Friday Grid Update, 8/9

Chris Ash

The full pads were added Friday, but the hitting will intensify with an open scrimmage Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Defensive coordinator Chris Ash wants to find some "go-to difference makers."

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema issued a "tweet" Friday morning that Saturday's scrimmage would be open. Chris Ash hopes fans see some "go-to difference makers."

Ash, the defensive coordinator, said his unit will get to tackle Saturday after their first full pads practice Friday was held to just "thudding up."

Cornerback Jared Collins, with close to 10 pounds of added beef, said the scrimmage Saturday was exciting for players, especially with fans added to the mix with the announcement from the head coach. But more because tackling will be to the ground.



"Yes, today it was just thudding up," Collins said. "We are excited about the tackling. We want to prove that we know our techniques and assignments, but we all want to do some hitting."

Ash said the first five days of fall camp has been productive, but he is looking for a level of excellence and some dynamic playmakers.

"We have challenged them to be more consistent," Ash said. "We have had too many highs and lows. Our defensive line has done well and has been steady. Our safeties have been steady and been good with assignments.

"But to be honest, we are waiting to see some go-to difference makers. Sometimes fall camp can drag you down, but we have high standards and we are going to push to get that from our players."

The scrimmage is a chance to see more than just hitters.

"I know the guys are excited to hit," Ash said. "But we want execution and we want to make sure they get their calls and assignments along with the hitting."

Ash said there haven't been many changes to the depth chart through five practices, but that might change after the scrimmage.

"We'll meet and evaluate after the scrimmage and that's when we might make some moves in depth," Ash said. "It's stayed pretty much the same so far. We've made a couple of moves at linebacker, but that's about it."

Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge is pleased with his front four, including depth at defensive end. He praised Robert Thomas for a great start to fall camp and added that the backups to top ends Chris Smith and Trey Flowers are off to a great start.

Deatrich Wise was the headliner in the spring as the third end, but Brandon Lewis and JaMichael Winston have "closed the gap." Taiwan Johnson, the fourth in a wonderful 2012 freshman end class, has gained to 275 and is now also in the mix to add depth at defensive tackle.

Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson, while noting the phsyical maturation process of some young cornerbacks like Jared Collins and Will Hines, said the hitter in the secondary is sophomore safety Rohan Gaines.

Johnson said the coaching staff is looking for nickel back depth to backup Gaines, who has emerged at that spot in the specialty defense that often becomes the base against spread teams. He said TQ Coleman was running with the ones at safety when Gaines makes that move.

"We have guys making strides as far as physical play," Johnson said of the corners. "We are not big at that position, but I don't care if you are 120 or what, you can still pack a punch. Gaines is the big hitter, but them are trying to be like him. They are using their hands better and they are sticking their face masks in there."

Partridge said his ends "look good. All have added power over the summer.

"I thought Chris and Trey had great springs, but they are more powerful," Partridge said. "Chris had a great speed rush, but he's got a counter to that with his power now. Trey has the benefit of being in a great football stance and now he can get off blocks. They are both fine tuning and that's going to get them to be more productive."

Partridge is high on tackles Byran Jones and Robert Thomas, both impressive through five practices.

"Byran has been through a lot of different coaching styles and thankfully he's embraced me," Partridge said. "There's a sense of urgency. I think he's going to embrace the fundamentals. He's been a good leader and I'm excited about where he's going at this point.

"Robert is having a really good camp. He's quick right now and his fundamentals are in order. He's being very productive and I'm very excited about him right now. He's ready to explode."

Ash wants to see some explosions and thinks there will be some Saturday afternoon when fans are in the stands.

"Some players have never been on the field in front of that many fans, so they get nervous," Ash said. "Luckily we had several people show up to our spring game and it helped alleviate some of that. The energy, the excitement and the enthusiasm just goes up another notch when the fans are out there. They want to put on a show and play well in front of people. They want people to say good things about them.

"Now, can they be able to stay within themselves mentally in those situations?"

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