Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A two-time graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Starters look good in open scrimmage
Arkansas sophomore tight end Jeremy Sprinkle makes a catch during practice Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas' first-team offense and first-team defense dominated an open scrimmage Saturday playing against the team's backups.
In a practice split between situational drills (specific downs and distances, red zone, goal-line and 2-minute) and a short scrimmage, the Razorbacks' projected starters played well. The first offense scored in all three of its scrimmage possessions and the second offense scored once in three drives.
Brandon Allen capped a pair of scoring drives with touchdown passes of 27 and 11 yards to Jeremy Sprinkle and Cody Hollister. Korliss Marshall ended the scrimmage with a 57-yard touchdown run.
Allen and Marshall were the offensive stars Saturday. Allen completed 3 of 5 passes for 49 yards and 2 touchdowns during the scrimmage after going 16-for-23 for 161 yards and a touchdown in situational work.
Marshall rushed 4 times for 87 yards during the scrimmage portion. The running back had 4 carries for 15 yards and a touchdown, and also caught 2 passes for 12 yards and a score during situational drills.
Alex Collins rushed 5 times for 46 yards during the scrimmage portion. Collins, who bulked up to 218 pounds during the off-season, broke several tackles.
Running back Jonathan Williams was held out of the practice. Williams suffered a hamstring injury last weekend but isn't expected to miss any playing time once the regular season begins in two weeks at Auburn.
Defensively, the Razorbacks' first unit stifled the second-team offense for much of the practice. Quarterback Austin Allen struggled against the defense's pressure during both the scrimmage and situational portions of practice.
Austin Allen was 0-for-2 during the scrimmage. Both of his drives with the second-team offense resulted in three-and-outs. He was the first-team quarterback when Marshall scored on the 57-yard run, capping a one-play drive.
In situational work, Austin Allen completed 9 of 18 passes for 89 yards. He threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Antwine during a goal-line drill.
The Razorbacks' starting defense was especially good against the run, despite playing without defensive end Deatrich Wise and linebacker Brooks Ellis, who both sat out with knee injuries. The second-team offense had 16 called run plays go for 17 yards.
Playing with the first-team because of Wise's injury, redshirt freshman defensive end Tevin Beanum was disruptive, recording 2.5 called sacks. Quarterbacks wore green, no-contact jerseys. Linebacker Martrell Spaight also had a called sack and a big collision with running back Denzel Evans.
Other notable defensive plays included a pass break-up by safety Alan Turner in the end zone and a pass break-up by cornerback Jared Collins near the sideline.
Three newcomers worked with Arkansas' first-team offensive line during parts of the practice. Frank Ragnow replaced Mitch Smothers at center during the scrimmage portion and Brian Wallace Jr. worked at right tackle on the final two drives in place of Brey Cook.
Sebastian Tretola played the entire practice with the first offense at right guard. Projected starter Denver Kirkland didn't practice after experiencing concussion-like symptoms from a collision in Thursday's practice.
Arkansas' first and second offense failed to score during a simulated 2-minute drill in which crowd noise was piped in through speakers. Brandon Allen converted a third-and-1 with a 5-yard pass to JoJo Robinson, but the drive stalled after the offense gained 36 yards and John Henson missed a 47-yard field goal.
Arkansas' first defense blitzed Austin Allen on consecutive plays during his 2-minute drill. The backup quarterback threw incompletions on third-and-10 and fourth-and-10.
Rafe Peavey saw limited work during the situational drills but did lead the second offense on a scoring drive in the scrimmage. Peavey converted a third-and-11 with a 20-yard scramble. On the next play he threw a short pass to Robinson, who made several tacklers miss and dove into the end zone on a 23-yard touchdown reception.
Robinson caught 3 passes during the scrimmage for 53 yards, including a nice 25-yard reception over the middle from Austin Allen.
Brandon Allen connected with the tight end Sprinkle for the practice's longest pass play - 53 yards during situational work. Sprinkle caught 3 passes in all for 91 yards and a touchdown.
An estimated crowd of about 4,000 people watched the practice. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, speaking into a microphone, thanked the crowd for attending before the practice began and asked fans not to record any of the practice. He added, "Especially if they're an Auburn fan, in which you can knock the (expletive) out of them."
-Cornerback Tevin Mitchel did not dress out for the practice. Mitchel has been cleared after an off-season shoulder surgery, but has yet to return to full contact.
-Kickers John Henson and Cole Hedlund each missed one field goal Saturday. Henson's miss was wide left from 47 yards away. Hedlund had a 30-yard kick bounce off the left upright. It appears Henson would be the team's starting place-kicker and kickoff man if the season began today.
-Free safety Joshua Liddell dropped a pair of would-be interceptions. Liddell jumped both passes by Austin Allen, but couldn't catch either one.
-Middle linebacker Josh Williams ran exclusively with the first-team defense while Brooks Ellis was out with an injury.
-Bijhon Jackson had a tackle for loss on a third-and-2 while working with the first-team defense.
-Luke Charpentier continued to work with the first-team offense at left guard ahead of senior transfer Cameron Jefferson.
-Carroll Washington worked as the first-team nickel back in nickel packages. Will Hines played the boundary cornerback position in nickel packages.
-Bret Bielema said Austin Allen has solidified his position as the second-team quarterback ahead of Rafe Peavey.
NOTABLE OFFENSIVE STATS
Brandon Allen 19-for-28, 210 yards, 3 TDs
Austin Allen 9-for-20, 49 yards, 1 TD
Alex Collins 9 carries, 61 yards
Korliss Marshall 8 carries, 102 yards, 2 TDs
Keon Hatcher 4 rec., 32 yards
Jeremy Sprinkle 3 rec., 91 yards, 1 TD
JoJo Robinson 3 rec., 53 yards, 1 TD
Damon Mitchell 3 rec., 28 yards
Alex Collins 3 rec., 18 yards
Cody Hollister 2 rec., 26 yards, 1 TD
Drew Morgan 2 rec., 15 yards
Korliss Marshall 2 rec., 12 yards, 1 TD
Anthony Antwine 2 rec., 12 yards, 1 TD
Hunter Henry 1 rec., 12 yards