Jason Ivester

5 questions heading into Arkansas' spring practice

These are five things to keep an eye on as Arkansas begins spring practice Tuesday.

FAYETTEVILLE -- If the wait for spring practice seems to have been really long, that's because it has.

Arkansas is one of the last schools in the country to begin its set of 15 practices. In fact, when the Razorbacks have their first day in full pads Saturday, South Carolina will already be playing its spring game.

Head coach Bret Bielema didn't set out to be a late starter. Instead, that's just how it happened because of the academic calendar. The fifth-year head coach wanted to have five consecutive weeks of practice, without an interruption, so he waited until after spring break to begin practice.

Now that it is finally here, let's take one final look at some of the biggest questions Arkansas will try to answer over the next several weeks:

1- What will the 3-4 defense look like?

This question is obvious and one Hawgs247 has written about extensively since the season ended. New defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, as well as new assistants John Scott Jr. and Chad Walker, must figure out where to play which players and determine the best rotation. The Razorbacks also need to learn the system, which means new terminology, new plays and pretty much new everything.

2- Which receivers will emerge alongside Jared Cornelius?

Cornelius is basically the only receiver with significant experience back in 2017. Arkansas is tasked with replacing Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed and Cody Hollister. That said, there is a ton of talent in the wide receiver room. Jordan Jones, LaMichael Pettway and Deon Stewart have received praise from Bielema, plus the Razorbacks add junior-college transfers Brandon Martin and Jonathan Nance to the mix. Another positive is that Bielema said this group of receivers has a lot more speed than any other group he's had in the past, which should help Arkansas stretch the field.

3- How will Arkansas' secondary matchup with the speed of its receivers?

That speed in the receiving corps should also help Arkansas' secondary prepare for the season because of the speed it will face throughout 2017 in the SEC. It was an improved group in its first season under Rhoads, who also coaches the defensive backs, and it will be interesting to see if it continues to get better. Bielema said Monday that it is an experiences group that has some "moxie" and "swagger." Ryan Pulley has challenged himself to become the Razorbacks' shutdown corner, Henre' Toliver is a senior, Kevin Richardson is competing for a starting cornerback spot to go along with his nickel duties, Britto Tutt is healthy and all three safeties - Josh Liddell, Santos Ramirez and De'Andre Coley - are back.

4- Will the offensive line be able to protect quarterback Austin Allen?

Frank Ragnow is a potential All-American at center, but what about the guys around him? Bielema said left guard Hjalte Froholdt has made tremendous strides this offseason and should prove why moving him from defense to offense was a good decision. Tackles Brian Wallace and Colton Jackson are another year older. Right guard Johnny Gibson needs to take another step now that he is a scholarship player. Bielema was also high on Deion Malone and early enrollee Shane Clenin.

5- Who will take the No. 2 snaps behind Allen?

Allen is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the SEC, but his backup is still up in the air. Ty Storey handled the duties last season, but that was because Cole Kelley was redshirting. Bielema said Kelley "lacks nothing in confidence" and that offensive coordinator Dan Enos is really excited about him. Arkansas also has early enrollee Daulton Hyatt this spring. There's a chance the Razorbacks could do dual reps in 7-on-7 work to get all the quarterbacks as many reps as possible.


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