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 spring football report:
Gibson in good graces
Arkansas offensive lineman Johnny Gibson (62) runs Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, during practice at the university's practice field in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Less than two weeks after Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema suggested offensive lineman Johnny Gibson would not get work with the starting offense during the spring, the redshirt junior ran with the first team in Saturday's 138-play scrimmage.
Gibson, who started the final five games of 2016 at right guard, was demoted for the start of spring practice. Bielema said Gibson, a 344-pounder from Dumas who was put on scholarship before the Belk Bowl, needed to show more maturity.
"He's done everything we've asked of him," Bielema said. "I was very upset with him, sat him down. We had a good conversation. He's done well in the classroom. He's very conscientious. He's been practicing his tail off, on and off the field."
Bielema told Gibson after the first week of spring practice that if he did well on and off the field, he'd have a chance to get back with the starters.
"Because I do love to build continuity," Bielema said. "I think he's learned his lesson, and hopefully it's a positive step."
Lead tailback Rawleigh Williams suffered what looked like a mild ankle injury on his 17th and final carry of Saturday's University of Arkansas, Fayetteville scrimmage. Williams hobbled slightly while making his way off the field but appeared to be OK a few minutes later.
First-team nose guard Austin Capps stayed down after the fifth snap in the scrimmage, but he just had the wind knocked out of him and returned later.
Tight end Austin Cantrell took a shot to the knee late in the scrimmage, which Coach Bret Bielema called a "bang," that will undergo further evaluation.
Linebacker Alexy Jean-Baptiste suffered a broken foot in the April 8 scrimmage and underwent surgery Monday, Bielema said. He estimated a four-month recovery for Jean-Baptiste and described the foot injury as similar to ones suffered by Jonathan Williams and Cody Hollister during the 2015 season.
Receiver Jared Cornelius (hamstring), defensive back Korey Hernandez (hamstring) and linebacker Giovanni LaFrance (high ankle sprain) were held out of the scrimmage.
Junior Josh Harris joined sophomore De'Jon Harris as the two inside linebackers for the first-team defense Saturday, with Dwayne Eugene moving to second-team outside linebacker behind Randy Ramsey.
The starting safeties were De'Andre Coley and Santos Ramirez. Last year's starting free safety Josh Liddell is doing cross training on the strong side and at nickel back, Coach Bret Bielema said.
Reid Miller also paired with Ramirez on the first unit for a while, as Coley bounced back and forth with the top two defenses.
Bielema liked the production he got from walk-ons Josh Harris and Grant Morgan.
"Him and Grant Morgan are both kind of unsung heroes," he said. "They're both maybe a little undersized, but they have great heart and great football IQ, and they have tremendous hustle."
Bielema said Josh Harris had a knee strain in Tuesday's practice and missed some of Thursday's practice.
"We didn't know if he was going to go today, and of course he sucks it up and goes," he said.
Bret Bielema was complimentary of offensive coordinator Dan Enos, particularly in evaluating talent and incorporating the top playmakers into schemes.
"Dan's a shooting star," Bielema said. "He's a guy that's an extremely talented offensive coordinator. Every year he's here I think he does a better job of inventory of what guys do well or don't do well. We know our fleas. We stay away from the things that cause us problems.
"As a coordinator, one of the biggest things you've got to accomplish in the spring is find out who that next wave of talent is. Who are the guys we can do special things with? So the development of C.J. O'Grady, guys like T.J. Hammonds, getting guys like Brandon Martin more in the mix. It's fun to see him utilize those guys and bring them to full use."
The addition of a 10th assistant football coach, which needs to clear one more procedural hurdle, appears to be on tap for January.
"It's got to clear another vote at the end of the month," Bret Bielema said. "And then the way it's worded, it's not really going to have an effect on this season, so it will be implemented in January."
Bielema has indicated he's likely to bring aboard a coach with the designation of special teams coordinator.
Blake Johnson, the team's No. 1 punter this spring, missed the scrimmage for disciplinary reasons.
"Blake unfortunately rolled his ankle in some activities away from football that I'm not very happy about," Bret Bielema said. "So I removed him from the program for a little bit. Let him go home this weekend and celebrate Easter weekend by himself in his apartment."
Asked whether Johnson is suspended, Bielema said: "He's in timeout. He's in extreme timeout."
Bielema said when a player becomes a starter, as the redshirt sophomore Johnson did in replacing Toby Baker, he has an additional responsibility to the team.
"If we had to punt in a live game situation today, he wouldn't have because of things that weren't involved here," Bielema said. "I don't need everybody to stay in their house and watch movies every night, but I definitely don't need him to have anything taken away from the game when he's not here.
"He'll come around. He'll be all right."
Connor Limpert was the No. 1 punter in Johnson's absence.
Last year, quarterback Austin Allen was listed as the backup punter for one game, which Bielema explained the next Monday.
"Blake had been a little inconsistent for me," he said. "There was a day when we were practicing on our practice field and he punted it on Razorback Road. That's not a good thing."
Cornerback Britto Tutt, a junior college transfer who missed last season with a knee injury suffered in August, scrimmaged for the first time Saturday . He had six tackles.
"We just felt like last week he wasn't quite there yet," Bret Bielema said. "I kept asking him every day this week, 'How are you feeling? How are you feeling?'
"And he wanted to go, so it was good to see him pull the trigger. He's got great length in his arms and legs and is a pretty intelligent kid. He's a guy that we're excited to get in the mix."
Coach Bret Bielema said Tuesday's practice, workout No. 10 of the spring, will be the final helmets only day for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas will not have a scrimmage next Saturday, Bielema added, but will have a heavy workday on the practice field.
• The kickers went 8 for 8 on field goals for the second Saturday in a row. Cole Hedlund went 4 for 4, making kicks from 28, 33, 38 and 45 yards, while Connor Limpert and Jon Fagg combined to go 4 for 4.
• Center Frank Ragnow was held out of the scrimmage, as expected, for the second consecutive week.
Sports on 04/16/2017
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