Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson has gone against the best in football. He has seen offenses built by everyone in the NFL. That would include at least one preseason game against Washington when the Redskins were coached by Steve Spurrier.
"I don't remember a lot about that game since it was preseason, but I know we played," Robinson said. "What I can tell you is that I have a lot of respect for Coach Spurrier. I got juiced on Sunday knowing that's who we were going against."
But Robinson hopes his players are not looking to the South Carolina sideline.
"I don't expect they will," Robinson said after practice Wednesday. "I think they will be focused on the players they are going against and not the coaches."
Spurrier is probably more focused with the personnel matchups than the schemes, but he did offer that he knows what to expect from Spurrier.
"I can tell you that we know that they will adjust very quickly to what we do," Robinson said. "I can tell you that we see that every week, though. I thought the coaches (from Tulsa) were great at what they were doing and how they handled some new things we did in the game. It took them just a couple of plays to adjust.
"We know (South Carolina) will be the same way. You can do something new and they will see it on the first or second time and make the proper adjustments. Then, it just comes down to playing football. The coaches in this area and this league are very, very good. They make great adjustments."
It's the players that make it tough. Robinson praised the South Carolina personnel, especially the two tight ends, Jared Cook and Weslye Saunders.
"They look like a couple of power forwards, 6-5 or 6-6 and about 260 or 270," Robinson said. "They do a great job with both of them. They are great, great athletes. And, they attack you with them, just like our coaches do our tight end, D. J. Williams. It's very much the same thing.
"They see how you are going to play them, and they adjust to that and are able to do things off of that. The problem is they are just fine players. I'm very impressed with both of them. They are very good with their hands in the passing game and they are good blockers, too."
Those tight ends will be testing a battered group of Arkansas tight ends. Bobby Petrino announced on the weekly SEC teleconference on Wednesday that Adrian Davis, perhaps the best of the UA defensive ends, is "definitely out" this week with a knee injury. Jake Bequette and Antwain Robinson were the top two defensive ends at practice this week. Damario Ambrose is also hobbled this week with a leg injury.
The backups this week could be converted linebacker Ryan Powers and walk-on Chris Berezansky. True freshman Lavunce Askew has gotten work with the tackles and the ends this week.
"You are going to have some oowees this time of year," Robinson said. "Matt Harris wasn't able to practice much last week with a boo-boo on his knee, but he got mental reps and he played. We've been working some other people at end this week because of some injuries. We will get them ready.
"You've got players on the scout team that move up during the season. They have to be ready for their chance. Take Berezansky for example, he didn't get any reps with the varsity until last week, but when he was called upon, he was ready and he played really well. We've had others do that this year. Shedrick Johnson had been with the scout team. When it was his time, he stepped up. That's the way it is all around the conference. You have to have players step up.
"We've played eight straight weeks, counting this game. You aren't going to be full speed at this point in the season. We tell them that the last time they are full speed without any bumps or injuries is on media day before the first day of practice. That's when they are going to feel the best. After that, everyone has something."
Asked about players who have improved as the season's progressed, Robinson had praise for several.
"I think the kid that has really stepped up is [Zach] Stadther," Robinson said. "I think that he is doing a great job for us inside. The thing about him is that he is awfully humble and he comes out every day and tries to get better and I think that is a quality that he will keep just because of the way he was raised.
"Tramain Thomas stepped in last week at the safety position when we got people hurt and I thought did a great job for us and made a key stop on a fourth down situation. They are all playing a roll and unfortunately the guys that we are losing are some of the freshmen that we started with that were real keys for us that brought some enthusiasm and toughness. So it is unfortunate that we lost those guys and yet we have other young kids that are stepping up and playing for us; guys that were backups and scout team guys in the beginning of the year. Shedrick Johnson is stepping up, [Ramon] Broadway; the way that he is playing is unbelievable."
The Hogs may get a little more this week out of cornerback Jamar Love. The senior captain played a few snaps despite a big foam cast on a thumb repaired by surgery about one month ago.
"I'm doing fine," Love said. "It's feeling better. It's back to just preparing for another SEC team. That's what this week is about. You know you are playing another good team. Our coaches are getting us ready."
Asked about playing against a Spurrier-coached offense, Love said, "We know the coach. We've played them before. It's about playing another game. That's how you approach it. You study what they do. You prepare with practice and film study. They have a very good offense."
Wednesday Grid Update, 11/5
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