Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Open scrimmages raise interest among fans
Arkansas center Luke Charpentier runs drills during Thursday afternoon's practice in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - After five closed spring practices the Arkansas public finally gets the chance to see its public flagship university’s football team in a public scrimmage today.
Gates open at 11:15 a.m. at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, with the scrimmage projected to begin at 11:45 a.m.
Open practices once were typical throughout most of the country. They became increasingly closed as increasingly higher-paid coaches became increasingly controlling. Their reasons for control understandably were compounded by cell phones. Some fans on social networks tend to post most everything said and done at practices.
Nevertheless, the Razorbacks need today’s public exposure. Coming off a 3-9 season that included 0 for 8 in the SEC, following a 4-8 season in 2012 that included a 2-6 SEC record, the UA shouldn’t be nearly so concerned about keeping practices closed in the spring as fretting it could be conducting closed games in the fall.
Holding open Saturday scrimmages through the April 26 Red-White game, which concludes spring drills, would appear to be essential in stoking fan interest.
Promotions people may be unwilling to admit it, but fans watching today’s scrimmage straining to see hope and relating it to the folks back home are the bedrock promoters for a statewide entity like the Razorbacks generating interest through the spring and summer.
A PALE IMITATION
New Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith, a former member of the Tampa Bay Bucs staff, said his skin tone proved that his spring break paled to those seizing the chance for fun in the sun.
Before the UA recessed last week for its annual spring break, Smith said he would devote the week to watching film of the players he inherited.
“How do you like my tan?” Smith asked media after Thursday’s practice. “I look worse now than I did before.”
Smith said his spring break schedule didn’t make him look any better to his wife, either, although that had nothing to do with the lack of a suntan.
“My wife will be mad at me for saying this,” Smith said. “My family moved here at that point in time, so it was great to be able to get into the office and watch film when all those boxes were getting unloaded.”
Smith added a couple of sentences that should have eased his way back into the house.
“It was great to get them in town,” Smith said. “But at this stage of the game, every bit that I think I can do to get up to speed with everything, the better.”
Smith said he will be looking today for players who aren’t only up to speed with what the Razorbacks are doing but also playing with speed.
“I am very pleased, but I am really looking forward to Saturday,” Smith said. “When you get a chance to watch a scrimmage, that’s really, really where you get the chance to see the development of what a guy has learned in practice.”
Sports, Pages 22 on 04/05/2014