.
“Certainly Saturday will help as well with having a crowd there and seeing how they respond. We just need to continue to get a little bit better every day. We are still a work on progress in a lot of areas, but we have to continue to improve every day, which has been a real positive.”