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.
UA back working into fold
Arkansas running back Alex Collins runs drills during practice Saturday morning at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas sophomore tailback Alex Collins said Tuesday he’s continuing to work on regaining the trust of his teammates and the Razorbacks coaches after his week-long suspension during the winter.
“I feel like I just have to keep grinding on and off the field and just keep proving myself, and that’s what I’ve been doing,” Collins said in his first media appearance of the spring in the interview room of the Fred Smith Center. “I think I’ve gained that trust back with my teammates and the coaching staff.”
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said Saturday that Collins has responded in a positive fashion since his winter suspension, which was one of nine handed down by the coaching staff.
“I think the thing about him is he’s had so much success in life, when he had a bump in the road he had a tendency to try to do things his own way,” Bielema said.
“He had to learn how to do the things the way we are here.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with where he’s at. He had to grow a lot. He had to earn respect from some of his teammates. He’s doing that bit by bit now.”
Collins’ appearance Tuesday was brief, less than three minutes, and he did not address the Internet chatter during spring break that suggested he was unhappy at Arkansas. His presence for interviews seemed to indicate the coaching staff is satisfied with his progress.
Collins said he’s put on 15 pounds since last year and is up to around 220 pounds.
“I still feel good,” he said. “I still feel like I’m not slowed up. I feel I can make my cut moves, and it feels great when I’m out on the field.”
It appeared redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Allen is making strides to tighten the gap between he and second-teamer AJ Derby.
“I think that Austin is making progress with every practice,” Coach Bret Bielema said. “He’s a kid that flourishes in a game-like situation. He’s got a nice arm.
“AJ has experience on him, but that gap is beginning to tighten.”
Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said tailback Korliss Marshall and receiver Eric Hawkins were back at practice Tuesday on a limited basis. Both players wore green (no contact) jerseys.
Coach Bret Bielema mentioned Saturday that Marshall was undergoing further testing for an issue that kept him out of last Thursday’s practice and Saturday’s scrimmage.
“I don’t know all the medical stuff, I just saw him out there,” Chaney said. “He wasn’t out there full going with everybody, but he was on the field moving around, so that was good.”
Hawkins was held out of the scrimmage to recover from a concussion.
“I sure like those two kids,” Chaney said. “I hope they can get back soon.”
With senior Demetrius Wilson being held out while recovering from last fall’s knee surgery, sophomore Eric Hawkins out with a concussion and D’Arthur Cowan focusing on his academics, the receiving corps was running a little thin for the scrimmage work.
“I’m not complaining,” said sophomore Drew Morgan, who led the Razorbacks with five catches for 109 yards in Saturday’s scrimmate. “The more reps I get, the happier I am.”
Freshman Jared Cornelius, one of the Razorbacks’ four early enrollees, caught four passes for 60 yards and received all the reps he wanted.
“I was tired, but I love that,” Cornelius said. “Being the go-to guy or a guy they can count on is something that I’m looking forward to.”
Safety DeAndre Coley made ripples as a scout teamer during his redshirt freshman season last year, and he generated a buzz at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday when his loud collision with running back Connor McPherson caused a fumble that squirted about 15 yards down field.
“Ever since he’s come here, he’s a striker,” Coach Bret Bielema said. “A little bit of Miami comes out in him. He’s a survivor. He knows the best thing he can do is bring a lot of punch to the table.”
Adding dimensions to the snap count repertoire cost the Razorbacks a series of false start penalties in last Saturday’s work.
Multiple linemen, tight ends and receivers all had moments of movement that moved the offense back 5 yards.
“We had two procedures which, Coach [Bielema] says it best, it strains your mental toughness,” tight ends coach Barry Lunney said. “We got tired late in the scrimmage and we jumped.”
Coach Bret Bielema praised the wide receiver corps for not only a long list of good catches in last Saturday’s scrimmage, but for receivers coach Michael Smith’s group knowing the playbook well.
“Michael has done a really nice job,” Bielema said. “The kids seemed to be in tune.
When we break the huddle, we didn’t have guys running to the right and should have been to the left and a bunch of other jargon.”
The Razorbacks will surpass the halfway point of spring drills with their eighth workout Thursday.
No word yet on whether Saturday’s second scrimmage of the spring will be open to fans.
Sports, Pages 21 on 04/09/2014