Arkansas Razorbacks Offense Practice Report: A.J. Derby Continues Rutgers Prep

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

"Alex Collins is already fluent in coach speak" edition.

Arkansas quarterback A.J. Derby is continuing preparation for this weekend's game against Rutgers, coaches said Tuesday.

"I'll let coach [Bielema] talk about who's playing and who's not," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said on Brandon Allen's status for Saturday.

But with the uncertainty surrounding Allen's shoulder injury, Derby is continuing to get reps in practice in preparation for possibly being named Arkansas' starter against Rutgers.

"Before he was a starter he came out and worked hard every day in practice," Alex Collins said of Derby.

Senior center Travis Swanson also noted that as the game progressed Saturday he could see a noticeable difference in Derby's confidence level on the field.

Collins and fellow running back Jonathan Williams also spoke highly of Derby, mentioning his calm demeanor in the huddle against Southern Miss.

"He's a naturally calm guy," Williams said. "He walked in there and you could tell as the game went on he got more calm and more comfortable on the football field."

Senior receiver Javontee Herndon also noted the offense isn't going to change or "back down" just because Arkansas might throw a relatively new quarterback on the field Saturday.

Aside from the quarterback situation, Arkansas got good news in the injury department as tight end Austin Tate returned to practice at full speed on Tuesday.

"He's done a great job during his down time of being tuned-in," tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. said. "Austin knows football."

Lunney also mentioned other tight ends did well stepping in for Tate after he went down with his collarbone injury, and that Tate was his No. 1 assistant in practice, helping out the young group of tight ends.

"I'm ready to roll," Tate said. "I didn't have any doubt today. There's no other way to find out than just to do it."

Players and coaches also know what a challenge the Rutgers top-5 nationally ranked run defense poses to the potent Arkansas rushing attack.

"Those guys can run to the ball," offensive line coach Sam Pittman said. "They're the best defense we'll have played, so they'll give us a challenge on Saturday."

Jonathan Williams says he's aware of how good an opponent Rutgers is, and that the team is going to have to bring the energy with them on their first road trip. "We're not going to have the home field advantage like we've had the first three weeks," Williams said.

Williams was also asked about the "Budda and the Beast" nickname being given to the duo of he and Collins, to which Williams said, "I guess that's a pretty good nickname ... I don't really have any preferences."

Players and coaches alike seemed very focused and repeatedly said they were confident in whatever decision will be made regarding the QB situation.

Sam Pittman added a bit of humor to the presser, asking for the thoughts of the media on his new glasses. As Pittman walked out of the conference room, he added, "I've got a good wife, and a good pair of glasses."

Coaches all around seem to be focused, but relaxed, and looking forward to traveling to New Jersey and moving to 4-0.

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