1. Celebration Time
Arkansas hasn’t had many opportunities to celebrate touchdowns lately, reaching the end zone twice in its past three games.
So Arkansas fullback Kiero Small said the Razorbacks spent some time enjoying those moments when they came during Tuesday’s practice.
“When we scored, like we had red zone (Tuesday), and when we scored everybody went down and celebrated in the end zone,” Small said. “That’s one of the things we did in the spring when practice wasn’t going so good or if practice was down, we did that in the spring. It got everybody upbeat. We started having a good time.”
It’s a small thing, but Arkansas (3-5, 0-4 in Southeastern Conference) hopes it pays off as they try to fix the flaws that have plagued the offense the past several weeks. The Razorbacks enter their bye week after being shut out by Alabama and South Carolina for seven consecutive quarters. It’s part of a three-game stretch in which Arkansas has been outscored 134-17 by Florida, Alabama and South Carolina.
The struggles have made Arkansas the SEC’s lowest-scoring team in conference play (12.5 points) at the halfway point. The 17 points in three games also is Arkansas’ lowest total since managing 13 over that same period to end the 1995 season.
But Small and the rest of the Razorbacks said the key is moving forward, finding a way to eliminate mistakes, execute and get into the end zone.
“It’s disappointing because throughout the week and how we’re doing things, we seem like we’re making some headway we’re just not getting the results on the field yet that we need to be able to get,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said.
Chaney said everything is being evaluated this week as Arkansas tries to end the drought. But it appears the coaching staff has tried to lighten the mood as well.
Small said Arkansas coach Bret Bielema wanted players to get back to basics and “remember the first time you played football” as they try to snap out of the offensive funk. That included some celebrating when they reached the end zone Tuesday.
“It was a lot of fun, getting everybody laughing, celebrating after a touchdown,” running back Alex Collins said. “Just get the spirits going out there in practice.”
2. No Change Up Front
Arkansas has plenty to evaluate on offense this week as it tries to crawl out of its funk. But offensive line coach Sam Pittman said it won’t include any personnel changes for the starting group up front.
Pittman said the unit of right tackle Brey Cook, right guard Denver Kirkland, center Travis Swanson, left guard Dan Skipper and left tackle David Hurd remains the right group to move forward with as the Razorbacks look ahead to Auburn.
The five has started three straight games together.
“I think we have the right people in the right place,” Pittman said. “We just have to keep playing and getting better and we’ve got the get the ball in the end zone somehow. Whether that’s being a little better in protection or a little better in the run or whatever it is, throwing it and catching it better, whatever it may be, we’ve got to do that. Certainly we had a good practice (Tuesday), so I think we’re headed in the right direction. It was a bye week time that we needed.”
3. Allen Sits
Allen didn’t throw during Tuesday’s practice. Chaney said it wasn’t out of necessity, but the Razorbacks wanted to use the start of the bye week as a chance for the sophomore to get some rest for this throwing shoulder.
“Any time you get a little bit of rest when we can like (Tuesday) is something that is needed and it should be full-go (today),” Allen said.
It also gave Arkansas a chance to get more work for backup quarterbacks AJ Derby, Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell. Chaney said the three “did OK” on Tuesday.
“We played all three of the other kids that are non-starters (Tuesday) and I thought they did a nice job,” Chaney said.
4. Thomas On Don James
College football lost a legend earlier this week when long-time Washington coach Don James passed away at the age of 80. James — who coached Alabama’s Nick Saban and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel while at Kent State earlier in his career — led Washington to a 153-58-2 record from 1975-92.
James also had an impact on Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas, who is a native of Port Angeles, Wash., and played college football at Idaho.
“He was one of the reasons I loved college football,” Thomas said Tuesday. “What he did at the University of Washington, that’s how I got the itch to play college football.”
Thomas also coached at Washington from 2009-12 before coming to Arkansas.
“Obviously I got the chance to know him when I coached out there. It’s sad. He is a legend in the lives that he touched, but he is in a better place now.”