FOUR DOWNS – NOTES FROM PRESEASON CAMP
1. No Days Off For Linebackers
Arkansas’ linebackers have received an earful of coaching from assistant Taver Johnson the past couple of days.
Johnson was visibly upset at his group just before the midway mark of Monday’s practice and then had them run through extra conditioning work when the workout was over. He was animated again during Tuesday’s workout on the intramural field, getting onto his group for some mistakes during team drills.
Arkansas linebacker Jarrett Lake was asked if the group was in the doghouse after Tuesday’s practice. He said Johnson simply expects more from them.
“Coach Johnson is on us about finishing and being mentally tough,” Lake said. “I guess he felt like (Monday) we wasn’t doing that.
“We have to suck it up and pay our consequences.”
Johnson, who left Ohio State in the offseason to Reggie Johnson on Arkansas’ new-look defensive staff, is trying to ready a group loaded with question marks for the season opener against Jacksonville State on Sept. 1. He hasn’t had the benefit of working with his two most experienced players — Tenarius Wright and Alonzo Highsmith — much during camp, either, because of early injuries.
But defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said Johnson wants emotion from his group.
“There’s only one way to play this game defensively,” Haynes said. “That’s with a lot of energy and fast. We’re trying to make sure this culture on defense is fast, tough and physical. That’s the only way you can play defense.”
Lake said the linebackers are learning thanks to their position coach.
“He’s not going to take a day off,” Lake said. “So we’re not going to take a day off. He’s going to coach us the best way he can with high energy.
“We’ll play for him the best we can with high energy.”
2. Scrimmage Thoughts
Arkansas’ defense turned in a solid scrimmage performance last Saturday. But Haynes, who was available Tuesday morning for the first time since the scrimmage, downplayed his group’s performance.
“We did a good job, but, again, not near to our expectation,” Haynes said. “We’re bringing a little pressure and got them in third down situations which always helps, but, again, just far too many points, far too many mistakes.”
Haynes pointed to the five touchdowns the first-team defense surrendered.
“Nowhere near where we want to be,” Haynes said. “We gave up 35 points, had a couple big plays — gave up way too many big plays — had too many missed assignments.”
3. Cautious Approach
Linebacker Tenarius Wright was much more involved during Tuesday’s practice, getting in his most extensive work since being injured last Monday. Injured linebacker Alonzo Highsmith and safety Eric Bennett also were in uniform Tuesday, although the returning starters remained limited because of leg injuries.
Haynes said Arkansas is easing the players back onto the field this week, but wants to be “cautious” with them. The Razorbacks don’t want to take any chances with the season opener roughly against Jacksonville State less than three weeks away.
“They’re getting into meetings,” Haynes said. “They’re out there getting mental reps when we go through our walkthroughs and all that.
“We’re just kind of being safe with them to make sure we get them 100-percent and not something that’s not going to be nagging all year.”
4. Personnel Notes
WR Keante Minor did not practice Tuesday after suffering what appeared to be a shoulder injury during Monday’s workout. The severity of Minor’s injury has not been disclosed. … RB Nate Holmes was working with RB Dennis Johnson with the first-team kickoff return unit Tuesday. It’s an indication Holmes, who is regarded as a speedy back, could play right away as a freshman. … Lake is earning first-team reps at strongside linebacker and at the “star” position this week. Lake is earning the first-team “star” work to allow senior Ross Rasner to spend more time at safety with Rohan Gaines while Bennett is slowed by a leg injury.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau