Arkansas' offense scored on its first five possessions Saturday night before the defense dug its heals in and started playing better football.
Tyler Wilson, left, and Brandon Allen warm up before Saturday night's Fan Day Scrimmage at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Arkansas head coach John L. Smith knows two weeks from tonight in the same stadium Arkansas will open the 2012 season against Jacksonville State and former Arkansas head coach Jack Crowe.
“We have to get better and we have two weeks to do it,” Smith said. “We're gonna do it. We did a lot of good things tonight and there was still some mistakes. Alignment, a few more penalties than we would have liked. For the most part, pretty darn clean. Much more clean than a week ago as far as our offense so that part was good.”
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson completed 21-of-34 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns while Brandon Allen completed 16-of-24 passes for 261 yards, four touchdowns, but did throw three interceptions. However, at the end of the scrimmage, it was the running game that Coach Smith and his staff worked on the most.
“At the end, we lined up and run it,” Smith said. “You have to run it to win it and you have to be able to stop the run to win. From that standpoint, we got some some good work on that.
“The biggest thing from here is wanting to get enough plays in this scrimmage that we can build on it and learn from it and get better from it, but yet stay healthy and get everybody to the game. We have got to make sure we get everybody to the game and get everybody back and healthy.”
True freshman Jonathan Williams stole the limelight with Knile Davis once again not getting any carries and Dennis Johnson missing the scrimmage due to a death in his family. Williams carried 19 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns and caught one pass for 16 yards and another touchdown. Ronnie Wingo also had a nice scrimmage with 19 carries for 73 yards and five passes for 41 yards.
“When we start the scrimmage we design it we're not going to do much stunting and we're going to sit in there and play pretty much vanilla,” Smith said of Arkansas first five series. “So the defense knows that and the offense knows that. But, it's good on both sides. They have to step up and play without bringing people and up playing man. We make them just play coverage with four downs and stop the run and that type of thing. Those are good things to see, but on both sides we kind of know what to expect for a period of time. Then, we will open it up a little bit and say okay we're taking off the blinders and get after each other a little bit more.”
On Arkansas' first possession, Wilson took the team down the field in 10 plays with fullback Kiero Small covering the final six yards on the ground for six points. Then, Allen took over and put together a nice 11-play drive with Allen tossing a 16-yard scoring strike to Williams.
Wilson then took back over and tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Gragg. Allen then tossed a 30-yard strike to Mekale McKay for a touchdown. On the very next play of the scrimmage, Wilson found Cobi Hamilton for a 65-yard touchdown. Hamilton had a big night catching 11 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. The offense then managed to score five touchdowns in the next 16 drives.
“The offense, to me, had a lot of good energy all week long,” Smith said. “I thought they had a little bit better energy tonight than the defense did. Our offense is going to be pretty good.”
With Davis, Wingo and Dennis Johnson returning at running back there's no guarantee that Williams won't redshirt this season, but it won't be because he isn't good enough to play according to Smith.
“Jonathan Williams is a good football player,” Smith said. “We tried to get him a little bit more. He has real good vision and he is getting better all the time. He's missing some reads and cutting it back maybe when he shouldn't be, but he's a good football player. He does have good vision. He's going to be a real good back. He can step in and play. He's mature enough as a freshman physically and really mentally. He has picked the offense up pretty quick. He could play and help us this year should we need him. With the guys we have, it would be great if we could redshirt him, but he's mature enough he can play this year should we need him.”
Smith also was impressed with Hamilton, but it's something he's come to expect from his senior standout.
“Cobi had a big night and that's what we expect from Cobi every night, everyday,” Smith said. “He's a really good football player. Our guys look for him because he's the best we've got. He practices hard. Our kids practice hard, but Cobi particularly practices hard.”
Tight end Austin Tate had four catches for 66 yards and one touchdown. Tate caught a 39-yard strike from Allen for a touchdown on a second-and-10 play.
“He has been catching the ball well,” Smith said. “He has done a nice job.”
A couple of other wide receivers who played well Saturday night were McKay, a true freshman, who had two catches for 76 yards and a touchdown while Demetrius Wilson had five catches for 71 yards in his best practice since joining the Razorbacks.
“Mekale is a tremendous athlete,” Smith said. “He's going to be able to help us. He's a big kid who can go up and catch the ball. Football wise, he still has to develop. He's a little bit green, but he's a tremendous talent. He is a good football player. You might see him play a lot this year.”