FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS FOOTBALL NOTES
1. No Trouble With No-Huddle
Arkansas has prepared for another no-huddle, spread offense this week. But just like its past two games, defensive coordinator Chris Ash said he expects his group to live up to the tempo challenge against Southern Miss.
“The first two teams have been no-huddle, but not necessarily supersonic fast teams,” Ash said Sunday. “And we haven’t had any issues with that.
“I think our guys have adjusted the way we want to handle the no-huddle teams fairly well and I don’t anticipate any issues with tempo.”
Southern Miss coach Todd Monken came from Oklahoma State, where he worked as offensive coordinator for a team that spread the field with four receivers, stressed tempo and gained yards. The Golden Eagles have struggled with 10 turnovers, but are averaging 342 yards (299.5 through the air) in their first two games.
Arkansas held its first two opponents below the 300-yard mark, but defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said Southern Miss will present a different type of test.
“Their tempo is extremely, extremely fast,” Partridge said. “We’ve seen no-huddle teams obviously this year, but their tempo is going to be a challenge.”
So safety Alan Turner said one of the biggest keys to limiting Southern Miss’ effectiveness will be paying attention between snaps. Getting the next defensive play call, lining up quickly and being ready to go will play an impact in their success.
“The no-huddle, if you don’t have the calls and you aren’t set up, that’s how they get quick plays and get quick yards,” said Turner, who is expected to start in place of injured safety Rohan Gaines. “We just have to get the calls right fast and get set up.”
Arkansas linebacker Austin Jones said the Razorbacks expect to see bubble screens, quick passes and draws from the Golden Eagles. But he credited Arkansas’ scout team for getting the Razorbacks prepared for a no-huddle offense once again.
“It’s really just getting your eyes a quick as you can to our play caller and get the call,” Jones said. “There’s no excuse for not getting the call, because that’s one of our responsibilities, to get our head turned to the coach. Really, it’s about being very focused and being quick. We’ve got go high tempo, too, with it.”
2. Thomas Breaks Out
Partridge said he could feel a big game coming from defensive tackle Robert Thomas. The senior delivered in the Samford win, collecting career highs in sacks (1 ½) and tackles for losses (3 ½).
“From spring ball up through fall camp, he’s worked so hard on his fundamentals,” Partridge said. “Eventually, that’s going to build the kind of foundation for those types of games. It’s great for me, because I can point all that out on film.”
Of course, Partridge hopes Thomas can stay on that level after having a big impact on the win. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema agreed, saying the team captain proved to be one of the biggest influences throughout several tight spots against Samford.
“Not only in the second half, but did at the end of half when we got the ball when they got the ball and a turnover, Robert Thomas went nuts and really did a nice job of leading by verbal communication,” Bielema said. “He’s got the respect of the players, and to play the game he did … I see him as a guy who’s really, really grown in so many ways since we’ve been here that’s been awesome.”
3. Personnel Report
Bielema said linebacker Otha Peters (broken arm) should make his season debut, in some capacity, against Southern Miss. The sophomore has missed two games.
“Otha Peters will play,” Bielema said. “I don’t know how much from the line of scrimmage we’ll work him in depending upon how the game flows. We’ll be getting him in on special teams.”
Bielema said defensive end Trey Flowers (knee) has been with the team all week and won’t “miss a beat” after sitting out the Samford game. Tight end Austin Tate (shoulder) and receiver Keon Hatcher (hamstring) will go through pregame work. Tate isn’t expected to play, but Arkansas will make a determination on Hatcher.
Bielema also said he isn’t expecting safety Rohan Gaines (knee) to play for the second straight week. Alan Turner will start in place of Gaines.
“I think he will be full go for us next week,” Bielema said of Gaines. “There is a chance for Saturday, yet, maybe in a limited role.”
4. Decision Time?
Arkansas didn’t change the number of true freshmen playing last week, continuing to use the seven that made appearances in the season opener. But Bielema said earlier this week there are possibilities to play two more newcomers.
Receiver Melvinson Hartfield and safety Korliss Marshall haven’t seen the field in two games. Bielema said Wednesday on his weekly radio show he’d like to redshirt both players if possible, but no final decisions have been made.
“We have got to make a decision on them in the next two weeks,” Bielema said. “See if we can get them ready for SEC play. The one thing that Melvinson can do is he can really run and he can give us something. The part that was really tempting for us with him was with all the receivers down that at one point he took a lot of reps.”