Arkansas' Paul Haynes is much like his players in the sense he is ready to get the season started the wait is about over.
Tenarius Wright is prepared to start at inside linebacker on Saturday after previously playing defensive end.
Arkansas will open the season on Saturday night at 6 in Reynolds Razorback Stadium against Jacksonville State. One plus for Haynes and the Arkansas defense is that inside linebackers Tenarius Wright and Alonzo Highsmith will be on the field after missing much of the fall camp.
“They have had a good one,” Haynes said of his linebacker's week of practice. “They didn't miss a rep. They have been out there getting their wind back. It has been a good week for them. One thing you see out there is they communicate very well together which is good to see. They're always talking and they're always pointing. That's what you want out of that linebacker spot making sure they are on the same page. I have been pleased with them two this week.”
Haynes said any negative fact the pair of seniors didn't take physical reps some of the fall was negated by the fact they were able to get mental reps.
“Like I said before, they just wasn't out there getting those reps,” Haynes said. “During camp you have so many walk through's that those guys were out there kind of getting those mental reps. It was good and it's kind of carrying over to them being out there right now.”
Haynes said the things he wants his defense to accomplish on Saturday is the things they work on each day in practice.
“Execution, we want to make sure we are executing,” Haynes said. “We want to make sure we are tackling because that's what this game is going to come down to. How disciplined we are. It's just how many month's ago we played Kansas State. It's sound, disciplined-type football. We are going to have to tackle in space. So those are things we're making sure we're sound on, but it's going to come down to our execution, discipline and tackling.”
Jacksonville State will use two different quarterbacks in the game, but Haynes said it hasn't changed Arkansas' preparation much, if any, this week.
“They run the same type offense when those two guys are in there,” Haynes said. “I would have to say one maybe is a little bit better thrower and they try to throw the ball a little bit more with him, but they run their offense when both those guys are in there. Both of them are very good athletes. We're going to have to be out in space with them and again we're going to have to be able to tackle them.”
Haynes said it's not just the players that are anxious to get the season started....so are the coaches.
“I'm excited, I can't wait,” Haynes said. “This is my first time really in Razorback Stadium. To get out there with this team for the first time, to run through that 'A' you know I'm excited about that. That's really what I'm looking forward to. Also, we've got a young defense so to kind of get that first game out of our belt and see where we are, how mature we are and how we adjust. Something is going to happen. There's going to be some adversity that we're going to have to handle and we will have to see where our leadership is, make sure we can adjust and move forward.”
Arkansas' coaches have long stated they feel the strength of the defense is in the defensive line. Arkansas is two deep on the defensive line, but Haynes feels better about the linebackers and secondary than he did in the spring and early in fall drills.
“I feel good,” Haynes said of the back seven. “They've got a lot of reps in fall camp. We've had some guys banged up at those spots so we have some guys who got tons of reps. I feel good with all those guys in that back-up role. It's a long season and we're going to need them.”
Safety has been one position that has been a concern for Haynes, but he feels they are in pretty good shape there now. Haynes responded to a question asking how many safeties he would play in a game.
“I'm not a rotating-type coach,” Haynes said. “I like to go with the guys that are at the starting position, but you look at it I would say three. Right now with Ross (Rasner) going to that Star spot with Rohan (Gaines) and Eric Bennett. The next guy that will probably come in is Alan Turner and then Jerry Mitchell.”
Haynes knows that Jacksonville State will give tailback Washaun Ealey a lot of touches. The former Georgia running back has had a lot of success in the SEC before heading to Jacksonville State.
“I think it's huge for a team to have him,” Haynes said of Ealey's SEC experience. “He's a big time running back. He has proved that on the so-called big-time level. He's a challenge for us. He's fast, can break tackles and the backs we see each week he looks just like. That's a huge plus I'm sure for them to be able to feature him and he's not the only one they have. They've got a stable of backs they can rotate in there and get the same production out of.”