Defense wants to force turnovers


Arkansas’ defense didn’t force any turnovers during the team’s first preseason scrimmage last Saturday.

Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said the Razorbacks want that to change today.

“That’s always a consensus as a (defensive) coaching staff,” Johnson said after Thursday’s practice. “You don’t want to do that. Obviously the offense did a great job not turning it over but we definitely want takeaways. That’s always an emphasis.”

Turnovers have been the talk of the defense for the past week of preseason practices. Coaches said forcing turnovers has been an emphasis in practice. Players said they’ve spent the week working on more drills that emphasize turnovers.

Arkansas will find out if the effort and energy pays off when it scrimmages inside Razorback Stadium. The scrimmage is closed to the public.

“We’ve got a couple of individual drills that we force turnovers,” defensive end Trey Flowers said. “Strip attempts. Interception returns. Most definitely want to create turnovers. The offense did a good job handling the ball. … But we didn’t attempt to strip the ball. So we’re coming out of practice and working on things like that.”

It’s even important for a defense that was one of the worst in the NCAA in forcing turnovers in 2012. Arkansas managed 12 takeaways in 12 games. Only three teams forced fewer turnovers: Texas Tech (11), New Mexico (9) and South Florida (9).

So cornerback Will Hines said it’s time to become a defense that forces turnovers.

“We’re going to have to come out with more energy and we have to make more plays and get some turnovers,” Hines said about today’s scrimmage “Last Saturday we didn’t get any, which isn’t good. … We have to come out and ball really. Basically, we just need to ball, come out and play how the coaches want us to play.”

2. Swanson Returns

Arkansas senior Travis Swanson should be back at center with the first-team offense for today’s scrimmage. Swanson missed practice time last week after suffering a minor groin injury and was held out of the first scrimmage as a precaution.

Swanson said it was hard to swallow because of his durability at Arkansas.

“I think the biggest thing for me, up until that point, ever since I got here, I had never missed a rep at practice, a game, anything,” Swanson said. “So it was hard to be told, ‘Hey, we don’t want to make a mountain out of mole hill. Let’s rest it and be more safe than sorry.’ It was upsetting, but obviously the right thing to do.”

Backup Luke Charpentier handled first-team center work in Swanson’s place and the offense performed well. Swanson watched from the sideline and did as much as possible to help the offense throughout the 107-play scrimmage.

“It was different,” Swanson said. “Obviously, you see it from a different point of view. I tried to do the most that I could to help the young guys out. Luke stepped in and did a great job when he unexpectedly just kind of got thrown in there.”

3. What Chaney Expects

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was asked what he wants to see from his quarterbacks during the second preseason scrimmage.

His two biggest priorities: Ball security and good decisions.

“Everybody makes a lot out of the quarterback position but ultimately they have one job,” Chaney said. “The one job is to get the ball to the playmakers. That’s it. We can define it in many different ways. They either can hand it to the playmakers in the backfield or throw it to the playmakers outside. But, ultimately, that’s their job and as long as they can do that effectively we’ll be fine.”

4. Report: Arkansas TE Tate injured

FAYETTEVILLE — It appears Arkansas’ depth at tight end will be tested.

Veteran tight end Austin Tate has been sidelined after apparently undergoing shoulder surgery. Arkansas would not confirm the injury late Friday night. But, strangely, former Razorback assistant Tim Horton — who now works at Auburn on Gus Malzahn’s staff — shed some light by offering his condolences via Twitter.

“Thoughts and prayers are with @atater87 and family who is on the road to recovery from shoulder surgery,” Horton tweeted. “1st class young man!!”

A Fort Smith radio station – ESPN Arkansas 96.3 — cited contacts in Tate’s hometown of Harrison as saying the tight end broke his collar bone in practice Thursday night and would be out four weeks.

White Hall’s Jeremy Sprinkle, who was one of four players available for interviews after Friday night’s practice, also confirmed Tate was injured. He didn’t offer specifics about Tate’s injury, but indicated the Hogs were pressing on without him.

“It was a big loss,” Sprinkle said. “He was a big leader for us.”

Tate is Arkansas’ leading returning tight end after starting eight games and catching 14 passes for 111 yards in 2012. But Arkansas has built up its depth at the tight end position as it prepares for the 2013 season under new coach Bret Bielema.

Former walk-on Mitchell Loewen was the first-team tight end out of spring practice with Tate listed second on the depth chart. Arkansas also has Sprinkle, true freshman Hunter Henry, sophomore Alex Voelzke, Brad Taylor and Demetrius Dean at the position. Most of the group is expected to contribute this season.

Tate was asked about the depth at tight end and what it meant for Arkansas before suffering his shoulder injury.

“We’re going to have stretch-the-field tight ends, we’re going to have run-blocking tight ends,” Tate said. “We’ve got a pretty well-rounded group as far as tight ends. …

“That’s going to be an important part to our offense and our success.”