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.
Offense exhibits 'high efficiency'
Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney watches during a practice on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' mid-camp scrimmage Saturday was billed as a vanilla affair, with nothing fancy on the call sheets because it was open to the public.
Vanilla Special was more like it, based on the way the first offensive unit executed against the backups on defense.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Monday he was pleased with a lot of things.
"No penalties, no pre-snap stuff," Chaney said, "and I was happy when I walked off the field because I thought we got something good out of it. It was fun to have everybody there."
Tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. said playing "clean" was a big emphasis and the no-turnover, few-mistakes workout fit the bill.
"We did what we probably should do against the two unit on defense," Lunney said. "We executed well, ran the ball well, made some catches. We felt pretty positive coming out of it."
The offensive starters, guided by quarterback Brandon Allen, scored on both their open-scrimmage drives covering 75 and 49 yards. They also scored on three of four snaps inside the 10, only failing on Allen's overthrow of tight end Jeremy Sprinkle from the 9, and were very efficient on the ground.
Chaney said the running game "won" 15 of its 17 plays, meaning the Hogs converted a third down or achieved a desired amount of yardage.
"That's high efficiency, and we were really pleased," he said. "We were explosive and we ran the ball well."
The coaching staff rested some players who are solidly in the plans, like tailback Jonathan Williams, tight end AJ Derby, linebacker Brooks Ellis and cornerback Tevin Mitchel. They also gave limited duty to other veterans, such as defensive end Trey Flowers, tight end Hunter Henry and right tackle Brey Cook, to allow reserves much-needed work.
Receivers Keon Hatcher and Drew Morgan were active in the first half of the scrimmage, combining for six catches for 53 yards, but were limited in the second half.
"We didn't want to go beat them up as we're getting close to starting our Auburn prep," receivers coach Michael Smith said. "Just kind of took something off them a little bit. We know where we are with those guys, so it was an opportunity to give those young guys some reps and keep the scrimmage pretty clean."
Tight end Jeremy Sprinkle had a big day with three catches for 91 yards. His performance included a 53-yard catch over safety De'Andre Coley on the final play of the first six-play sequence for Allen and the starters, and a 27-yard touchdown to cap a eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
"That's a play we've been working on since last year," Sprinkle said. "I just run a corner route and then just run up the sideline. He made a good throw, and I just made the catch."
Tailbacks Korliss Marshall and Alex Collins averaged 9.7 yards on 17 carries and combined for 3 rushing touchdowns while running mostly with the first unit.
Marshall, who turned 20 Saturday, scored on a 7-yard run and a 4-yard pass during red zone work, then went 57 yards for a touchdown on the final snap of the 107-play scrimmage.
"It's no different than what you guys saw in the spring game," running backs coach Joel Thomas said. "We ran the same play, and he busted it up the middle and went for about 60. He has that gear that's just a little different than the rest of the guys on the field."
Collins, who is playing 12 pounds heavier at 218, powered for extra yardage on snap after snap during his nine carries for 63 yards, particularly in the two open-scrimmage segments.
"I think what he showed on Saturday is his ability to finish a run off behind his pads," Thomas said.
Brandon Allen completed 19 of 28 passes for 218 yards and 3 touchdowns for an efficiency rating of 168.6 that was substantially higher than the 109.0 number he earned in 11 games last season, which put Allen No. 99 out of 104 FBS rated.
A quarterback's efficiency rating is a statistic that factors in yards per pass with the frequency of touchdowns and interceptions.
"I thought B.A. was pretty solid throughout the day," Chaney said. "We had a couple of little blunders of the plays that he ran that I would like to take back, as he would, but we keep working through those plays.
"We played pretty physically tough, and I thought that when the 1s go against the 2s like that you should walk out of there statistically feeling like you were able to do what you like to do."
Sports on 08/19/2014