Arkansas' fifth day of spring concluded with a major scrimmage with both sides of the ball taking turns making solid plays. There were only three touchdowns in the 60-play scrimmage which included plenty of action matching the starters on both sides of the ball.
Cole Barthel, freshman quarterback, threw a 21-yard touchdown to Anthony Brown and later scored on a 1-yard sneak. The only other score on the day came on a 1-yard smash by Peyton Hillis, after quarterback Robert Johnson hit Cedric Logan on a 19-yard pass on the previous play.
Outside linebacker Dallas Washington led the defense with six tackles. Middle linebacker Pierre Brown added five tackles and a quarterback sack. Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison led the down linemen with five tackles and a sack. Sam Olajubutu and De'Nerian Wrighter added four tackles each. End Desmond Sims added two tackles and a sack, and also batted down a pass.
Peyton Hillis led the offense with 12 carries for 37 yards. Kyle Dickerson added 23 yards on 11 carries.
At quarterback, Barthel had the best numbers. He was 4-of-6 passing for 83 yards. Johnson was 4-of-10 with one interception for 37 yards. Alex Mortensen was 1-of-5 for 5 yards.
* There was only one true offensive line available, so there wasn't much the offense could do unless it was the first unit. Right now, the O-line is extremely thin with Tony Ugoh (track), Zac Tubbs (injury) and Cody Green (injury) out for the spring. Also, the offense did not have any of its third-down package in so they weren't really running the true offense. That was a problem for all three QBs and was a hindrance. They are operating with about 33 percent of the offensive package right now because of the inexperience at quarterback.
* Defense has started to pick up some of the stuff in Reggie Herring's "fire zone" package and used some of it today, effectively. They were able to get some pressure on the quarterback and that was a major development. As Herring said, "We didn't get a lot of sacks, but we had our hands on the quarterback. We are getting better there." There were some busts in the secondary that allowed a couple of big plays, but Herring said the film will allow him to show how that happened and it won't continue to happen. He said they were simple things and will be corrected.
* Quarterbacks were a mixed bag. There was good and bad with all three. Robert Johnson threw into double coverage and was picked off and he also lost a snap. Alex Mortensen had his feet tangled up with the center and slipped for another botched center-exchange. Cole Barthel asked for the snap on what he thought was an offsides by the defense (it wasn't) and then just stood there with the ball, as did the defense. No one moved for a long time. Refs never blew the whistle. The defense didn't hit anyone, to Herring's chagrin. As Herring said, "It was a kodak moment." There were some highlights at QB, according to the coaches, but some botched situations, too. Some of it no one probably understood but the coaches and the QBS because it was missed reads and failed motion calls for protection, according to QB coach Roy Wittke. Cole Barthel had some nice plays, but Wittke said he blew some plays, too.
* Desmond Sims and Zach Snider both made some nice plays in rush situations. Darius Vinnett made an interception. Tackling by the entire defense was solid and crisp and seemed to please Reggie Herring, who said he thought there were times when the defenders were knocking the ball carriers back. "I didn't see people ducking their head or flinching much," Herring said. "We are getting better. We aren't there, but we are making baby steps."
* There were no major injuries. Keith Jackson, slowed by a knee sprain on Thursday, scrimmaged with a heavily taped knee. Defensive end Michael Tate left early in Saturday's scrimmage when he took a blow just below the knee. Trainers said it was a sprain afterwards and it didn't appear serious.
* Peyton Hillis made some nice catches and ran hard on offense. He ws the most effective offensive player, but Marcus Monk, Cedric Logan and Anthony Brown all made nice catches. Brown cut inside the corerback and beat a slow move by the safety to catch a 25-yard TD pass from Barthel. Logan hauled in a 21-yard pass from Johnson to set up Hillis' 1-yard TD run. Barthel scored the only other TD on a 1-yard sneak.
Quotes from Houston Nutt:
"It was a beautiful day. The defense really flew around. They are starting to time up their blitz. We'll see how we did against their zone blitz when we look at this film.
"Tate was the only injury. He went out early. We'll have to see how bad it is, but I think he might be okay.
"The offense made some mistakes which hurt themselves. It was good to get in some game situations. It's funny how some do when you get in a look like this, inside the stadium.
"Kyle Dickerson and Peyton Hillis and Brandon Kennedy did well. Monk continues to play conistent football. Cedric Washington has had five excellent days. He is playing very, very well. Anthony Brown started slow and dropped a pass, but he got better as the day went and he got a TD. He's come on in the last two days. We forced a couple of balls and had two critical turnovers. We'll have to get that corrected.
"Cole Barthel did good for the first time since high school to be in a situation like this. He did some good things, but he will tell you he made some mistakes and missed some things, too.
"Our offensive line is missing some people. We don't have much depth with Tony Ugoh, Zac Tubbs and Cody Green out. Skye Peterson is having to play a lot of snaps. I think we got some good things out of Peterson, Tyler Morgan and Nate Garner. Garner is really coming. But we have to go with our first offensive line a lot because we can't get a good look (for our quarterbacks) if we don't put them with the first line. So the first group got a lot today. It was a lot of ones against ones.
"Peyton Hillis runs hard and is starting to get a better feel for what we are doing with the blocking. We moved him around (at tailback, fullback and H-back). He's picking it up.
"I was pleased with Robert Johnson. He threw into one double coverage and dropped a snap, but a lot of other things right. He made some nice throws. Alex (Mortensen) was out there when the defense hit us with a new wrinkle, but he did a couple of good things. We didn't get Alex enough protection. We just need to keep getting better at quarterback. It's hard to judge who is ahead and who isn't."
Here are quotes from defensive coordinator Reggie Herring:
"We competed. We have mistakes to correct, but we have improved. We are not halfway to where we will be, but we are not getting worse. I saw good signs.
"We'll judge the film to see who wears pinks (Monday). We practiced well yesterday so we took the pinks off today. I didn't see too much head ducking or flinching. We got some knock backs today. It was a step forward.
"We got more people around the quarterback today. We didn't get him down enough, but we got our hands on him. Don't get carried away with that though. We still got a lot of guys just learning the system and feeling their way along with what they are doing.
"We'll see if we have anyone wearing pink on Monday. Our loafs went way down this week. We were at 140 the first day, then went to 88 and then 85 the third day. Then, on Friday, it went to 22.
"Friday evening was a good day. They came out in the pavilion and practiced a lot harder. That was the first day they practiced like a real Division I team. I don't know what came over them. I told them after the practice that they played fast with a twitch. We had a long team period with some middle drill and we were a buzz saw most of the day yesterday. I don't know if it was as good today. We'll grade the film from this and look for pinks. We will hold you accountable in our system."
Asked if the defense ran its entire system Saturday, Herring indicated that they did use his "fire zone" system to a large degree and indicated they have "about 75 percent" of the package they'll use in the fall.
"We've got a tool box in and we'll work with that," Herring said. "We just have to get good with it. It's a flexible package. We don't have a lot, but we will run it and try to get good with it, like Coach Nutt with his offense.
"Our fire zone package is designed to apply safe pressure. We never had an all-out blitz today. We always had a safety in the middle of the field and sometimes we had two safeties. We will never play a defense that leaves the middle of the field open. Every blitz and stunt is designed to have a middle safety.
"Our fire zones are designed to disrupt the run and the pass. What we are doing isn't being done much around college football. The people who have come from the NFL are doing it some, like (Nick) Saban at LSU and Pete Carroll at USC. People think you are in man, but it's zone. We matchup three on-three, but it's zone. We aren't tight enough with it yet. We want to be tight where it looks like man and then make the offense figure it out and execute."
Here are comments from QB coach Roy Wittke:
"It was another day of gathering information and another day of accumlating reps. The best part of the day was that we exposed the quarterbacks to a lot of difficult situations. We had some silly mistakes and some foolish mistakes that led to unforced errors by all of our quarterbacks. We have to eliminate those. The day provided us with a valuable film and a learning tool.
"The most pleasing thing was that we didn't have any of the quarterbacks with their heads down after a play or kicking the ground in frustration. We kept our focus and turned our attention to the next play. That is the type of attitude we must have.
"There were a lot of positives. We made some good throws. We did some nice thing at the line as far as the snap count. We have a long ways to go, but I see some positive signs.
"We didn't have all of our system in place. We have about one third of it now and we were in some situations that we didn't have what we needed. We were limited. We have not put in any of our third-down passing system yet. So there were some situations as far as down and distance that were not equipped to handle. We had to run our first and second down plays. That's okay. We'll get to that next week. With young quarterbacks, we are going to take our time.
"Cole Barthel made a couple of nice throws. No question about it, he did some good things. That should help his confidence. Bottom line, we are about production. Anytime you have some success, it creates some momentum.
"But like the other QBs, he got himself in some situations where he has to do better, like the one where he did a nice job of getting the defense to jump offsides, but he didn't handle it. There was no whistle. He can't just stand there.
"We got a good look of some blitzes and pressure from Coach Herring's system. That is what is great about this spring. We are getting a great look. We've seen most of that all week. It's great for our young (QBs) to see that. I really believe our QBs have made good progress this week.
"In pass skeleton to start the week, we were awful early. As the week has progressed, we've been a lot better. We threw the football well this morning (in pass skeleton) before the scrimmage. We are getting better. And, then to get tested like we did in the scrimmage is very good. Playing against his defense each day is going to tax us and test us. It will help the development of these quarterbacks."
Peyton Hillis (22) tries to turn the corner against De'Nerian Wrighter (48).
Anthony Brown (83) hauls in a TD pass.
The defense looks for the signals from the sideline.
Reggie Herring gives his defense the next call.
Peyton Hillis powers for yardage.
Robert Johnson (18) had this pass knocked down just as it left his hands by Desmond Sims.
Desmond Sims (23) hits Alex Mortensen just as he released the ball on this incomplete pass.
Photos by Clay Henry
Scrimmage Notes and Quotes
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
TCU vs Iowa State primerAfter falling in double-overtime to Arkansas, TCU looks to get back to their winning ways against Iowa State.
Horned Frog Insider09/15/2016
The Ultimate Midlands TeamThere is a lot of talent in the Midlands region, with a vast majority of the highest rated recruits playing high school football in the Lone Star State. Which prospects made the…
These rival helmet color swaps are revoltingSwapping rival teams' helmet colors? It shouldn't have been done, but someone did it anyway.
Post-July 2017 Top 100 Player RankingsWith the July evaluation periods, Nike Skills Academy, adidas Nations and Under Armour's Elite 24 over, Scout's basketball recruiting team has updated the 2017 top 100. DeAndre…
2017 South Region Top 150The stars are lined up in the 2017 South Top 150 and you can see the full pre-season list here...