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.
Schiano takes in practice
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, pictured in this Dec. 29, 2013 file photo, was on-hand for Arkansas' practice Tuesday. Schiano will speak at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club today. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
FAYETTEVILLE -- Former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, who is now with the NFL Network, spent time with the Razorbacks staff Tuesday in advance of his speaking engagement today with the NWA Touchdown Club.
First-year Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith describes Schiano as one of his mentors after being hired onto his staff at Rutgers in 2009 and with the Buccaneers last season.
"He's a football junkie," Smith said. "It's great to have him around us a little bit, and just to get an extra set of eyes on things is always good."
Schiano is scheduled to speak at the season-opening meeting of the NWA Touchdown Club at 11:30 a.m. at Mermaids.
Schiano was one of several former head coaches around the Razorbacks in the past couple of days. Pat Jones, the former Oklahoma State coach, has visited with the staff and Joker Phillips, the former Kentucky coach, was at Tuesday's practice.
The Razorbacks have begun filtering in a little bit of practice work devoted to schemes they'll be using against Auburn in the Aug. 30 season opener.
"We're in the early stages of it," defensive coordinator Robb Smith said. "You know we're just defending things conceptually that we can see from them or from anyone else throughout the year, so we're starting. They're obviously different from our offense, so we've got to incorporate those concepts. I like where our guys are right now."
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema, speaking before his appearance at the Little Rock Touchdown on Tuesday, said the Razorbacks have suffered no serious injuries in camp.
Bielema said defensive end Mitchell Loewen, who is recovering from knee surgery, should be cleared for practice work a couple of weeks after the season-opening game at Auburn.
Linebackers coach Randy Shannon said middle linebacker Brooks Ellis, who was held out of last Saturday's scrimmage with a flare-up of an old kneecap problem, was able to work some drills Tuesday.
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said cornerback Tevin Mitchel has been cleared for full contact but that he's been limited in camp so he'll be healthy for the opener at Auburn.
Arkansas players say linebacker Martrell Spaight has proven himself as a hard hitter and is taking it easier on his teammates in camp this year compared to last year when his hits hurt a few teammates, including tight end Austin Tate, and spawned the term "Spaighting."
Spaight broke free on a blitz last Saturday and would have been in position to lower the boom on quarterback Austin Allen if the quarterback had been "live" for hitting.
"It's been a lot of built-up aggression, the fact I can't really go out and unload on my teammates," Spaight said. "Trying to be smart and keep my teammates up."
Said fellow linebacker Braylon Mitchell: "I feel like he realizes we're going to need everybody on offense, so he's kind of taken it down a little bit."
Defensive line coach Rory Segrest said sophomore Taiwan Johnson is doing good work at the starting nose guard job he reached first team at early last week.
"He's a quick-twitch guy, pretty explosive," Segrest said. "He's been working his butt off and doing a nice job in there."
"I played the three-technique all spring and the beginning part of fall camp," Johnson said. "I'm used to being inside and the banging. So it's just playing a new position at tilt, that's it."
Tuesday's lone practice was held on the hottest day of fall camp, a 95-degree afternoon with the heat index pushing 100 degrees.
"It was a great simulation of what it's going to be like, weather wise," defensive coordinator Robb Smith said. "I thought the guys showed mental and physical toughness."
Cameron Jefferson and Sebastian Tretola used to be on opposite sides of the UNLV-Nevada rivalry. Now they are Razorback line mates and roommates.
"It's crazy how that happened," Tretola said. "I never expected to be rooming with a guy from UNLV."
Jefferson, a senior, played at UNLV the previous four seasons before transferring to Arkansas upon graduating. Tretola, a fourth-year junior, was at Nevada for two seasons and played at Iowa Western Community College last year.
"We had to put our Nevada-UNLV beef behind us as soon as we met each other, but it wasn't that tough," Tretola said. "Cam's a cool dude. We jibber and jabber back and forth a little bit here and there, but it's all in fun."
A new saying around the Arkansas defensive unit has been "Catch the ones they throw you," which has been shortened to CTOTTY.
Asked about freshman safety Josh Liddell's shot at grabbing two Austin Allen passes last week, coordinator Robb Smith pointed out the acronym.
"That's been a big deal for us this week," Smith said. "We're getting around balls. I like our aggressive attitude on the back end. Now we've got to finish some of those plays and they could be big things for us."
Senior safety Alan Turner said he thinks Liddell is going to develop quickly.
"Those were good breaks on the ball," Turner said. "Only thing he's got to do is just keep his eye on the ball and just catch it and it's pick-six from there.
"I feel like Liddell will be a big help for the team and also in the future he's going to be a real good player. For a young guy, I feel like he's picking up on the defense real fast."
Linebackers coach Randy Shannon was complimentary of the recent production from transfer linebacker Josh Williams, who is getting extra work in the middle with Brooks Ellis slowed by a knee issue, as well as freshman Khalia Hackett, whose reps are up as he takes snaps with the second team.
"The first two weeks, Khalia was in La-La land," Shannon said.
Freshman Brian Wallace got work at right offensive tackle in the second half of last Saturday's scrimmage in place of senior Brey Cook on the first unit.
Offensive line coach Sam Pittman said it was planned to hold Cook out, but he also wanted to see how Wallace handled himself with the first-teamers.
"It was good to get Brian out there with the ones," Pittman said. "He's very talented."
Sports on 08/20/2014