FOUR DOWNS - NOTES FROM PRESEASON PRACTICE
1. Scheming To Win
Arkansas’ defense made its share of plays in practices and scrimmages during preseason camp. Quarterback Tyler Wilson believe there’s a reason for it, pointing to a change in philosophy with Bobby Petrino no longer in charge.
“During camp, I think, a lot of times coach Petrino, when he was here the defensive scheme was designed to kind of prep the offense,” Wilson said. “And it was competitive each and every day out here this year because the defense was scheming to beat the offense. So in that regard, it made it a lot more competitive and you saw it in scrimmages and you saw it during practices.”
The defense gave up a handful of touchdowns to start last Saturday’s scrimmage, but buckled down and began to make things difficult. The first-team offense, which typically carved through the defense during scrimmages in previous years, went four straight possessions without points during the scrimmage.
It was the second straight scrimmage the offense struggled to reach the end zone over a lengthy stretch this preseason. The group went six straight possessions without a touchdown during the first full scrimmage of camp.
Wilson said it isn’t a troubling sign for the offense, though. He believes it’s an indication Arkansas’ defense is ready to make a difference this season.
Wilson said both sides of the ball should be improved because of the competition.
“This past camp has been tough. Those guys are playing good over there,” Wilson said. “But I thought offensively we handled it extremely well. We’ve gotten a lot better, especially in the last two or three weeks. You see a big jump and change there. And we’ve got to continue to get better. We’ve got a week and a half before the thing gets rolling. There’s still some improvement to be made.”
2. One Man Short
What has preseason camp been like for the offensive staff without Bobby Petrino in charge? Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino provided a glimpse Tuesday, estimating the short-handed group has been working an extra two-and-half hours a day.
“We lost coach in our staff room, so it’s extra work we’re doing right now. The defense has the extra coach,” Petrino said in reference to coach John L. Smith, who spends most of his time working with the defensive staff. “That was because the head coach was in the offensive staff room and he worked in there.
“Our days are a lot harder. Our days are a lot longer because we’re all picking up the extra work. But it’s been great. It’s been fun. It’s exciting.”
3. Step Forward, Step Back
Two receivers, Brandon Mitchell and Keon Hatcher, didn’t enjoy their best days during last week’s scrimmage. The duo — who combined for 13 catches in the first full scrimmage — finished with two for 12 yards on Fan Day.
“He didn’t have a good day,” Petrino said of Mitchell. “That was his worst day of fall camp. He didn’t come out there with the right mindset. He didn’t have the right bounce in his step and energy and that equaled getting one catch.”
Petrino said both Mitchell and Hatcher have performed better this week during closed practices. He also said one other receiver — junior college transfer Demetrius Wilson — turned in his best practice as a Razorback during the scrimmage after catching 4 passes for 56 yards with the second-team offense.
“He had his best day by far, just knowing what he was doing, playing hard, playing with great effort, catching the ball and running after the catch,” Petrino said.
4. Extra Points
Arkansas linebackers Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright, and safety Eric Bennett all participated during the media viewing portion of Tuesday’s practice. Wright took snaps with the first-team defense during position drills with linebackers coach Taver Johnson. Bennett did the same with defensive coordinator Paul Haynes. Highsmith worked with the second-team defense. … Wide receiver Keante Minor also participated in the early portions of practice wearing a yellow, non-contact jersey. Minor suffered a shoulder injury last week. … Arkansas has unveiled pay-per-view information for the season opener against Jacksonville State on Sept. 1. The pay-per-view telecast can be purchased for $34.95 for cable subscribers and $39.95 for satellite subscribers. Fans interested in purchasing the pay-per-view broadcast should call their cable and satellite providers.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau