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.
Williams gets praise in return
Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams goes through warmups prior to practice Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Rawleigh Williams bounced back from a tweaked ankle in Saturday's scrimmage to have a strong fourth week of spring, assistant coaches for the Arkansas Razorbacks said on Thursday.
"He hasn't missed a rep this week," running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said.
"He had a really good day today," offensive coordinator Dan Enos said. "He practiced full on Tuesday and then today, we went over two hours at practice and he looked good. He looked sharp."
Williams ran for 189 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown, in Arkansas' first scrimmage. He had 17 carries for 79 yards last Saturday, tweaking his ankle on a 1-yard carry on his final attempt.
Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said he had been pleased with the pace of installing a new defense, but not entirely satisfied.
"The two practices this week, both of them could have been better," Rhoads said. "When you add some wrinkles, you create some thinking and we probably created some thinking today. So the onus of that lowered expectation falls to my shoulders.
"Saturday will be better because we'll understand it better. Hopefully every practice from here on out will be positive growth."
Receivers coach Michael Smith is working this week with two of his top six or seven receivers sidelined. Senior Jared Cornelius (hamstring) and Jonathan Nance (knee) have gotten dinged up in the past week.
Cornelius, who did not scrimmage Saturday, is doing light jogging and working with the medical staff. He is questionable for the Red-White game April 29.
Nance, who had one catch for 4 yards last Saturday, suffered a bruised knee, Smith said.
"We're just letting that get taken care of and when he's ready to go we're going to put him back out there," Smith said.
Redshirt sophomore running back Juan Day, who had five carries for 35 yards Saturday, has been slowed this week.
"He got banged up a little bit this past weekend and he's been hobbling around practice," running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said. "He hasn't been at full speed. Hopefully we'll be able to get him back for the last week of spring, so we can see what he can do."
Michael Taylor is going to cross train as an outside linebacker and defensive end, much like Karl Roesler has done, and Taylor's doing the line work this week.
"That's what the spring is for, trying to figure out what guys can do," outside linebackers coach Chad Walker said. "Mike did a heck of a job for us at 'Hog.' Today he worked with the D-line. Don't know where we'll go in the future with him."
Walker said Roesler has been a good pickup for the outside linebacker room as the starter at the "Hog" position.
"I've been really pleased with what he's doing," Walker said. "He's been a great addition to the room. He's a bridge because he's been with the D-line and now he's with the outside linebackers. He's a real voice there."
Sophomore punter Blake Johnson has returned to practices this week after spending Saturday in what Bret Bielema termed "extreme timeout" after he twisted his ankle in a pursuit outside of football.
Through a team spokesman, Bielema said Johnson had an excellent day of punting on Thursday.
Sophomore T.J. Hammonds is making the transition from running back to receiver this spring.
"The thing with T.J. I've got to keep in mind is I've only had him for 10 or 11 practices now," receivers coach Michael Smith said. "It's big-boy ball. It's nothing like it was in high school. He has a lot to learn and we're throwing a lot at him. I've just got to be patient with him."
Hammonds had 3 receptions for 27 yards in last Saturday's scrimmage after having 1 catch for 11 yards with a couple of drops the previous week.
"My expectations for him are really, really high because I know what type of athlete he is and the type of football player that he can be and we want him to be," Smith said. "He's making progress. He's definitely not where we need him to be, but he'll get there."
Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads had surgery in January to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Rhoads, who is wearing a sleeve on the leg during practice, said he injured the knee during the season.
"It still hurts some," Rhoads said. "But hopefully by August I'll be running around like normal."
Senior Josh Liddell, the starting free safety last season, has been getting work at strong safety and nickel back the last couple of weeks as the coaches evaluate every player in the secondary.
"The good news is that we probably played truly six to eight DBs, and then Nate Dalton came in and did some good stuff," Bret Bielema said. "So there's a handful [of players] before we even get these freshmen coming in. And I think Korey Hernandez is in a position to help us. So I think we're probably a little bit deeper and better at that position."
4 to go
The Razorbacks have three more practices in advance of the annual Red-White game April 29 at noon at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The game will be the only chance for the public to see the Razorbacks during spring drills.
Bret Bielema said this Saturday's closed workout would not be a scrimmage but "it will be a grind-it-out practice."
Arkansas will play one conference game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium prior to its Nov. 18 game against Mississippi State, the week before Thanksgiving. That is largely because the Razorbacks are the "home" team this year in their Sept. 23 game against Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas. Arkansas finishes with back-to-back on-campus games against Mississippi State and Missouri.
Number of on-campus SEC games for other conference schools prior to Nov. 18: Florida 5, Alabama 4, Kentucky 4, South Carolina 4, Texas A&M 4, Auburn 3, Georgia 3, Ole Miss 3, Mississippi State 3, Missouri 3, Vanderbilt 3, LSU 2 and Tennessee 2.
Florida with five SEC home games before Nov. 18? That's correct. Because the potential for Hurricane Matthew postponed the Gators' home game against LSU last Oct. 8, and the re-scheduled game was played in Baton Rouge, La., on Nov. 19, the Gators play five SEC home games in 2017 and get LSU in Gainesville, Fla., in 2017 and 2018.
The Gators have conference home games against Tennessee (Sept. 16), Vanderbilt (Sept. 30), LSU (Oct. 7), Texas A&M (Oct. 14) and South Carolina (Nov. 11).
Sports on 04/21/2017
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