Like It Is:

Countdown for Auburn officially underway

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, August 17, 2014
Arkansas freshman receiver Jojo Robinson catches a ball during practice Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas freshman receiver Jojo Robinson catches a ball during practice Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- On a warm, humid and overcast afternoon, the sun shined fairly brightly on the Arkansas Razorbacks as they held their first scrimmage that was open to fans.

Don't take that the wrong way. These 2014 Razorbacks have a ways to go, but in a week's time they showed some improvement. Still, they have work to do with the season opener against Auburn just 13 days away.

It may not have been a practice that made Coach Bret Bielema want to giggle like a schoolgirl, but it was definitely one that started and ended strong.

And don't think Auburn isn't heavily on Bielema's mind.

Before practice started, he explained to fans, who filled about a third of the west stands, what the team was going to do Saturday and closed by telling them that if they saw anyone wearing something with Auburn on it, knock the you-know-what out of them.

So it probably wasn't a coincidence that exactly two weeks before the game with the Tigers, the Razorbacks scrimmaged at 3 p.m., the same time as kickoff for that game.

Or that loud music was piped in to help the players get mentally ready for their first road trip throw-down. About the only thing missing was Auburn's pregame ritual of the War Eagle soaring over the stadium and finally landing on a handler's arm on the field.

It was a day for Brandon Allen to further separate himself from the other quarterbacks, and he did. Maybe it wasn't a scrimmage designed to build his confidence, but with almost each snap he seemed to grow more sure of himself, and his last two drives in game situations ended in the end zone, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Sprinkle.

Tight end has never been a concern for the Razorbacks, and slowly but surely freshmen Jojo Robinson, Jared Cornelius and Kendrick Edwards are giving them depth at wide receiver. There were considerably fewer drops in Saturday's scrimmage than the previous week.

Korliss Marshall capped the day with a 57-yard touchdown run.

Basically, the Hogs' offensive line gave Allen time to run the offense, which was varied but focused again on a little more passing than they are likely to do in games. Then again, fans didn't go to watch grinding football.

There appears to be improvement on the defense, which broke up several passes. A few times it just took great focus and outfighting a defender for the ball to make a catch, something Sprinkle did on the sixth play when he and Allen hooked up for a 54-yard completion.

The defensive ends are playing as expected, and there is more depth at defensive tackle. The linebackers aren't being asked to do anything outside their abilities.

So overall the defensive scheme seems to fit the personnel better than it did a year ago.

What little specialty team work that was done looked good, and Marshall and Cornelius had impressive kickoff returns.

There isn't a heavy emphasis on true freshmen, but there is no doubt some are going to have an impact on this team.

After two weeks of practice, the Razorbacks look better than expected, but then, everyone's attitude is right. A year ago, the veterans didn't know Bielema and he didn't know them.

Now he's established himself as a disciplinarian who is a player's coach. For him, it is all about the players and the team.

They are improved with 13 days left before they travel to the plains for a game against the defending SEC champions, but there is still work to be done and everyone on the field Saturday knew it.

Sports on 08/17/2014