Today was anybody's first chance to see the new, 2014 Razorbacks, and it was clear pretty quickly this was indeed a new team.
One of the first, most noticeable things that didn't really exist last season nor in spring practice was the evidence of a functional vertical passing game. There were some deep balls thrown today, and not just because a receiver slipped behind the secondary. Drew Morgan and Keon Hatcher both caught big completions with defenders all over them. On Hatcher's, it looked like Jared Collins even gave a nice shove in the back before the ball got there, but Hatcher was still able to bring it in for about 40-ish yards.
You'll hear a lot about Morgan's performance today, and it's well-deserved. He led the team with five receptions for a little over 100 yards and two touchdowns. He was getting open in the middle of the field and hauled in passes along the sideline. His second touchdown was a beauty, hauling in a high corner pass from Brandon Allen that went just over the defender's hand. Bielema said Morgan reminded him of his star receiver at Wisconsin, Jared Abbredaris, "and not just because he's a white wide receiver."
Morgan's touchdowns were the only two touchdowns of the day. It should be noted most of the day was spent in situational drills on the far end of the field so they were rarely in scoring situations. They didn't practice any red zone/goal line stuff today.
Beyond that, it was fun to see the new players out there. Randy Ramsey, Henre' Toliver, and Josh Liddell all look like they'll contribute quickly. Bret Bielema described Ramsey today as "a very, very intense football player." He looks really skinny for a linebacker at 6'4" and 222 lbs but he's really active and made some nice plays today. These guys probably won't be starters immediately barring injuries to others but we'll see them on the field. Ramsey made a pair of sacks today.
Bielema noted that Rohan Gaines has felt pushed by Liddell and DeAndre Coley and that Gaines is responding well to it. Gaines tweeted after the scrimmage "Felt like I got better today!"
The running game didn't do anything flashy. None of the backs broke any huge plays and Alex Collins didn't play due to a "tweaked groin." Bielema said he expects Collins back as soon as early this week. There were a few players held out with injuries but Bielema didn't really seem concerned that any of them were significant injuries and all would be back soon. Santos Ramirez, JoJo Robinson, and Bijhon Jackson were all held out.
The offensive line is still developing. I saw Mitch Smothers out there at center today and Frank Ragnow is growing into the role himself very quickly. Bielema said he really likes new players Cameron Jefferson and Sebastian Tretola, but noted Tretola needs to drop some weight. Their goal for him is to lose five pounds a week before the Auburn game, and that would get him to 350 pounds.
Overall stats for the quarterbacks:
- Brandon Allen: 12 of 22, 191 yards, 2 TDs
- Austin Allen: 15 of 19, 190 yards
- Rafe Peavey: 8 of 10, 59 yards
There was no special teams practice at the scrimmage. They're holding a special practice just for special teams tonight.
Overall, there were some really nice moments, and some questionable moments. But it's an intriguing team. I'm looking forward to watching how everything plays out over the end of summer and fall.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Bielema: D.J. Dean probably top punt returner and will be hard not to use KMarshall on KOR, one of most explosive players he's ever seen</p>— Thomas Murphy (@TomMurphyADG) <a href="https://twitter.com/TomMurphyADG/statuses/498139494101839872">August 9, 2014</a></blockquote>
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