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.
Razorbacks football report:
Bielema: Flare-ups good sign
NWA MEDIA/SAMANTHA BAKER University of Arkansas wide receiver D'Arthur Cowan, left, fights off cornerback Will Hines during practice drills Saturday, April 13, 2013, at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville
FAYETTEVILLE - Bret Bielema didn’t mind seeing a couple of rowdy confrontations during Arkansas’ first practice in full pads Thursday.
The run-ins, one featuring tight end Hunter Henry and safety T.Q. Coleman tangling briefly with a few extra players entering the mix, never escalated into blows.
“I’m just glad they’re getting feisty, to be honest,” Bielema said before relating a story about watching tape from last spring, at offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s suggestion, that didn’t show enough passion. “First practice in pads last year, as much as I thought it was great at the time, I look back on it and there wasn’t … a competitive nature.”
Bielema said he remembered a muted reaction after the defense scored a touchdown on a turnover last spring.
“It was like lifeless, like nobody was doing anything,” he said. “I went berserk.
I’m like, ‘You’ve got to play the game with emotion and celebrate.’
“A lot of the defensive players said, hey, they didn’t know how to because in practice there wasn’t a lot of defensive celebration allowed [under the previous coaching staff]. So we took a while to kind of get that going again. … To see a little feistiness, I think, was pretty good.”
New defensive coordinator Robb Smith saw freshman cornerback Chris Murphy’s coverage bust, and he went sprinting down the field to encourage Murphy to finish the play after Demetrius Wilson caught a deep pass from AJ Derby on Thursday.
“Coach Smith brings a lot of energy,” linebacker Braylon Mitchell said. “Every practice, every meeting, he’s riled up and he’s starting the meeting out loud and clapping and running around.
“Today we got a chance to see his 40-yard dash. He was moving.”Line games
Grady Ollison started the first five games at right tackle last season before being slowed by an ankle injury, and Brey Cook took over for the final seven games.
Now there could be a way for both players to be starters, with Ollison moving inside to right guard and Cook remaining at tackle.
“We moved Grady from tackle to guard just to give him a chance to own that position,” Coach Bret Bielema said. “He’s really done some good things. He’s adjusting to it well. He’s got a size and a frame and he bends well.”
Line coach Sam Pittman has put Dan Skipper at left tackle, Denver Kirkland at left guard and Luke Charpentier at center along with Cook and Ollison this spring.
Receiver Keon Hatcher playfully shouted at safety TQ Coleman after a play during the skeleton portion of Thursday’s practice, accusing Coleman of knowing and reacting to the play.
Coleman shouted back that he didn’t know the play.
“A lot of energy, guys running around and talking a little trash to each other,” defensive backs coach Clay Jennings said when asked about his impressions of the first day in pads. “I think for the most part those guys aren’t afraid to taste their own blood, so we’re pretty excited about that.”
Redshirt freshman De’Andre Coley, who got some first-team work at strong safety with Alan Turner in class Tuesday and Thursday, sounded proud when talking about his new physique and his weight gain up to 198 pounds.
“I feel good,” Coley said.
“When I go home to the beach in Miami, I just feel like taking my shirt off all the time.”
Coley said he’d like to be up to 205 pounds next fall.
Coach Bret Bielema promised the Razorbacks’ early enrollees who graduated high school early that he would allow them to return him for proms, graduations and the like, and he’s already delivered.
Cornerback Chris Murphy, a signee from Marietta, Ga., missed the Razorbacks’ opening practice of spring to go home for his prom.
Sports, Pages 30 on 03/23/2014