1. Turnover Time
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. Remember When?
Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. has a unique perspective on Razorback football after playing quarterback for the program from 1992-95.
Freshman Hunter Henry joked that it’s a history every tight end knows all about after a few days of preseason camp. Henry said Lunney has made sure to tell them.
“He’s funny. In the meeting rooms he likes to remind us of his old days,” Henry said earlier this week. “He’ll bring those old days up a lot. He likes to bring up the old days and remind us that he was very good back in the day.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau