Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Ragnow pushing for a job
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema talks with center Frank Ragnow during a practice on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Mitch Smothers is hanging on to the starting center spot in camp, but Frank Ragnow is pushing hard for the job, offensive line coach Sam Pittman said after Monday's practice.
Smothers, a redshirt junior from Springdale, closed spring practice as the starting center. Ragnow, a true freshman from Chanhassen, Minn., played tackle in high school.
"Mitch played better than Frank," Pittman said in reviewing Saturday's scrimmage. "But Frank, in a week's time, improved more than I could have imagined.
"If he has another jump this week like he did last week then we've got us a real battle there. But right now Mitch is the one, and I expect Mitch to hold him off and I expect Frank to beat him out. However that works out is however it works out."
Pittman said Ragnow, who took a few first-team snaps Saturday, is for sure the No. 2 center and would play in a game if Smothers is injured rather than having senior Luke Charpentier move from left guard to center.
Jojo jumps out
Freshman Jojo Robinson's moves after catching a 23-yard pass from Rafe Peavey in the scrimmage were still a big topic in camp Monday.
"I told you guys he was good with the ball in his hands," receivers coach Michael Smith said. "It's my job to get him in the right place and to get him to be able to make those situations occur. He did that this weekend and did some nice things for us."
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is high on Robinson's talent level and realistic about where the rookie is in his development.
"Jojo is a typical freshmen," Chaney said. "He'll flash and you'll see that physical ability and why we recruited him, and then the next play he might go the wrong way. So with Jojo, it's that skill set that you like and you just have to find a way to figure out how you're going to get him the ball and how you're going to use him."
Offensive line coach Sam Pittman said Luke Charpentier, who is working at left guard, is having the best fall he's ever had.
Charpentier has improved his leverage in double-team blocks, is pulling better and is stronger in his pass protection, Pittman said.
As well as Charpentier has played, Pittman said he's getting "major competition" from Cameron Jefferson, a fifth-year senior who transferred from UNLV and has immediate eligibility.
"Luke's had the best fall that he could have at this point," Pittman said, "but he's getting pushed."
Forecasters in Northwest Arkansas are predicting the hottest week of summer this week.
The reaction from Arkansas' coaches? It's about time.
"We need it, and I mean we do," tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. said. "We've really been blessed with nice weather in camp, and if we were playing Cal our first game, where it's going to be 70 degrees off the bay, it'd be great.
"We all know what it's going to be like at 3 o'clock in the afternoon at Auburn. It's going to be hot, and whatever degrees it is you can add about 20 onto it. I think we welcome the heat because we need it."
Coach Bret Bielema said he had hoped to get backup quarterback Austin Allen a few more reps with the starters in Saturday's scrimmage, but Allen took just one snap when he handed the ball to Korliss Marshall, who ended the scrimmage with a 57-yard touchdown run.
"That's a scoring drive for me, so I don't mind that at all," Allen said. "He's a freak of an athlete. You give him one little hole and he can go the distance any time."
Tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. was appreciative of Bret Bielema for allowing the assistant coaches to drive their children to school Monday, the first day of public schools in Arkansas.
"Coach basically restructured our meeting time," Lunney said. "We met late last night instead of early this morning.
"It's one of the things about working with him. He always stresses to us that family is first, whether it's been getting stitches or one being sick or a school day. If you go into him and tell him, he's always been really, really understanding of that."
Offensive assistant coaches said tailback Jonathan Williams, tight end AJ Derby and fullback Kody Walker added a little more to their workloads Monday after sitting out of Saturday's scrimmage.
Coaches weren't specific about whether the players returning from injury did contact work or team-period practice in the full-pads workout.
Asked if Williams got in the mix Monday, running backs coach Joel Thomas replied "a little bit." Tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. said Derby "ran around a little bit."
Tretola standing out
Sebastian Tretola, a transfer from Western Iowa Community College, worked at first-team right guard in the scrimmage because returning starter Denver Kirkland sat out with a head injury.
"It was nice getting out there rolling with the ones," Tretola said, "just getting the reps with those guys, double-teams and stuff."
Sam Pittman said Tretola had a good scrimmage and played well in Monday's practice, when he again filled in for Kirkland at right guard and worked at left guard.
Pittman said Kirkland isn't ready to return to practice.
"He will be," Pittman said. "We just need to watch him."
Safety Rohan Gaines had an interception and cornerback Jared Collins added a pair of pass break-ups during team periods in the closed practice Monday, according to the UA practice report.
Quarterback Brandon Allen completed 6 of 9 passes while leading the first offense on a touchdown drive during its two-minute drill. Allen polished off the drive with a 10-yard scramble for a touchdown.
Rafe Peavey threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Kendrick Edwards with three seconds left on the clock on a two-minute drive for the reserves.
Sports on 08/19/2014