Takeaways from Arkansas' second fall scrimmage

By: Jimmy Carter
Published: Saturday, August 12, 2017
Arkansas linebacker De'Jon Harris takes part in a drill Saturday, April 1, 2017, during practice at the university practice field in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas linebacker De'Jon Harris takes part in a drill Saturday, April 1, 2017, during practice at the university practice field in Fayetteville.

— Six takeaways from the second half of Arkansas’ second scrimmage of fall camp Saturday.

Defense needs inside backers

Starting inside linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Scoota Harris “were very productive, very dominant” in the first half of the scrimmage, coach Bret Bielema said afterward.

Both sat out the second half, the portion of the practice open to media. Without them, redshirt freshmen Grant Morgan and Dee Walker worked with the starting defense.

Without them, the unit struggled at times.

The most glaring sequence came when redshirt freshman walk-on quarterback Jack Lindsey engineered a 64-yard touchdown drive, leading the second-team offense, mixed with a few third-team linemen, down the field against the first-team defense, minus Greenlaw and Harris. The group methodically moved the ball and Lindsey capped the drive with a short touchdown toss to tight end Will Gragg after hitting true freshman receiver Koilan Jackson on a drag route for a 26-yard gain on third down.

Operating without two of the better playmakers on the team obviously hamstrings the defense some. A healthy Greenlaw and Harris are almost locks to be among the leading tacklers on the team.

But the Razorbacks need them to stay healthy. That was apparent Saturday.

Hayden shines again

For the second straight week, Chase Hayden provided some highlights.

The true freshman running back didn’t break a big run similar to his 74-yard touchdown scamper last week, but he unofficially ran for 65 yards on 11 carries and had a number of impressive carries in the second half of the scrimmage, many of which came while working against the starting defense.

The 5-foot-10, 191-pounder’s combination of vision, elusiveness, quickness and speed is impressive, as is his ability to play bigger than his frame suggests.

On one play, Hayden hit the hole quickly and drug defenders for a 12-yard pickup. He consistently gained positive yardage after contact and on other plays used cutbacks and quick jukes to dispose of would-be tacklers.

"Chase Hayden is a guy who belongs on the field,” Bielema said after the scrimmage.

That has been apparent.

Kelley the better backup

The backup quarterbacks were each given a day to run the second-team offense by themselves during the week.

Bielema said sophomore Ty Storey’s performance Tuesday was better than redshirt freshman Cole Kelley’s showing Wednesday.

Saturday, Kelley outperformed Storey by a wide margin during the second half of the scrimmage.

Several times, Kelley felt pressure and stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush while keeping his head downfield and ultimately finding an open receiver for a big gain. On one, he hit Deon Stewart for a 32-yard gain. Later, he found Jonathan Nance for about 15 yards.

He also made a big play on the move when he was flushed out of the pocket by a rushing Michael Taylor. If quarterbacks were live, Taylor would have likely had a good chance to bring Kelley down, but Kelley rolled right and lofted a 28-yard strike to Stewart inside the 5-yard line.

Storey, on the other hand, wasn’t as crisp.

He was nearly intercepted on a third-and-5 when he threw off his back foot across the field under pressure. The ball hung in the air and was batted down by safety Reid Miller.

He was intercepted later in the scrimmage on a deep ball intended for Jordan Jones. He had time in the pocket and set his feet, but true freshman Kamren Curl laid out to make a diving interception just before the errant pass hit the ground, one of a few impressive plays Curl and fellow freshman corner Chevin Calloway made.

Kelley besting Storey in the scrimmage helped him gain ground back after Storey performed better in practice during the week, leaving the backup job still up in the air.

Bielema said they’d like to have an answer there with two weeks before the season opener, which means their performances next week in practice will be put under a magnifying glass.

Hedlund perfect on FGs

Score one for junior Cole Hedlund in his competition with true freshman Blake Mazza for the starting field goal kicking job.

Hedlund was perfect on 4 attempts during the second portion of practice, hitting a 36-yarder during a move-the-ball portion and making kicks from 38, 43 and 48 at the end of practice with the team crowded around him. All of his kicks came from the left hash, an angle which has been problematic for him in the past.

Mazza made 1 of 2 kicks at the end of practice, hitting from 33 yards and missing wide right from 48, both of which came from the right hash. Mazza had been perfect from range through last week’s scrimmage when he hit all 5 of his attempts while Hedlund sat with a groin injury.

Bielema said Hedlund would be the kicker if the season opener was tomorrow, but ‘Maserati,’ his affectionate nickname for Mazza, is making it a competition.

Liddell runs with ones

Senior Josh Liddell replaced De’Andre Coley alongside Santos Ramirez with the starting defense Saturday, the result of what Bielema said have been the 14 best practices of his career.

On several occasions, Liddell was quick to fill the hole and wrapped up well, the latter of which has been an issue in the past for the Pine Bluff native. Coley worked with Reid Miller and the second-team defense.

The trio will almost assuredly split time again this fall, but Ramirez and Coley had been constants with the first-team defense since spring ball, so Liddell working with the starters was noteworthy.

Patton in mix

Jeremy Patton missed the first scrimmage with a hamstring injury, but was among the tight ends who worked with the first-team offense Saturday.

He didn’t catch a pass, but had several nice down blocks. Sophomore Austin Cantrell is the clear-cut starter, but Patton appears to have joined the rotation along with sophomores Grayson Gunter and Cheyenne O’Grady and junior Jack Kraus.

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