Four Downs: Arkansas Opens Scrimmage To Public


1. Open scrimmage

Fans can finally get their first look at an Arkansas spring practice under new coach Bret Bielema today.

The Razorbacks have opened today’s workout, which will be held in Razorback Stadium, to the public. Bielema announced the news on his Twitter feed on Friday, altering original plans to keep all practice sessions closed until the spring-ending Red-White Game on April 20. Today’s practice is scheduled to begin at approximately 11:15 a.m., with scrimmage work starting at 11:45 a.m.

"Players are excited to scrimmage and wanted to give Hog Nation a little preview of spring game on 4/20," Bielema said.

Fans attending the scrimmage are asked to enter the stadium through Gate 6 off Razorback Road. The game opens at 11 a.m. and seating is limited to the West side stands in Razorback Stadium.

Saturday's scrimmage is Arkansas' second of the spring. The Razorbacks held a 74-play scrimmage inside the Walker Pavilion last Saturday.

2. Scrimmage Expectations

Defensive coordinator Chris Ash was asked what he wanted to see out of his defense today. He said improvement from last Saturday is all he can ask for from the group.

“Hopefully I'll see our tackling improve,” Ash said. “Guys will be more focused on their assignments rather than just going out and trying to show how tough they are. I hope they play with a little more poise and we've got a few less mental errors, a few less alignment errors and we tackle a little bit better.”

Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said he expects his group to “crank it up” today.

“It's everything. Every practice in the spring, whether it's a scrimmage, Thursday's practice, Tuesday's practice, it's an evaluation,” Johnson said. “It's an interview every day, so that's a chance we get to play tackle football. So we're excited about it.”

3. Ollison’s Hard Work

Grady Ollison came to Arkansas as a defensive lineman, was moved to the offensive line, and even shifted to fullback last season. But this spring, Ollison appears to have a home with the Razorbacks’ offensive front as a first-team right tackle.

Ollison moved to the starting spot after the Razorbacks shifted Brey Cook from right tackle to right guard after the first week of spring drills.

“I had been working at the left tackle spot and I went and talked to (offensive line) coach (Sam) Pittman about it and one day out of the blue it was just one of those last minute decision things to move me to right tackle,” Ollison said.

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Ollison has brought athleticism to the first-team group at the position. The starting line also consists of center Travis Swanson, left guard Mitch Smothers and left tackle David Hurd.

“I guess hard work pays off,” Ollison said about working in a first-team spot this spring. “I'm going on my third year here. It's a blessing. It really is.”

4. Strong Gaines

Arkansas safety Rohan Gaines has made a big impression on Ash this spring.

In fact, Ash said Thursday he is a “big fan” of the sophomore, who was named to the SEC All-Freshman team after recording 46 tackles in 11 starts last season.

“He comes to work every day with a smile on his face and he’s ready to be coached,” Ash said. “He’s really putting a lot of overtime in to study the game of football. When he comes out there, he’s on top of his game. He’s got good football IQ. He flies around, plays with a motor and I really like him. He’s a tough kid.”

Gaines was one of the defensive standouts of the first scrimmage, intercepting a pass from Brandon Allen. He had to leave the field for a few minutes after a big collision, but returned and continued to lead the Arkansas defense.

“Every day we go out there he’s always around the ball,” Ash said.

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau