FOUR DOWNS – NOTES FROM PRESEASON CAMP
1. Run the Ball
The Arkansas offense didn’t have a successful day running the football during the team’s first preseason scrimmage. Running backs Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo found little room to roam against the first-team defense.
So it’s no surprise Arkansas center Travis Swanson said it was a big emphasis for the offense this week.
“Everyone knows we’re going to pass the ball,” Swanson said after Friday’s practice on the intramural fields. “We’re going to put up great numbers with our passing offense. (Offensive line) coach (Chris Klenakis) and the O-Line have put it upon ourselves that we need to run the ball better. We all know that. “
Arkansas will see if the run game improves this morning, when the Razorbacks hold their second scrimmage of the preseason in Razorback Stadium at 9 a.m. The workout is expected to last much longer than the 79-play scrimmage Tuesday night, giving Arkansas a longer look at its rushing attack.
Wingo may receive the bulk of the first-team carries with Johnson missing his second straight practice because of a family situation. It’s not known if Knile Davis, who has not been tackled so far this preseason, will be able to help today.
Davis was asked Wednesday night if the coaches had drawn up their plan for getting him involved in scrimmage work and said he hadn’t been told. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said Davis hadn’t been cleared for contact by the staff, yet.
Either way, Swanson said run game improvement is the emphasis this morning.
“This whole week we’ve been working on it,” Swanson said. “Hopefully we produce.”
2. Injury Updates
Arkansas linebacker Tenarius Wright practiced in a yellow, non-contact jersey for the second straight day. The senior has been limited much of this week after suffering a possible concussion following a collision with Davis on Monday.
Arkansas linebackers coach Taver Johnson said he didn’t know if Wright would be available for today’s scrimmage.
“He was moving around and looked a lot better (Friday),” Johnson said. “It’s just a matter of what (the trainers) say.”
Arkansas will likely scrimmage without linebacker Alonzo Highsmith and safety Eric Bennett for the second straight time this week. The two — who missed Tuesday’s scrimmage — remained sidelined with leg injuries. So freshman linebacker Otha Peters and redshirt freshman safety Alan Turner should get first-team work today.
“It is going to be a big, big test for us,” Johnson said of his defense. “During practice and this time at camp you’re kind of out in the field a little bit, you’re coaching them up on the run. (Today) we have to let them play. We’ll really find out who can step up and who can play the position, who understands what we’re asking them to do, who plays with great effort. All those things that you’re looking for.”
3. Which Side?
It’s not clear where senior Kiero Small will spend most of his scrimmage time today.
Small practiced at both linebacker and fullback during Friday’s workout, helping the Razorbacks on defense because of its depth concerns with Wright and Highsmith sidelined by injuries. Johnson said he wouldn’t know where Small would play until told.
“I’m kind of on a need-to-know basis,” Johnson said. “When coach (John L.) Smith comes over and he says ‘Hey, you’ve got him,’ I’m jumping for joy. When he says I don’t, it’s OK. We’ll see. But I’m sure with the work that he’s had we’ll get him some.”
4. What Mitchell Wants
Arkansas receiver Brandon Mitchell was asked what he wanted to see from today’s scrimmage. It didn’t take him any time to think about an answer.
“Just for the offense to dominate,” Mitchell said. “I want the defense to get better, but I want the offense to dominate. If we’re out there scoring points, it’s going to show the hard work we’re putting in.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau