Andrew Hutchinson is a multimedia reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas.
Defensive Depth Chart Still Fluid
Arkansas defensive backs coach Clay Jennings walks past his players during practice Thursday, March 20, 2014, at the UA practice field in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE After five practices this spring, Arkansas' defensive depth chart is still not set in stone.
Thursday's practice was used to focus mainly on third down situations and the Razorbacks' defense introduced a nickel package.
The fifth defensive back was a new look this spring and defensive coordinator Robb Smith said that it would be an option for the Razorbacks when they play a pass-heavy team this season.
"We like to mix it up," Smith said. "I think if we can do some things to dictate the offense by what we do personnel-wise, hopefully it'll give us a little bit of an advantage."
Smith said that Arkansas would use a few different cornerbacks and safeties during the spring and fall before choosing which ones to use in the package.
Despite the addition of the new package, linebackers coach Randy Shannon said the practice went better than he and the coaches thought it would.
The team struggled in early sessions of the practice, allowing several wide receivers to get open, but it improved in later sessions.
"At the beginning of practice, they were learning," Shannon said. "We went back and had another third down situation and it was crisp and sharp."
While the nickel is an option, the Razorbacks have not settled on a specific base defense or starting 11 players.
The coaches hope to know more about that after Saturday's scrimmage, which will give them an opportunity to see the players in live action in front of a crowd for the first time.
"We're ready for it," defensive line coach Rory Segrest said. "You can put them in all the different situations, but until they actually get out there in a game environment, [that's when] you can really get a good evaluation."
The scrimmage will help in the evaluation process, but Segrest said that process will continue until Arkansas' first game Aug. 30 against Auburn.
The only thing for certain is that the Razorbacks will play their best 11 players, regardless of the defensive formation or package, Smith said.
Saturday's scrimmage is open to the public and is scheduled to begin at approximately 11:45 a.m. Fans may enter Donald W. Reynolds Stadium through the southwest entrance at 11 a.m. It will be the Razorbacks sixth practice this spring.