FOUR DOWNS – NOTES FROM PRESEASON CAMP
1. Helping Hand
One former defensive coordinator – Nick Holt – has been spotted at Arkansas’ open practices this week. But the former Washington coach isn’t alone.
Former Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock was watching from the sidelines during Thursday’s practice. Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes – who worked for Heacock along with Arkansas linebackers coach Taver Johnson at Ohio State – said it has been nice having him around.
“I really want him around just to sit there and just evaluate personnel,” Haynes said. “We had a guy at Ohio State - Dave Adolph, a long-time NFL guy and college guy - who kind of did that for us. I’m kind of using him in that way, just from a guy who’s away from it, who’s not a part of the staff just to evaluate guys.”
Heacock worked at Ohio State from 1996-2011 and was defensive coordinator the final seven seasons. His defense led the nation in scoring defense, total defense and passing defense in 2007. He was named the Broyles Award winner the same year.
He was not retained by new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer this offseason and is not on a staff this season. So Heacock was invited to Arkansas to lend a helping hand for Haynes as he prepares for his first season as defensive coordinator.
“The guy is a defensive genius, I believe,” Haynes said. “The things he has done on defense, being a coordinator. … He sits in there, sits in our room and watches it with us. We sit there and bounce ideas around.”
2. Injury Update
Linebacker Tenarius Wright did some work in a yellow, non-contact jersey Thursday night after leaving the field with concussion-like symptoms during Monday’s practice. Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said Wright is doing well as he works his way back from an injury that occurred in a collision with Knile Davis.
“I think he’s probably ready,” Haynes said. “I think we’re just being a little cautious with him, just making sure he gets out there and gets a mental rep. But not banging.”
Arkansas continued to practice without safety Eric Bennett and linebacker Alonzo Highsmith. Both players have been sidelined the entire week with leg injuries.
Haynes is hoping Highsmith will be back on the field soon.
“Kind of the same situation, but just a little bit of a different injury,” Haynes said. “Just making sure that we don’t do anything crazy and get him back.”
3. Improved Pass Defense
The Arkansas passing offense had a big day against the defense during Tuesday night’s scrimmage. But Haynes and his group believe they turned in a solid Thursday, breaking up a handful of passes during the workout.
“The scrimmage we gave up some big plays in the pass, so we made sure that we concentrated on playing the pass a little bit better,” Haynes said. “Play-action pass happens when you’re undisciplined. You get beat by it, and that’s what happened in the scrimmage. We stressed it, so guys were a little better at reading their keys.”
Cornerback Darius Winston thought the defense had its best night Thursday.
“A lot of guys flying around to the ball reckless to the run, reckless to the pass,” Winston said. “It just seemed like our defense got a whole lot better.
4. Small A ‘Thumper’
Senior Kiero Small continued to practice at linebacker Thursday, getting his second day of work at the position. Haynes said the Razorbacks’ starting fullback fits in.
“A fullback is a thumper,” Haynes said. “It’s a guy who’s not afraid of contact. He’s kind of defensive-minded already.”
Haynes said the defense “will get him as much as we can” this preseason.