Tuesday Grid Update, 4-13

Willy Robinson thinks his University of Arkansas defense is getting to the play quick enough, but has to step up, execute and finish off the play better than it did in Friday's scrimmage and Tuesday's practice.

University of Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson has never been what you would call a chipper guy, but seemed even more gruff than usual on Tuesday.

After a 180-plus play Friday scrimmage that he was not totally pleased with and a slow pace in Tuesday's practice, he met with the media with a frown.

"It is still not at the pace we want and the response that we want when we come back with that type of rest period," Robinson said of having three days off. "It is not a matter of anything they have done in that down time. I think it is more of the fact that is they are not quite ready for it. Their response on Tuesdays when we practice is probably more on us not getting our kids ready to play. You hate to have it come where you are begging them to get ready to practice. You would like to be past that now."

Was this Tuesday better than the last?

"It is hard to tell, but it didn't feel like it," Robinson said. "It just didn't feel like it. The things we did tempo wise were decent. It's just that we didn't execute as well."

Much like Friday when Robinson said his defense was getting in position to make plays, but didn't finish.

"For the 180-plus plays, it was pretty decent, but we had a lot of missed tackles where we have got to improve," Robinson said. "I thought we were running to the ball. We thought we were running to the ball real well. We didn't execute and we didn't tackle. You know once you get there, you have got to tackle. It is a lot more than just running full speed."

Just because the Arkansas secondary isn't getting beat deep as much hasn't soothed Robinson's worries.

"The big plays still concern us even though they are not as obvious because they are not the deep outside throws," Robinson said. "Those pursuit angles and the breakdowns on some of the other plays that happen on inside."

Robinson lauded defensive end Damario Ambrose, free safety Anthony Leon, cornerback Rudell Crim and linebacker Bret Harris as being the best of their particular units in the scrimmage.

"Ambrose did a nice job up front," Robinson said. "I thought his preparation throughout the week was kind of what helped him to have the performance that he had on Friday. He worked hard on Tuesday and of all the guys, he worked the hardest and on Wednesday he did the same thing. I felt like he was going to have a great scrimmage and he did have a really good scrimmage for us.

"Juice (Leon) started fast and you saw that big body make a lot of tackles, he was very productive," Robinson said. "But he is still not where he needs to be in a full-time scrimmage as an every down player.

"Crim – I thought he had a solid practice," Robinson said. "Linebacker-wise, I thought Bret Harris had a very productive scrimmage."

The defense was getting in some extra running after practice on Tuesday.

"That has a lot to do with grades from our scrimmage," Robinson said. "Those are what we consider loaf situations, not running to the ball full speed. It is more based on how we grade each play. If they get caught for a loaf, then they get a loaf and we have things that go on. We don't just want to talk about it, we want to make sure they get the message and we see if we can get a response out of them."

Arkansas is shuffling its secondary a little bit with redshirt freshman Ross Rasner getting a shot at strong safety and Tramain Thomas moving to free from strong.

Leon was working at first-team free safety while Elton Ford is also in the mix.

"He (Rasner) is fast," Robinson said. "He has got really good speed. The thing that he has done is kind of earned it. We like the speed he exhibits, but he still has some growth to do as far as his tackling and doing it on a consistent basis.

"Ross has probably led our team in a category he doesn't want to lead our team in," Robinson said. "It wasn't from lack of effort. It is just a matter of finishing plays. He has grown quite a bit. I think his confidence isn't where it quite needs to be yet so he is kind of feeling his way. But if he is doing anything he is making a mistake full speed."

Injured corners Isaac Madison and David Gordon were able to get some action in non-contact situations on Tuesday and would add to the numbers in the fall.

"Those guys are going to add great depth," Robinson said. "It will just be a matter of where the competition falls into place once we get them back. Who is going to be that guy on the right side? Who is going to be that guy on the left side? With those two kids returning and being healthy would add great additions to those guys."

Darius Winston is one of those corners that has showed signs of improvement this spring.

"I think Darius has had a really good camp," Robinson said. "We feel like he can cover and do those things, but he still has to be positive at times. He is uncertain. What motion sometimes is kind of like the deer in the headlights. Whoa. How do I respond? How do I adjust? Darius has got to get over that.

"As far as making plays, he had one of the big hits in the scrimmage, which is a great sign of growth and he has just got to be a great tackler," Robinson added. "He obviously has really, really good top end (speed)."

There is some flux at linebacker.

"We are working a lot of different faces in there at linebacker with the exception of Freddy Burton and Jerico Nelson," Robinson said. "Bret has responded very well in there. He had a very good scrimmage the other day."

It is middle linebacker where a hole must be taken care of per Robinson.

"We are trying to find that Mike," Robinson said. "Jermaine (Love) is hanging in there and he is competing and stuff. He is not flawless on his responsibilities just yet – be it his tiredness or we might be calling too much. He can get lost sometimes."

Sophomores Austin Moss and Terrell Williams are pushing Love.

"Austin Moss had a decent scrimmage the other day and behind him is T-Will," Robinson said. "He has got to get himself back into the mix. When you look at those guys in person, they are great looking kids along with Matt Marshall. We have just got to get more out of them. They are not quite as productive as we would like."

Junior linebacker Jerry Franklin was in the doghouse early, fought his way out of it and now is battling injury.

"Jerry got back earlier in the week," Robinson said. "He responded throughout what was asked of him to do in positive way. We rewarded him for that and then he goes and gets tweaked up a little bit and he has got to go and get through that."

One area that Robinson does believe is going to be a strength is the defensive line.

"We are a lot deeper up front than we have been," Robinson said. "We are going to be much deeper at the d-line position even without the freshmen."

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