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.
Bielema sees play for raves and rants
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema works with his team before the start of a football scrimmage Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Newly converted tight end AJ Derby impressed with his hands and freshman wide receiver Jared Cornelius showed off his speed as Arkansas went through its final Saturday practice before its Red-White scrimmage next week.
The Razorbacks’ 12th practice of the spring, on a sun-splashed day with mild temperatures on the UA practice fields, featured 22 five-minute periods, including several team periods, with no live tackling.
“I wanted today’s practice to be like a good Tuesday of game week, just a nice, physical intense work day,” Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said. “I thought we got through three pretty intense scrimmages relatively unharmed and had tackled defensively really as good as since we’ve been here.”
Derby made a one-handed touchdown catch of about 30 yards down a seam on a throw from Austin Allen during a two-minute drill near the end of practice.
Derby’s scoring play was his third notable catch, another coming on a long gainer down the middle on which he fended off safety Alan Turner with his left hand and then dove to make the catch from Brandon Allen.
“I’m sure you guys probably saw it,” Bielema said. “The kid is talented. … I mean it’s amazing to me how well he catches the ball.
“That’s not an easy thing to run full speed in traffic and catch it.”
Cornelius raced past cornerback Carroll Washington down the right sideline, got a little separation as the ball descended and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Allen to cap a five-play drive during a team period.
Brandon Allen and the first-team offense did not score in two efforts in the late two-minute drills against the second defense, and one of the series ended on an interception by defensive back Kevin Richardson, a walk-on from Jacksonville, who brought it back for a long return.
Austin Allen’s touchdown pass capped one of his two-minute sequences, and the other ended on Chris Murphy’s interception and short return.
“It was definitely good to see Austin have some success in the two-minute part,” said Bielema, who is the only coach or player available for interviews on Saturdays during the spring.
“I know B.A. [Brandon Allen] didn’t have success in the two-minute segment there at the end, but during the course of practice, he threw some very good, accurate balls.”
Safety Rohan Gaines intercepted an Austin Allen pass during one-on-one work, a period that saw receiver Drew Morgan go down with a gash in his calf. Morgan was carted off, but got wrapped up and later returned to the workout.
Keon Hatcher had a big day with several catches, but he got in hot water with coaches after a false start penalty, which led to punishment push-ups.
Hatcher’s false start was one of several by the offensive units, including two in a row by the second-teamers at one point, by Grady Ollison and then the right side of the line.
After another 5-yard penalty on a false start later in the practice, Bielema blew up on the offense.
“I lost my mind a little bit today,” he said.
“We jumped a couple of times on second-down calls, and we were perfect on Saturday. We just can’t have that regression.”
The running game had only a few big-yardage plays and did not establish a good flow. The first-team front seven on defense got off plenty of blocks and stopped many plays at the line or behind it, such as Trey Flowers’ tackle for a 4-yard loss on a toss to Alex Collins and stops by Martrell Spaight and Washington behind the line.
Asked how far off the running game is from where he wants it to be, Bielema instead switched gears to talk about having three solid starters on the offensive line - Brey Cook, Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland - and two spots, at center and left guard, that are wide open for the taking.
The Razorbacks will have a practice open to media members Tuesday and a closed workout on Thursday in advance of Saturday’s Red-White game at 1 p.m.
Sports, Pages 23 on 04/20/2014