FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS SPRING PRACTICE NOTES
1. Bielema’s QB Assessment
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has gotten a look at his top two quarterbacks Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell — for nine practices this spring. It isn’t enough time for Bielema to name a starter heading into the fall, but he did say Allen “kind of moved forward the whole day” during Arkansas’ second scrimmage last Saturday.
Allen completed 9 of 13 passes for 97 yards with a touchdown and interception during the 101-play scrimmage. Mitchell went 7-for-16 for 67 yards with an interception. Neither moved the offense with ease, but Allen enjoyed more success while running the first-team group for the second straight scrimmage.
“There’s just some urgency he needs to get,” Bielema said after the scrimmage. “I was all over his tail. There was a snap where we had a positive third and short but our wide receiver wasn’t quite lined up and an itchy official could have flagged us there. I said it’s your responsibility. He’s got to dictate those other 10 guys that are in his control and be very aware of that situation. He can do it.”
Allen completed nine of his first 10 passes in the scrimmage. It included a pair of 20-yarders to receiver Demetrius Wilson. He missed on his final three attempts, including a deep pass that was intercepted by safety Eric Bennett in the end zone.
Mitchell, who worked with the second-team offense, completed four of his first six passes before throwing an interception to cornerback Carroll Washington. He missed on six of his final seven attempts, but was plagued by some dropped passes.
“Brandon Mitchell continued to impress me,” Bielema said. “He’s got a gamesmanship to him. He’s got a little rhythm. He’s got a little fire in him. He’s a great competitor.”
Bielema described the performance of the quarterbacks this spring as being “one day good, one day kind of come back a little bit,” but believes there has been progress under offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. The quarterbacks have five more practices to impress before the season-ending Red-White Game on April 20.
“The more reps and the more time – they’ve got to be junkies,” Bielema said. “Quarterbacks have got to be those guys that are always last out of here and always asking to do more. And I think we’re getting that culture more and more.”
2. Raising His Voice
Bielema hasn’t been vocal as his Arkansas predecessor on the practice field during two open scrimmages this spring. But the coach did make sure his voice was heard after receiver Javontee Herndon dropped a on a 2nd-and-1 play.
Bielema shouted “catch the ball” after the mistake. The offense then failed to pick up the first down on a third-down run play, forcing a punt to end the series.
But Bielema credited Herndon for recovering from the mistake a little later by pulling in a 12-yard reception on a 1st-and-15 play. It put Arkansas in a manageable situation on second down after a five-yard penalty started the drive.
“Herndon - who gives you everything you want on the football field, works his tail off and does everything we ask of him to do – dropped a critical second and short play out there,” Bielema said. “We stalled the play and got stuffed on third down.
“Then he came back and made a play later … which was huge, a huge catch on the sideline. It just showed how a player can bounce back.”
3. Loving The Light
Bielema admitted last Saturday he had some issues with his new Arkansas office in the Broyles Center when he walked in last December.
“I like light, music and air,” Bielema said. “It was a dark office, no music set up and no vented window. It was like I was in a tomb.
But it didn’t take Bielema long to start fixing the problems.
“I took a cardboard box and propped open the door,” he said. “I asked the video people to get me some type of music and brought in a lamp for my desk. When they did that, the video guy at that time, Andy (Wagner) put 18-20 songs on my iPod.”
4. Gruden’s QB Camp Replays
Former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson’s appearance on an episode of Jon Gruden’s QB Camp premiered on ESPN2 on Monday night. There are plenty of other opportunities to catch the episode in the next few weeks for anyone who missed it.
The episode featuring Wilson will air nine times before May 24. It includes four replays later this week: Thursday at 4 p.m. on ESPNU, Friday at 5 p.m. on ESPNEWS and 10 p.m. on ESPNU, and Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on ESPNNEWS.
Wilson was one of 12 2013 NFL Draft hopefuls to participate in the Gruden’s Camp episodes this season. The episodes are filmed in Tampa, Fla.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau