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.
UA move simulates conditions
Arkansas receiver Damon Mitchell returns a punt during practice on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas moved its practice operation for Auburn indoors Thursday to simulate the steamy conditions and intense crowd noise the Razorbacks anticipate for their season opener next Saturday.
"We went indoors today to simulate the crowd noise and a little bit more heat in there," linebacker Brooks Ellis said. "We didn't have the fans on. That kind of simulated the heat that Auburn is going to have over there. I think we'll be ready for it."
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And to simulate the Tigers' hurry-up offense, operated by quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson, the Razorbacks have turned to receiver Damon "Duwop" Mitchell, a converted quarterback.
"Duwop gives a great look," defensive end JaMichael Winston said. "He doesn't take it easy. He's a very fast guy himself. He can kind of simulate Nick Marshall pretty good."
Mitchell, a 6-2, 212-pound redshirt freshman, was a highly regarded dual-threat quarterback coming out of Egg Harbor City, N.J., in 2012.
"He's doing a great job," Ellis said. "He's really fast. He's a good leader as a former quarterback, and he makes quick moves. He's very quick and that's what Nick Marshall is. He gives us a good look."
The hurry-up approach makes it harder for a defense to line up correctly and be disciplined on every snap and it can take a physical toll on defenders.
"It's impressive," Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith said. "They play with great tempo.
"You know Coach [Bret Bielema] has done a great job keeping our guys in conditioning shape this camp. We'll be ready to go when the time comes."
Said safety Rohan Gaines, "We're just focusing on getting lined up and paying attention to our details, because we know they're going to try to hurry up and get us out of our groove."
Linebacker TQ Coleman said the Auburn plan is to knock defenses off their mental tracks.
"They run a play like every 10 to 12 seconds," Coleman said. "So, doing that is to get you tired and you're not thinking. Just be disciplined and do your job and they're an easily beatable team."
Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn has said Marshall will not start the game because of his citation for marijuana possession in July, which will probably put Johnson behind center to open the game.
Marshall, the preseason All-SEC quarterback choice by league coaches released Thursday, rushed for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns and passed for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdowns last season while leading Auburn to the SEC championship and BCS title game.
Five Arkansas players were voted to the coaches' preseason All-SEC teams released Thursday, led by first-team defensive end Trey Flowers.
Running Alex Collins and punter Sam Irwin-Hill were voted to the second team, while running back Jonathan Williams and tight end Hunter Henry made the third team.
Linebacker Brooks Ellis said he aggravated an old high school knee injury before the team's second scrimmage and added he expects to be fit for the opener.
"It's not nearly as bad as high school and not nearly the amount of recovery time as high school," said Ellis, who added he went through the entire practice Thursday. "I'm getting better and feeling good right now. It's just a little sore after practice and that's about it. I'm feeling good."
Up or down?
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said he wants to be calling plays from the field during games, but hasn't firmed that up with Coach Bret Bielema.
"I'm an on-the-field guy, but that's all contingent on what Coach Bielema wants," Smith said. "So we'll play things out and see how things look this week in practice. We'll probably finalize that decision sometime next week."
Not first visit
Arkansas' season opener at Auburn won't be offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's first visit to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Chaney was Cal State-Fullerton's offensive coordinator in 1990 when the Tigers opened at Auburn.
"I don't remember the score," Chaney said.
No. 3 Auburn beat the Titans 38-17.
Receiver Demetrius Wilson hasn't suffered any setbacks in fall camp after missing last season with a knee injury.
"We've been smart with it and given him a couple of nights where we don't put too much pounding on the knee," receivers coach Michael Smith said. "He's been great through camp."
Whatever it takes
Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was asked if he's confident the Razorbacks will be able to open up their passing game more this season.
"I feel like if the game plan predicates us running it 55 times to win, we want to be able to do that," Chaney said. "If we have to throw it that many times to win, we want to be able to do that. Hopefully, we're just more proficient at everything we do."
Quarterback Brandon Allen said he's been impressed by the progress made by freshman receiver Jojo Robinson, who arrived on campus late in the summer and was slowed early in camp by a hamstring injury.
"It's tough for any freshman, especially if they come later, to get in there and learn it quickly," Allen said. "At the start of camp, he was a little lost, but he's picked it up very quickly. He's a bright guy. He's really learning the nuances of his position right now."
Sports on 08/22/2014