FOOTBALL: Change of Tune

The last time Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson spoke with the media, he spent roughly 10 minutes questioning his group's toughness, intensity and heart.

Five days later, Robinson's tone about Arkansas' defense had changed drastically.

"We took a big step ahead," Robinson said after the morning practice. "(Wednesday) it wasn't our voices I was hearing, it was the players' voices. A lot of that has to do with responsibility. ...

"It's not a one-down deal, it's an every-down deal. (Wednesday), everybody was doing that. So all of a sudden we starting seeing success."

The Razorbacks have battled inexperience and injuries that have kept key defensive players off the field during preseason practices. But Arkansas is working on its game plan for the opener against Western Illinois this week and Robinson said his group is finally starting to settle in.

The Razorbacks are still searching for 11 starters and some of the biggest position battles are taking place in the secondary.

In addition, two freshmen — Khiry Battle and Jelani Smith — continue to work in place of senior weakside linebacker Elston Forte, who is out with an undisclosed injury. When asked about Forte's status, Robinson said he was going to be back "later than sooner, but he's working and he's further ahead than what was expected."

Robinson said the Razorbacks weren't flawless during Wednesday's practice. In fact, he said they struggled midway through the workout. But it was much better than what he saw last week.

"What we've got to overcome, if when things don't start going right, is how do you respond to it?" Robinson said. "And that's what we did.

"We've been having too much negative, too much negative, and now what's happened is we've lost confidence. Nobody wants to pick it up and say, ‘Hey let's get it going. That's not like us.' (Wednesday) we had that."

Change at CB

Sophomore Ramon Broadway has moved up to the first-team defense in place of senior Jamar Love at cornerback this week.

It's a move that Robinson hopes will create competition for the starting job.

"I don't expect that thing to stay that way," he said. "If all of a sudden we make those position changes and we change our depth chart, you'd like to think the guy that moved from a one to a two is going to start to bristle up and compete and come back and be a one. It only makes us stronger in a competitive sense."

However, Robinson said Broadway has done plenty to deserve the promotion.

"He's a more consistent player, he's a physical player into the boundary," Robinson said. "Right now he's playing at a level that's more consistent and that's what we're looking for."

Good Feeling

Tight end D.J. Williams was asked how he would feel if he saw himself lined up against a linebacker in a one-on-one situation this season.

Williams' response wasn't much of a surprise.

"That's a good feeling," he said. "You can ask any of us, when we know that it's man, that's the defense we want to get. It's you, me, one-on-one. Who is going to be the better player? Who is going to come out on top? Coaches tell us that every day, so we pretty much like that scenario.

"I kind of like it seeing a linebacker lined up and knowing I'm going to win. Or that's what I'd like to think is going to happen."

Get in the Box

Robinson will be one member of Arkansas' staff that will be spend game day in the coaches' box.

It's not his favorite place to be, though.

"I don't like it at all," Robinson said. "But the thing is, I get to see the whole picture. I lose what's going on on the game field. I lose the fact that I don't understand where they are. I don't feel what's going on on the field and when they come to the bench, I don't feel it.

"So I've got to separate myself from the emotional part of it now. I've got to stay up there, calm down."

Quick Hits

• Running back Chip Gregory returned to practice after missing Tuesday's workout.

• Cornerback Jerell Norton (hernia) and running back De'Anthony Curtis (knee) were among the Razorbacks who continued to rehabilitate injuries.

• Former linebacker Tony Bua will be Arkansas' honorary captain for the season opener.

— Robbie Neiswanger and Alex Abrams

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