Razorbacks Report:

Bielema: No mercy for weak

By: Bob Holt , Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Arkansas defenders swarm Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
Photo by Rick McFarland
Arkansas defenders swarm Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema stressed he wants his players reacting to any physical weaknesses they see from opponents during games.

Bielema said that when he was a defensive coordinator, he talked to his players about being like a boxer who goes after a cut bleeding over the other guy's eye.

If an opposing player looks to be favoring something physically, Bielema said the Razorbacks need to exploit that to their advantage.

"If he's holding his knee or he's holding his wrist, or he's bent over, he's holding his leg or he's working his ankle out, go after that baby," Bielema said Monday at his weekly news conference. "When I was a wrestler and you've got a brace on, I'm going after your ass, you know?

"That's the mentality I think that we have to establish."

No sign of Big Foot

Zach Hocker hit five field goals beyond 50 yards for Arkansas the past four years, but don't expect many long-range attempts this season, unless it's a desperation situation.

Coaches appear to have established 42 yards as the maximum distance for new placekicker John Henson.

"It's obviously 7 yards from the hold and 10 yards from the end zone, so we had kind of put that mark at the 25-yard line," Coach Bret Bielema said when asked why the Razorbacks punted from Auburn's 34 and 35 rather than attempt field goals of 51 or 52 yards.

Henson hit field goals of 25 and 17 yards against LSU in 2012, his only career field-goal attempts. He was 3 of 3 on extra point attempts against Auburn.

Young guys

Arkansas has to get quality snaps for its newcomers against Nicholls State, Bret Bielema said, whether it's freshmen or transfers getting more playing time than they did at Auburn or playing for the first time.

Freshman safety Josh Liddell "is going to get every opportunity to play on the back end," Bielema said.

Bielema also wants more plays for cornerback Henre Toliver, linebackers Josh Williams, Randy Ramsey and Dwayne Eugene, nose guard Bijhon Jackson, offensive linemen Sebastian Tretola and Cameron Jefferson and receiver Jared Cornelius. He said newcomers who should play for the first time this week include center Frank Ragnow, receivers Jojo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards and linebacker Khalia Hackett.

Bielema said he's not sure whether offensive tackle Brian Wallace will play. Arkansas may still hope to redshirt him.

Midnight madness

Under NCAA rules, football coaches were allowed to begin contacting recruits at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Coach Bret Bielema said Arkansas set it up where recruits received messages through social media as soon as it was permissible and that he was "blown away by the number of notifications" he had on his cell phone when he left his office about 1 a.m. Monday.

"I'm figuring I'm going to get some mom yelling at me -- 'What are you doing tweeting my kid at 1:15?' " Bielema said. " But there was a little bit of response."

Bielema said that when he woke up at 5 a .m., he had messages some recruits had sent about 3:15 a.m.

"They really appreciated that we were the only ones that reached out to them," Bielema said. "There's a long time between now and signing day, but the response there was a cool."

Allen in control

The progress quarterback Brandon Allen has made in his second season as a starter was obvious at Auburn, Coach Bret Bielema said.

"There were very few teaching moments for B.A.," Bielema said. "He was in control. He was competitive. He had the demeanor. He had an explanation for everything that was going around, where I think a year ago some of the times he'd give you an answer that was what you wanted to hear instead of what you needed to hear.

"I think communication wise, he was aware of a few things that as coaches it's going to be priceless moving forward. Brandon Allen is going to be a very, very good QB. He is a good quarterback already."

Kirkland, Skipper update

Sophomore offensive linemen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper may have played the best games of their careers at Auburn, Coach Bret Bielema said, after both started the final eight games last season.

Kirkland is again starting at right guard while Skipper has moved from left guard to left tackle.

"Denver Kirkland played extremely well," Bielema said. "That kid has really elevated his game from a year ago.

"We kind of challenged him and he rose above the challenge."

Skipper drew a blocking below the knee penalty on an Auburn interception return that was declined. He's gotten in some physical confrontations in other games and also has mixed it up with teammates in practice at times.

"The things that we've got to calm him down about is all the other stuff around, because he's going to become a marked man, not only with players, but with refs, too," Bielema said.

Tough deal

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said he felt badly for Keon Hatcher when he dropped a pass that would have gone for a big gain in the first half at Auburn.

"Because I know how hard Keon wanted to make that play and how hard he's worked to make sure he does do things," Chaney said. "You have just a hollow spot in your heart for a kid when things go bad for him.

"But then I'm calling the next second-and-10 [play], so I go from feeling bad for him to feeling bad for myself. So we flipped that over pretty quickly."

Later in the game, Hatcher caught a short pass, broke a tackle and turned it into a 17-yard gain.

"Keon had a big drop, but it's more about how you react to it than what happens," Coach Bret Bielema said. "He reacted very, very well."

Good job

Freshman receiver Jared Cornelius wasn't among the 10 Razorbacks who caught a pass against Auburn, but he draw praise from offensive coordinator Jim Chaney for his blocking and route running.

Chaney brought up Cornelius after being asked about another player.

"I thought Jared Cornelius -- for his first game out there -- did some nice stuff," Chaney said. "i know it wouldn't reflect in a lot of the statistics, but I thought he did a good job."

Defensive firsts

• Nose guard Taiwan Johnson posted his first career sack, a 5-yard loss against Auburn's Nick Marshall early in the fourth quarter.

• Linebacker TQ Coleman forced his first fumble, a strip of Auburn receiver Duke Williams that trickled out of bounds on the final drive of the first half.

Offensive firsts

AJ Derby's first career catch was a 17-yard touchdown reception that pulled Arkansas within 21-14 in the second quarter.

• True freshman Jared Cornelius recovered his first fumble, and it kept alive Arkansas' game-tying touchdown drive midway through the second quarter when he pounced on a ball lost by Korliss Marshall at the Arkansas 18.

Sports on 09/02/2014