Hogs look to improve on the run

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, August 12, 2017
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema watches Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, during practice at the university's practice field in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema watches Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, during practice at the university's practice field in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks will get their first chance today, weather permitting, to see the team since the televised spring practice finale.

Coach Bret Bielema said the final portion of today's scrimmage, between 1-2 p.m., is open to the public at Reynolds Razorback Stadium as part of the school's Fan Day festivities.

"We'll open up the back half of the practice on Saturday, which will be some of our ones and twos working, but also developmental work," Bielema said. "Then we have Fan Day as well.

"We're excited. Hopefully we'll get the weather to cooperate with that."

There is about a 50 percent chance of rain around 1 p.m. If there is severe weather and the Razorbacks have to move their scrimmage indoors to the Walker Pavilion, it will be closed to the public.

Fan Day is scheduled to begin at Walker Pavilion at 2:30 p.m., with Bielema and the players set to sign autographs between 4-5 p.m.

From an injury standpoint, defensive starters Dre Greenlaw and Karl Roesler might scrimmage after missing live tackling last Saturday, as could tight ends Will Gragg and Jeremy Patton, and kicker Cole Hedlund. Linebacker De'Jon Harris (knee) and receiver Brandon Martin (back) are questionable.

Since the start of camp, the Razorbacks have lost receivers Jared Cornelius (back) and T.J. Hammonds (knee), outside linebacker Jamario Bell (foot) and inside linebacker Josh Harris (lower leg).

The top order of the day on offense is getting the running game on track. Top tailbacks Devwah Whaley and David Williams, who worked mostly with the starting offense, combined for 130 rushing yards on 31 carries in unofficial statistics in the first scrimmage. Whaley and Williams averaged just 4.19 yards per carry against the second-team defense.

Whaley gained more than 5 yards on only 3 of 19 carries. Williams had gains of 12 and 18 yards, but his other 10 attempts averaged 2.8 yards per rush.

"We've really challenged our team, the ones especially, that we need to run the ball more consistently," offensive coordinator Dan Enos said. "I think they did a tremendous job protecting the passer on Saturday, our ones. But we weren't real happy with how we ran the football."

So the Razorbacks stressed physicality in the ground game all week.

"We put a bigger emphasis on the inside drills," running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said. "Not that we hadn't in the past. But we've been a little more physical on the inside drills.

"I just think that as an offensive line and running backs, when you first start, your pad level isn't where it should be. Now I think our pad level is getting to where it should be, and we're going to be able to run the ball better."

Offensive line coach Kurt Anderson said the first unit of Colton Jackson, Hjalte Froholdt, Frank Ragnow, Johnny Gibson and Brian Wallace has improved through camp for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

"The first group has done a really good job," he said. "The emphasis this week has been on the run game, and I think we're building toward where we want to be. Pass protection has been really, really good. In terms of assignments, eye progression, pad level, our punches, we've been doing a nice job of protecting the quarterback."

Freshman tailback Chase Hayden had a 74-yard touchdown run among his 16 carries for 123 yards, all against the defensive starters. Hayden averaged 7.7 yards per carry with the big run included, but 3.3 yards per carry on his other 15 runs.

"We had some busts that surprised me a little bit, and I think the lesson learned from that was the first time out there ... you can get a little bit too excited and a little bit too hyped, as the kids were, and forget to have your eyes in the right location and your mind where it needs to be every single snap," defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said. "The fun thing about this group, they're a very mature group and they understood that quite quickly, and I think we'll see a significant drop in the busts this Saturday."

Rhoads said the entire defense missed 16 tackles in the scrimmage, but he wasn't that upset because halving that number to eight made it less than the goal of 10 missed tackles for the first and second units.

Defensive line coach John Scott wants to see an improvement in focus today.

"Some of the things we didn't do well the first scrimmage, like being able to play harder longer," he said. "Being able to eliminate the mistakes we made when we got tired, being able to fight through that. Just being able to hold our technique and play at a high level throughout."

Quarterback Austin Allen had a hot day in the first scrimmage, connecting on 19 of 23 passes for 304 yards and 1 touchdown. He played only 44 snaps in the first half of the scrimmage. Backups Ty Storey and Cole Kelley split time with the first offense in the second half of the workout.

Enos said he'd like to see much fewer than the six dropped passes from the first scrimmage.

"Two of them were explosive plays, three of them were on third downs," Enos said. "So those are game-changing type drops. Our formula is you can't have penalties, turnovers, sacks and drops, and Saturday we had a couple of penalties we can get fix and dropped passes that we've got to fix.

"But the good news was, knock on wood, we didn't turn the ball over and they protected the quarterback well. So we did some of it pretty good."

Tight ends coach Barry Lunney got Patton and Gragg back this week and wants to see his unit at full strength.

"It's another chance to be evaluated without us being there to hold their hand," he said. "Hopefully we can get to the point where we can see Jeremy in a more full-speed-type environment, and he gets to display who he is and what he is.

"They understand every rep is vital, every rep is evaluated, every rep is scrutinized very closely."

Bielema said this scrimmage comes as the Razorbacks are hitting their stride about midway through camp.

"The first nine practices were in conjunction with summer school, so we really had to modify and adjust our schedule as it fit our players' schedule with academics," he said. "Now we're in a two-week phase where we're really unlimited by anything other than the NCAA rules, so we don't have class conflicts, don't have guys that have schedules outside of the game of football.

"It really allows us to kind of get into the meat and potatoes of fall camp. We're in the grind of fall camp."

UA Fan Day

WHEN 2:30 p.m. today WHERE Walker Pavilion, Fayetteville NOTEWORTHY Fans will be allowed to watch the final hour of practice beginning in Reynolds Razorback Stadium at 1 p.m. … Coach Bret Bielema and players will sign autographs from 4-5 p.m. … If there is severe weather, the practice will move indoors to Walker Pavilion and fans will not be allowed to watch. There is a 50 percent chance of rain today at 1 p.m.

Sports on 08/12/2017

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