Friday Afternoon Grid Update, 8/15

Willy Robinson wants more from his defense. That means a youth movement is taking place in a hurry. Will that last?

Arkansas worked for two hours in shoulder pads and shorts in the afternoon, moving inside Walker Pavilion for the second time on the day, this time because of light showers and thunder in the area. Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson handled media duties afterwards. It didn't take long for the emotion to pour from the safeties coach.

"You guys probably caught me at the wrong time," he said. "Maybe I need a cooling off period before this because this is probably a little raw. My blood is boiling right now."

Robinson wants to see better overall defense in the scrimmage set for Saturday morning, closed to the media and the public. Defining it a little more, he said, "Fewer long runs, fewer long passes."

Robinson is concerned because the injury list has grown throughout the first 12 days of fall camp. He knows some are legit, but some he worries are not.

"We've got some guys who are out here with some pain, but some who probably think they are injured and they are not," he said. "If you are injured, you can't practice. I know that. But we have to have a little more toughness. A quality injury you have to respect and we have some of that."

And, he is looking for more leadership. Right now he knows it probably must come from the coaches.

"Right now, it's probably on me," he said. "You can vote captains and it may not necessarily mean you are the leader. I want to see effort. I want to see someone lead with effort."

There have been some good days, according to the defensive coordinator.

"We watch film and we see six or seven freshmen on the second team," he said. "We see some freshmen working with the first group. That leads to inconsistency. But there are flashes. Obviously, it's a learning experience for them.

"But we are getting the young ones a lot of reps. You just know you are going to lose consistency when you do that."

That doesn't mean he's giving up on some older players.

"Nothing is written in stone," he said. "We are looking at a lot of players right now and some of them (older) we'll come back to. The young ones are getting a chance, but that doesn't mean they are staying where they are. We are just getting them reps and finding out.

"We've looked hard at Elton Ford (at safety) and he's coming along. He's athletic and physical and we wanted to look at him. Some of the linebackers are hurt so we are seeing if some others can step up. Not anyone has really stood out just yet."

Khiry Battle is getting a look at weakside linebacker with Ryan Powers and Elston Forte injuried, Freddy Burton suspended. Battle is a true freshman moved from safety.

"His camp has been at Jack, then all of a sudden we moved him to weak linebacker," Robinson said of Battle. "He doesn't know the playbook, but he is willing to hit. We'll get him to understanding the Xs and Os. And, I'll keep it simple for him."

Robinson praised the play of Adrian Davis at defensive end.

"The guy who is making stides is Adrian," he said. "And, Damario Ambrose is coming along, too.

"We have some others who are inconsistent. For instance, Malcolm Sheppard is very quick and he's playing hard, but he's undersized there. He forgets his pad level and he gets shoved back to the linebackers. I caught him doing that today. He can't get knocked back like that.

"What we don't understand is that we have to win the line of scrimmage. We can't get knocked five yards back anywhere. We've got to control it there. It's a thought process for the whole bunch in that way."

Jerry Franklin has made progress this fall after some signal calling duties were relaxed.

"He was making the calls in the huddle last spring," Robinson said. "It kinda overwhelmed him. So we put that on someone else, Elston Forte or Jamar Love. Now, he's playing downhill. He's connected the dots and knows the only thing he has to do is play. He can still be a leader in the huddle and he's done that. Our linebacker coach, Reggie Johnson, has done a great job with him."

The good news is that when the defense has struggled its sometimes been because of solid play from a good offense.

"We are going against a great offense," he said. "It's a fine, fine offense. We've got all the packages. We've got a good run game, good play-action, good passing and a very good vertical game. It's a lot to handle. But we are going to get there.

"We are getting after them. We don't have the leadership on the field that we need, so that means us coaches -- and it's on me -- to give it to them."

It can be loud and strong, too.

"My job is to put my shoes right up their tracks," Robinson said. "I'm doing that and I'm doing it a lot. Right now, we don't have the maturity and toughness. But we'll get them there. Right now, we are weak in that area. I'm getting after them and I want them to bristle up."

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