FAYETTEVILLE — TQ Coleman made his scrimmage debut at a new position Saturday.
It turned out to be a pretty productive performance.
Coleman, who was moved from safety to weakside linebacker last week, was one of the defensive stars of the 101-play scrimmage in Razorback Stadium. He finished with an interception, two sacks and equaled Martrell Spaight with a team-high 10 tackles while working with the second-team defense Saturday.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said about Coleman’s performance. “I’ve know this since we recruited him: TQ loves contact. He’s a playmaker type guy. I kept trying to encourage our guys last year to put him in a position to - maybe in some sub packages - so I give a lot of credit.”
Coleman began the spring as a second-team safety. But he has not been moved out of the position completely despite his work at linebacker Saturday. In fact, defensive coordinator Robb Smith said Coleman remains a “safety by nature.”
“When you can match personnel and get an athlete like TQ in your under coverage at times it helps you a lot against teams that will play three and four wide receivers,” Smith said after Thursday’s practice. “Like I said last week, we’re looking to find guys’ strengths and weaknesses. Then we’ve got to put them in a situation where they can be successful.”
Those safety skills were evident when Coleman made a play on a pass thrown by quarterback Rafe Peavey, pulling in an interception on the sideline. Coleman celebrated by throwing the ball in the air, which drew the ire of Bielema who made it clear a 15-yard penalty would have been called on the Razorbacks.
But it was Bielema’s only complaint about Coleman’s performance Saturday.
“I jumped his tail because he threw the ball in the air, but he made a great break, a great read,” Bielema said. “He’s done a nice job and I think that’s going to continue to grow.”
2. Good Grady, Bad Grady
Grady Ollison was back with the first-team offense Saturday, working at left guard after spending much of the past two weeks with the second-team group. But his returning to the starting unit didn’t come without a conversation with Bielema.
“I worked out a little deal with him that I wasn’t going to let him run with the ones just because I was a little disappointed in some of the decisions that he was making,” Bielema said. “He’s responded very well. He’s had a couple of great weeks of practice and has been really good off the field. We basically called him this morning and I said ‘If I let you run with the ones are we going to see good Grady or bad Grady?’ He said, ‘You’re going to see good Grady coach,’
“I think he played fairly well (Saturday). He’s a very talented player. He’s got the world in his hands and hopefully he’s going to continue to grow.”
Arkansas also made some changes at center. Cordale Boyd was working at guard this week, while Mitch Smothers moved back to center and is competing with Luke Charpentier for the first-team spot the rest of spring drills.
“We dabbled around a little bit last week with Mitch at center and this week we kind of moved him there full time and let him and Luke battle it out,” Bielema said. “They both have some strengths. They both have some weaknesses. We’ll see where we’re at after two more weeks.”
3. Thin Numbers
Arkansas’ defensive linemen logged extra snaps because of a handful of absences during Saturday’s 101-play scrimmage.
Trey Flowers (sitting out scrimmages this spring), Tevin Beanum (concussion) and Horace Arkadie (suspended indefinitely) were not with the defense. Bielema said he was concerned about the lack of depth, but was impressed with the results.
Arkansas collected 10 sacks Saturday, most of which were by defensive linemen. JaMichael Winston, Brandon Lewis, Ke’Tyrus Marks and Darius Philon each had one sack. Walk-on defensive end Karl Roesler was credited with two sacks. Deatrich Wise was active for the second straight scrimmage, finishing with seven tackles.
The second-team line helped keep the offense out of the end zone during a red zone possession at the end of the scrimmage. The key play came on second-and-goal from the one, when Denzell Evans was stuffed at the one-yard line for a two-yard loss.
“I was impressed the way those twos kept responding there at the end,” Bielema said. “I like the way those guys are moving. But it’s definitely an area I can’t wait to get some of our freshmen in there just to get some more bodies for them.”
4. Extra Points
• RB Korliss Marshall didn’t scrimmage Saturday, but Bielema is hopeful the sophomore will return next week. He would not be specific regarding the medical issue, but said Marshall “didn’t feel well” and Arkansas was being cautious.
“We are basically taking some steps with him to make sure everything was OK. We are being overly cautious,” Bielema said. “He had a procedure when he actually had stitches. So if the stitches are healed up, he’ll be able to go on contact on Tuesday.”
• Defensive back Kelvin Fisher is no longer part of the football program, but is attended practices. Bielema said Fisher will graduate at the end of the semester, then transfer elsewhere to have two years of eligibility. Fisher redshirted in 2011 and played three games in two seasons with the Razorbacks.
• Former NFL and Pittsburgh head coach Dave Wannstedt wrapped up his week in Fayetteville on Saturday, watching the scrimmage from the sidelines. Bielema said Wannstedt had the “keys to the program” during the stay, offering his input. He also addressed the team before Saturday’s scrimmage.
“He gave a great message to our guys this morning,” Bielema said. “I don’t allow a lot of people to come in and talk to our team just because I want to be able to understand the message. It was very clear to me after day two that he’d do a good job and he knocked it out of the ballpark this morning. So it’s been awesome.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • firstname.lastname@example.org