Arkansas receiver Julian Horton cringed when he realized quarterback Brandon Allen completed 16 of 17 passes in the team’s first preseason scrimmage.
That’s because the senior knew he was responsible for the lone incompletion.
“I was mad,” Horton said. “I saw the replay and everything. I didn’t look the ball right in and dropped it.”
The mistake didn’t overshadow what proved to be a productive day for Horton, though. The receiver led Arkansas with six catches for 63 yards during the team’s 107-play scrimmage in Razorback Stadium.
It’s another sign Horton appears to have developed a strong rapport with Allen after the two connected plenty during spring scrimmages. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Sunday he has taken note of the chemistry between quarterback and receiver.
“I don’t know if they got together, but really, at the exact same time a year ago in the spring they started clicking and everything started to come together,” Bielema said, who added that Horton played big during the scrimmage.
The good news: Allen didn’t shy away from Horton after the dropped pass.
In fact, he went right back to the veteran receiver on the next two plays. The first one — a seven-yard completion — was called back because of a penalty. But Horton latched onto the next pass as well and turned it into a 17-yard complete.
Horton said it felt good to know Allen kept looking his way.
“I’m not going to lose confidence out there,” Horton said. “I’m not going to get down on myself because I dropped one ball or anything bad happens. … I’ve got to come back the next play because they’re relying on me to make plays for this team.”
Arkansas defensive tackle Robert Thomas graded well during the team’s first preseason scrimmage. In fact, the senior said he received a 97 from coaches.
But Thomas said it’s just a starting point.
“There’s still a lot of things I’ve got to practice on and get better at,” Thomas said.
Thomas and interior teammate Byran Jones have high expectations for 2013 as part of a defensive line considered Arkansas’ defensive strength. Thomas started two games in 2012 and finished with 18 tackles, 5 tackles for losses and 2 ½ sacks. Jones started 11 games and finished with 52 tackles, 5 tackles for losses and 1 ½ sacks.
“Me and (Jones) are like brothers,” Thomas said. “I know him like the back of my hand. He knows me like the back of his hand. We play off each other real well.”
Safety Rohan Gaines’ injury has given defensive coordinator Chris Ash a good look at junior college transfer TQ Coleman in a first-team role. Ash said last Saturday’s scrimmage helped him answer one of the biggest concerns with Coleman.
“One of my question marks on him was his ability to tackle in the open field,” Ash said. “He did a nice job (last Saturday). He came up and made a couple of nice tackles and they were actually pretty physical tackles in the open field.”
Gaines will be plugged back into the starting unit when he returns to practice, but Coleman said he’ll continue to make the most of the opportunity for now.
“I’m just trying step up and help the team as best that I can,” Coleman said. “The mental reps I’d gotten before have helped. I feel like I just fit right in with the ones. I feel like everything has been going real smooth.”
Big plays coming?
Arkansas’ running backs showed a few flashes during last Saturday’s 107-play scrimmage. But no one managed to break a run that went over 20 yards.
Running backs coach Joel Thomas believes that will change soon after seeing some promising signs during the first full-contact scrimmage.
“It’s just the repetition of getting your scheme down, your technique and the little nuances of running the ball and trusting your linemen,” Thomas said. “How they’re going to set up the block. I think that’s getting better as we go every day.
“So the next scrimmage I won’t be shocked if that does come about.”