Bobby Petrino didn't like the play of his defensive line in Arkansas' 28-24 victory over Western Illinois. That was the major development Monday when he met with the media for what will be a weekly visit.
The Arkansas head coach said he anticipated his defensive front playing better after watching them develop over the spring and in preseason camp. However, he said their gap control was not sufficient and their technique was below expectations.
"We were not happy with the defensive line," he said. "We were not as productive as we expected. We were cut far too much. We didn't read the blocking scheme. We didn't play with our pads square. We caused our linebackers and safeties to lose too much ground. I was not happy. I thought we would play a lot better than that in the defensive front. We will work on that this week."
The defensive line is among the most experienced area of the team. Antwain Robinson, Adrian Davis, Ernest Mitchell and Malcolm Sheppard -- the starters up front on defense -- all own multiple letters at the UA. Conversely, the starters elsewhere on the defense at linebacker, safety and cornerback were all new and some of them were true freshmen.
Asked about overall expectations and his thoughts of his team from camp, he said he learned that his opinion of his defensive front was too high. He also said special teams did not live up to his expectations. He said there will be a big emphasis on special teams this week as the Hogs prepare for a trip to Little Rock to face Louisiana-Monroe.
"We learned our special teams were not good enough," he said. "We always take pride on the first couple of series. We script it and we expect to go down the field and we didn't."
Petrino also thinks the running game will improve with the return of Michael Smith to the tailback rotation after missing the opener due to a suspension. Smith will start against ULM.
"(Smith's) experience will help and he has quickness through the hole," said Petrino, who noted he isn't sure what kind of load to put on the veteran running back just yet.
"He had a tendency to get nicked up in the spring. So we don't know about his (durability). We'll have to figure out that as we go."
Senior quarterback Casey Dick didn't want to point the finger at freshmen running backs De'Anthony Curtis and Dennis Johnson over their performance Saturday, but he said there will be more balance in the running game with Smith back.
"He'll help us," Dick said. "He knows a lot. He was helping the freshmen on the sidelines in the game. He was wanting to be out there. He's going to help.
"We've got to run the ball better and have more balance."
Tight end D. J. Williams had the same take.
"We will run it better and we have to," Williams said. "We have to do that to keep teams from just dropping into pass protection. Michael Smith will help us there. You could tell he hated not being out there. He wanted to dress out when we were in the locker room."
Defensive end Adrian Davis said his group learned they did not use their hands enough.
"We were giving (the offensive line) a shoulder and not getting our hands on them," Davis said. "We have to get off the ball and use our hands first. We have to be more disciplined and play full speed."
Concerning this week's game with ULM, Davis said they need to get off to a better start.
"If they watch film of us, they are going to think they can beat us," Davis said. "We have to get after them at the start. We don't want to give up 157 yards rushing. We have to elminate that."
Petrino said one of the many positives was the play of quarterback Casey Dick against WIU. However, he said Dick can improve.
"We did have some receivers running Scot free at times, maybe four or five times," Petrino said. "I'm not saying Casey wasn't looking deep. He will go deep. There were times when the protection might have dictated something else. But we will see the film and improve."
Dick said he can improve in how he calls protections, too.
"One of the sacks, I didn't say it loud enough, the protection," he said. "I'm not saying I didn't say it. But if they didn't hear me, then it wasn't loud enough and I have to do better."
Dick ran for two touchdowns, his first of his career. Teammates are jokingly calling him Casey Vick, in comparison to the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback who was known for his running.
"That's about right, too," Williams said. "We were a little surprised by his running."
Dick said he didn't make anyone miss on his 23-yard TD scamper. He credited blocks by Lucas Miller and London Crawford for the long play. And, on the 4-yard TD run for the winning play, he said it was just a matter of reading the block of the pulling guard."
Petrino said it's just a matter of Dick taking what the defense gives. The winning TD play came off the list of scripted two-point plays, Dick said.
The Hogs escaped the game with few injuries, but Petrino said it's not clear on Crawford's availability for the ULM game this week. Crawford had a slight concussion in the game.
"London was feeling better today," Petrino said. "I saw him and he was smiling and moving around much better. That doesn't mean he'll be ready or cleared. We've had some (concussions) this fall and sometimes it's several days and maybe a week before they are back. We'll have to see on that."
That brings concern on what to do at the X receiver spot where the backup to Crawford is true freshman Greg Childs.
"We don't want to put too much on Greg," Petrino said. "He played really well, but we need to be careful not to add too much too soon."
Defensive Line Must Improve
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