Tramain Thomas was moved Thursday into the first-team strong safety spot, replacing fellow sophomore Elton Ford. Defensive end Jake Bequette got some work at defensive tackle.
And redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Smith took snaps with the first-team defense after sophomore Jerry Franklin was again demoted to the second team.
“(Wednesday), we had a scrimmage and I came out and I gave it all my effort,” Smith said. “I had a couple of tackles, I knocked a couple of linemen down and I guess coach (Bobby Petrino) just gave me the opportunity and I appreciate that.”
Several other players found themselves lining up at new positions. Arkansas coaches have moved redshirt freshman Tenarius Wright back to defensive end after briefly trying him at linebacker.
And freshman Colton Nash was switched from defensive end to tight end to help add some much-needed depth to the position.
“Colton Nash is a guy (whose) future is still not set yet, but because of our injuries on our offensive side of the ball, we needed to take that body (and) use that experience at that position,” Robinson said of Nash, who played tight end along with defensive lineman at Sulphur Springs (Texas) High.
• Freshman quarterback Brandon Mitchell missed both of Thursday’s practices because of a death in the family, and he’s not expected back until sometime next week. Mitchell had been getting reps behind projected starter Ryan Mallett and second-team quarterback Tyler Wilson.
• Arkansas defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard admitted he was held out of Wednesday’s scrimmage because he had gotten “a little out of control” during Tuesday’s practice. Turns out, he was too physical.
“You don’t want to cross (Bobby) Petrino. I’m definitely not a player who wants to cross Petrino by any means,” said Sheppard, who was named Thursday as a candidate for the Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive player. “I’m walking a fine line, and I try to go out and practice hard and practice the way he wants me to.”
• Tight end D.J. Williams attended Thursday’s afternoon practice after missing the previous three practices because of an ankle injury. He was held out of drills and worked with the injured players, including fullback Mitchell Bailey and defensive tackle Lavunce Askew. Wide receiver Lucas Miller (leg injury) was also held out.
As odd as it sounds, punter is a position that has featured one of the more closely watched competitions over the first two weeks of practice.
So far, walk-on Dylan Breeding has made a strong push for the job over junior Briton Forester. Of course, you might never know that if you listen to Breeding himself.
“He’s the older guy, he’s more experienced. I think he’s better,” Breeding said of Forester. “I’m just trying to work up to get as good as him, and I know if my technique gets better, it will be really good.”
Breeding has looked impressive at times, and the freshman has gotten more chances lately to show off his leg because Forester is nursing a hamstring injury that has kept him out of practice.
Breeding admitted he’s been nervous in practice, though he said that has not been the reason for his inconsistency in special team drills. Sometimes, he’ll kick a short punt and then come back and boom a long one.
“It’s all technique. It’s not nervousness, I’m more rushing it,” said Breeding, a native of Helena, Ala. “I guess I’m trying too hard to do good. I’ve just got to relax and do better.”