John L. Smith met with the media on Monday and the film he watched following Saturday night's 49-24 victory over Jacksonville State was pretty much like he expected on Saturday night.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and the rest of the staff will welcome back Cobi Hamilton this week.
Smith even tried to start the press conference early and was told that Nate Allen was on his way, but wasn't there yet. Smith used a reporter's phone to jokingly call Allen. Smith then talked about what he saw on film of the game.
“There was a lot of good things,” Smith said. “A lot of things we have to improve on without a doubt like everyone in the country. You're working on getting better. The thing of it is we get a little bit of extra practice in today to get better. We have to make improvement, I think that's obvious. That's what everyone's goal is at this point, but as you look at it there was some positives. There's some positives we're going to build on and correct the negatives.”
One large positive for Smith is the fact he will get senior wide receiver Cobi Hamilton back at practice today. Hamilton was slightly injured on Saturday and only played briefly. He finished with two catches for 13 yards. Smith also spoke of the positives he saw from the game.
“I think our offense, with the exception of ball security, which was not good,” Smith said. “I think our kids know that wasn't good and we're going to make an effort to work on that in practice. We've got to get our scout team more avid about trying to strip and do those things. If we don't turn the ball over there who's to say how much we could have put out.
“Defensively, I thought we played the run good the first half. We need to tighten up some things in the secondary. We'll work on that. We're going to work on tackling. I've actually got some tackling circuits we're going to put in and improve on those things. I don't think it was near as good as it should be. But, when you look at it I don't think it was as bad as I thought it was at the time.”
At linebacker, Tenarius Wright had eight tackles and one pass breakup while Alonzo Highsmith had seven tackles and one fumble recovery he returned six yards. Both missed extensive practice this fall and Smith said he felt that hampered their play some on Saturday.
“I think Tank and Alonzo will tell you they were a little rusty,” Smith said. “They haven't practiced like a lot of the other guys. It was good for them to get some work in.”
As far as the overall team, Smith said he saw some things he liked.
Inside linebacker Tenarius Wright blamed eagerness for any errors he made on Saturday.
“I thought Nate (Holmes) coming back after bobbling the one (punt),” Smith said. “He was so apologetic on that. He was almost going to cry on the sideline. But, that's good for a young kid. He made one tremendous athletic run.
“I thought Dennis (Johnson) did a good job. He ran hard at tailback and I thought he ran hard on kickoff returns as well. We just have to do a better job around them.”
Smith refused to blame the four fumbles on Saturday, including three lost, on the ball being stripped.
“More so dropped,” Smith said of the reason for the fumbles. “We don't allow us to get away with the excuse they were stripped. We dropped the ball and we have to do a better job of securing it. So from that standpoint, that's our fault. Not securing it and working on ball security enough.”
Senior cornerback Darius Winston had drawn a lot of praise in the preseason, but was pulled from the game pretty quickly Saturday night and replaced by Kaelon Kelleybrew. Winston did return briefly in the third quarter, but was once again pulled for Kelleybrew.
“If you go out and make a mistake you're going to get pulled too,” Smith said. “That's the way it is. What you would like to have is some great competition going on there. If you step up and don't make those mistakes that's what we're looking for.
“Kelleybrew comes in and plays okay. He does a decent job, but Darius just has to step up now and go earn that spot back. If you've lost that spot, but we'll see this week in practice. We would like to have great competition going on there. You would like to have that competition in every spot. He made a mistake and we put somebody else in. Maybe they didn't attack him like they did Darius, but, then again, it wasn't some crucial mistakes.”
Smith praised converted quarterback Brandon Mitchell who made his first start at wide receiver. Mitchell had never played wide receiver before at any level. He responded by catching four passes for 122 yards with a long of 40.
Running back Knile Davis was pleased to get back into action after missing the entire 2011 season.
“The fans might have been surprised, but no we weren't surprised,” Smith said of Mitchell's play. “He's very athletic and faster than most people think. Those big, long legs are chewing up a lot of ground. From our standpoint, it was not a surprise. We expect him to be very good.”
The offensive line drew mixed reviews from Smith though he more pleased with the starters.
“The first unit was okay,” Smith said. “We have to improve along the board there. Hopefully, we can develop some more competition there as well. (Jason) Peacock we're trying to get him down in some weight and added to the mix some there at tackle. The more we can keep pushing him to put pressure on those tackles the better they're going to be. You would like to see that come into the mix as well.”
Peacock was suspended for the season opener, but Smith said on Monday that he expects to have him back on Saturday. A trio of players that Smith had praise for were defensive end Chris Smith, athlete Cameron Bryan and safety-linebacker Ross Rasner.
“Chris played well,” Smith said. “He can play even better than he did, but he made a lot of plays. We have told Cameron you're no longer a kicker, your a coverage guy. He is fast and we have had trouble all fall in holding him. You put him on those scout teams and we can't hold him up. He's as fast a guy as we have. We're trying him over there and he has done a good job.
“It was a good performance by Ross. We expect that out of Rasner. Probably one of his better games if not his best. I thought he played real well. We are comfortable playing him at both (safety and Star linebacker). He was disciplined with his eyes on the deep ball and covered the guy he's supposed to cover. We like him wherever we have to put him. He's like Jerico (Nelson) he has to be on the field somewhere.”
Knile Davis carried 18 times for 70 yards and scored a touchdown. Davis said it was good to get a game in after missing all last season due to ankle surgery.
“It has been awhile, but I feel good, a little sore after the game,” Davis said. “I'm feeling better and in the training room getting better. I think I did good. I think I missed two holes in 18 runs, but I can do a lot better.”
Davis said anything he didn't do on Saturday wasn't because of his injury last fall. He said he felt good out there on the field.
“My speed, vision and cuts were there,” Davis said. “I think I did real good.”
Louisiana-Monroe's Season Opener
Arkansas' opponent this week is Louisiana-Monroe and it's the season opener for them.
Smith said he will look at the video of recent times the Razorbacks have faced them. Arkansas is 9-0 against the Warhawks with the closest game being in Bobby Petrino's first year in 2008 when Arkansas won 28-27. ULM led 27-14 with 12:56 to play before the Razorbacks scored the final 14 points to take the win.
“According to what we have seen they're as not as much a running team as this bunch we saw this week,” Smith said. “They will spread the field and try to throw it a little bit more. We have to fix what we're doing in the secondary and put some heat on them. They're a good football team.”
Wright said he's looking forward to playing a team that puts the ball in the air more.
“I feel really comfortable in pass coverage,” Wright said. “I was a little too antsy and too eager to get out of my coverage assignments. ULM likes to pass the ball around and now it comes down to me doing my responsibility, my 1-11. I have no problem with that. The errors I make in the game just came from me being too eager to make plays.”
Playing In Little Rock
Arkansas and ULM will kickoff at 6 Saturday night with the game televised on ESPNU.
“We're looking forward to going to Little Rock,” Smith said. “That has been good for us. Our kids believe in it and they're excited about it. The walk there and the fans there are as good as it gets. It's a great atmosphere. We plan on going down there and playing a lot better than we did last week.”
Davis echoed what his head coach said about traveling to Little Rock for a game
“I love going to Little Rock,” Davis said. “It's another home stadium for us. You get to see the other side of the state. I just hope everybody comes out and supports us and we have another good game.”
Wright, who is from Memphis, also enjoys playing games in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.
“It's going to be a great game and a great atmosphere,” Wright said. “We love playing in Little Rock so it's going to be a great game.”