Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Razorbacks football report:
Wrinkles added on pass rush
Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith directs his players as linebacker Alex Brignoni listens during practice Thursday, March 20, 2014, at the UA practice field in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas worked extensively on third downs during Thursday’s full-pad workout in Walker Pavilion, and on passing downs the Razorbacks did some interesting things with personnel.
On some plays safety Alan Turner came well down into the box, joining middle linebacker Brooks Ellis on the interior, as linebacker Braylon Mitchell slid out to the edge, sometimes rushing with his hand on the ground.
Meanwhile, the defensive ends would sometimes move inside on obvious passing downs, much like the Razorbacks did last season.
“We like to mix it up,” defensive coordinator Robb Smith said. “If we can do some things to try to dictate some things to offenses by what we do personnel-wise, hopefully it’ll give us a little bit of an advantage.”
Defensive line coach Rory Segrest said putting ends, like Trey Flowers, Brandon Lewis, Deatrich Wise and JaMichael Winston, on the inside was about match ups.
“A lot of times the guards are bigger guys that don’t move quite as well and we’re trying to get our speed guys inside,” he said. “It’s typical of what I did when we were up at Philadelphia, and we’ll see how it looks on Saturday.”
Lewis said he likes going against bigger linemen.
“I like to use my speed on them,” he said.
Turner said he’s called the “Dollar” in the formations where he’s taking snaps like a linebacker.
“There’s a lot of different looks we can give the offense to try to confuse them so we can make some plays,” Turner said. “It’s really a disguise where I can use my speed to drop back into coverage.”
The personnel often included five other defensive backs with Turner: Tevin Mitchel and Jared Collins at the corners, Carroll Washington as the nickel back and safeties Rohan Gaines and Davyon McKinney, who was getting work with the ones.
Smith said the defensive depth chart continues to be “very fluid.”
Offense struck back after a team period opened with a DeMarcus Hodge “sack” on a short Brandon Allen pass attempt to running back Kody Walker.
Jonathan Williams took a hand off behind tackle Dan Skipper, charged through a gap and would have gone for a long gain.
Later in the scrimmage, the offense got tailback Alex Collins matched up against end Karl Roesler on a wheel route and it was no contest, as Collins caught a throw from Allen and raced to the end zone.
Roesler had broken up a pass at the line of scrimmage on the previous play.
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith called out “Deny the man the ball” before several snaps.
“You know, when you get locked up in man coverage at times, your No. 1 job is to not let your man catch it,” Smith said. “If you can keep pounding that home and get it accomplished, I think we’ll all be happy.”Big days
Tight ends Jeremy Sprinkle and Hunter Henry caught a lot of passes Thursday and did not have drops.
The day’s best hands probably belonged to freshman Jared Cornelius, who had two notable catches. Cornelius went high over his head with both hands to haul in a pass from Damon Mitchell, and later made a tough catch on a ball thrown by Brandon Allen.
Cody Hollister also adjusted in midroute, turned and brought in a pass while falling.
Linebacker Braylon Mitchell’s snaps as an edge rusher were on the rise.
“Braylon did a little bit of it last year as far as rushing the passer, doing certain things,” linebackers coach Randy Shannon said. “We’re just trying to make sure we get the best players on the football field in certain situations, and he’s a guy that we felt like can help us in third-down situations, rushing the passer and things like that.”
Cornerback Will Hines broke cleanly to charge up and deflect a slant pass intended for Kendrick Payne.
Linebacker Brooks Ellis read a screen pass while going against the first offense and broke up a Brandon Allen throw intended for Jonathan Williams.
Cornerback Carroll Washington nearly intercepted an under thrown deep pass, but receiver Drew Morgan came back into the play and caused an incomplete pass.
Corner Jared Collins slapped away a slant route from Brandon Allen targeted for Demetrius Wilson, and corner Tevin Mitchel broke up a pass in skeleton work.
As the Razorbacks were hustling between drills early in practice, Coach Bret Bielema whistled a few bars from the theme song to a 1960s television show. The show: The Andy Griffith Show.
The Razorbacks will conduct a scrimmage Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, and it will be open to the public.
Gate 1 on the southwest corner of the stadium will open at 11 a.m. The scrimmage is expected to start around 11:45.
Defensive end Deatrich Wise beat an offensive lineman on a pass play and got in the backfield, but he fell on his back as he twisted past the line and landed right behind Austin Allen, making contact with the quarterback. Allen fell across Wise, but no one was injured.
Sports, Pages 21 on 04/04/2014