Four more former walk-ons have joined the list of Arkansas players who have earned athletic scholarships.
Linebacker Austin Jones, running back Patrick Arinze, linebacker Price Holmes and tight end Alex Voelzke have been awarded scholarships by Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, according to several social media posts from players Sunday night. It included Arinze, who said via Twitter two years ago he was simply trying to “get people to look at my highlight tape.”
“… Now I’m on scholarship in the SEC,” Arinze added on his Twitter page.
Arinze, who played at Grossmont (Calif.) Community College in 2010 and 2011, become a valuable member of the backfield after joining the program as a walk-on last spring. He is backing up senior Kiero Small at fullback, but also has proven capable of being a ball carrier in Arkansas’ new-look backfield.
Jones — who walked on at Arkansas in 2010 after leaving the Air Force Academy — has emerged as the front-runner to win the starting job at middle linebacker in his senior season. Holmes and Voelzke also have become important reserves.
The four give Arkansas six former walk-ons who have been put on scholarship since Bielema’s arrival last December. Long snapper Alan D’Appollonio and tight end Mitchell Loewen were awarded scholarships after spring practices.
Bielema has said several times establishing a walk-on program at Arkansas is an important goal. There’s a good reason: Bielema was a walk on at Iowa.
“I think just in the state of Arkansas there’s probably a lot of players that I think are three good things: They’re usually undersized, under-recruited and under-developed,” Bielema said on Aug. 5. “To me, that’s a great formula for our walk-ons.
“So it’s something we want to build not just in Arkansas, but because of all our bordering states and the rules that exist there, we’re really trying to increase the value of our walk-on program”
Allen’s scrimmage performance
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen couldn’t repeat his Aug. 5 performance (16-for-17 passing) during last Saturday’s closed scrimmage, according to Bielema. But the sophomore continued to impress the coach with his performance anyway.
Bielema said one big highlight was a lengthy scoring drive engineered by Allen.
“He had a 14-play scoring drive that overcame two penalties,” Bielema said. “Obviously the whole offense did it, but Brandon Allen did it, which is unbelievable. Fourteen-play scoring drive. That’s something. That says a lot about our offense.”
Bielema said the offense also was tested in late-game situations. He wanted to see how well they could protect a lead and apparently succeeded.
“I put 2:56 on the clock, gave the defense one time out, told our offense, ‘If you make a first down you win the game.’ And they did,” Bielema said. “They ran the ball out with a victory formation.”
Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash planned to blitz more during the scrimmage in hopes of creating turnovers. Bielema said he followed through.
“There definitely was more blitzing,” Bielema said. “Probably more than I would like. Coach Ash has a tendency to get heavy-handed when he gets frustrated, and there was a lot of them out there. But it was productive.”
Bielema said the second-team offense had a tough time picking up the blitzes, which led to a couple of turnovers during the closed scrimmage. The exact details weren’t revealed, but Bielema said cornerback Kelvin Fisher Jr. had an interception and believed there was a fumble recovered by the defense.
“So there was improvement there,” Bielema said.
Freshmen tackle job
Bielema was impressed with freshmen offensive tackles Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland during last Saturday’s scrimmage. He said the duo worked with the first-team line during a pair of scoring drives and showed their potential.
They haven’t bumped first-team players David Hurd and Grady Ollison from the starting lineup, though. Bielema explained how they were promoted Saturday.
“They didn’t start there, but we subbed them in during the course of the scrimmage,” Bielema said. “We kind of have a policy if you jump offsides you get removed and (Ollison) and Hurd both jumped offsides and gave those guys an opportunity and they capitalized on it.”