Arkansas will open its practice field to fans for the first time this preseason when it scrimmages in Razorback Stadium this afternoon. But don’t count on the Razorbacks to reveal much with season opener at Auburn two weeks away.
“I don’t think you want to be a fool and go out and demonstrate your entire game plan,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Thursday. “I mean, I doubt anybody would want to do that. But there’s so much that we can do that’s generic to football that we’ve got to get better at.”
Added defensive coordinator Robb Smith: “We’re just going to be in our base structure. … There isn’t going to be anything exotic or anything like that.”
Effort and execution will be the biggest keys the Arkansas coaching staff will look for when the Razorbacks scrimmage for the second time this preseason. Gate 1 will open to fans at 2 p.m., while the scrimmage begins at 2:25 p.m.
There may not be a wide variety of plays run on either side of the ball, but quarterback Brandon Allen said it doesn’t matter. The Razorbacks need to use the scrimmage work as a chance to perfect some of their base principles.
“It kind of comes with it,” Allen said. “You don’t want to show anything to the opponents you’re about to start playing. You may not look your best at times, but the plays we’ll be running are basic plays that we’ve run forever. So we want to be perfect in the execution of those plays.”
The scrimmage will be one of the final opportunities to sort out the depth chart before moving into preparation for the opener. Some of Arkansas’ key position battles still taking place are at left guard (Luke Charpentier and Cameron Jefferson), ‘Z’ wide receiver (Drew Morgan and Keon Hatcher), strong side linebacker (Braylon Mitchell and Daunte Carr) and place kicker (John Henson and Cole Hedlund).
“It’s real tough. It’s real close,” receivers coach Michael Smith said of the ongoing battle between Morgan and Hatcher. “Both of those guys are playing real well.”
The work also will be Arkansas’ first in front of a crowd since the Red-White Game.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Wednesday night he’s hoping to “create that environment” to test the team’s young and inexperienced players. Smith said it will be a chance to learn even more about the group during the “dog days of camp.”
“It’s a great opportunity for us to develop mental and physical toughness,” Smith said. “Guys are sore coming off last scrimmage. Their legs start to get a little bit tired. We’re really pleased with the mental and physical toughness we have carried out throughout the week. Now it has got to show up in the scrimmage as well.”
Running back Alex Collins said the Razorbacks are eager for the opportunity after grinding their way through two weeks of preseason practice.
“We’ve been working so hard behind closed doors,” Collins said. “With the fans being able to come out, we kind of want to show them how far we’ve come.”
2. Petrino Threw Down Assistant?
Sports Illustrated published a story on former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino entitled “Lather, Rinse and Repeat” in this week’s issue. The feature took a lengthy look at Petrino — both good and bad — throughout his coaching career.
For instance, the feature recounted Arkansas’ success under Petrino and included comments from former quarterback Ryan Mallett, who told the magazine his coach “was tough and he wanted tough players. Anybody who couldn’t deal with that, that’s their loss. I’ll tell you what: We were always prepared.”
It also included examples of Petrino’s abrasive personality. The story cited two individuals with connections to the Arkansas program as saying they witnessed Petrino throw former defensive line coach Bobby Allen to the floor.
“Petrino was incensed that a Razorbacks defensive lineman had thrown an offensive lineman into the legs of another offensive lineman during a practice, risking injury,” the unnamed sources told Sports Illustrated. “Petrino denies throwing Allen down. Allen, still with the Arkansas athletic department, declined to comment.”
Allen is now the program’s director of high school relations. His sons — Brandon and Austin — are first and second on the team’s quarterback depth chart.
An Arkansas spokesperson said Allen had no comment on the reported incident.
3. Hogs Elect Four Captains
The Razorbacks have elected their 2014 team captains.
Brandon Allen, right tackle Brey Cook, safety Alan Turner and defensive end Trey Flowers were announced Thursday night. Cook, Turner and Flowers are seniors. Allen is a junior, but coaches and teammates have praised his improved leadership skills since the end of the 2013 season.
All four are team captains for the first time in their careers.
“Humbling how big you can feel as a freshman, to how small you realize you are as a senior. Honored to work amongst incredible teammates #1-0,” Cook said on Twitter.
4. Extra Points
• Arkansas will be short-handed at defensive end with Deatrich Wise (knee) and Brandon Lewis (knee) slowed by injuries today. Flowers, Jamichael Winston and Tevin Beanumwill be counted on for most of the first-team work. “We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll be able to keep pushing through,” Smith said.
• Arkansas is hopeful it will have Wise back for Auburn week. But defensive line coach Rory Segrest couldn’t guarantee anything Friday. “Unfortunately that’s not in our hands. I know he’ll do what he can rehab-wise, but if he’s not there, we’ll just go with the next guy. Jamichael is doing well right now. So we’ll just plug him in.”
• Turner should be back with the first-team defense after missing practice time with an eye injury. “He’s all right. His vision is getting better, and I tell you what, he’s got some fresh legs, too,” Arkansas defensive backs coach Clay Jennings said.
• Segrest, who also is Arkansas’ special teams coordinator, said today’s scrimmage is important for Henson and Hedlund as they battle for the kicking job. “It’s a different environment in an empty stadium as opposed to having some fans out there yelling and screaming. We want to get them in that situation and see how they respond.”