Arkansas held their first scrimmage of the spring that was open to both the media and the public on Saturday. The Razorbacks started in situational drills where the ball was snapped between their own 32- and 42-yard lines, followed by a bunch of red zone work. They didn't actually begin moving the ball all the way up and down the field until the later half of the scrimmage.
At the beginning, the offense seemed to have the upper-hand over the defense, which should probably be expected at this point in spring practice considering nearly the entire offense is returning while the defense has to fill some spots vacated by key players. That being said, big plays were a rarity and the defense appeared to be in good position for the most part, and there were several sacks throughout the day. Armon Watts, Deatrich Wise, newcomer Jeremiah Ledbetter, Khalia Hackett, Tevin Beanum, and Josh Williams all were able to get the quarterbacks at various times.
The offense was generally able to move the ball. Brandon Allen was 17/22 for about 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also ran for one touchdown to cap off the team's best drive during the full scrimmage portion of practice. Austin Allen took the second-most reps and was 10/12 and threw a nice touch pass touchdown to Jack Kraus late in the scrimmage. Rafe Peavey and Ty Storey were both 4/7.
But few passes were true downfield passes. Redshirt freshman fullback Tyler Colquitt was the leading receiver with 6 catches. The tight ends were effective too, as Jeremy Sprinkle looked as good or better than we've seen him with four receptions and a touchdown on one of the downfield passes from Brandon Allen.
Keon Hatcher also returned from injury and had a really nice performance making a few tough catches over the middle. Several in the media noted how impressive he was looking. JoJo Robinson, who appears to have bulked up a bit since I remember seeing him last August, made a couple of nice catches. Damon Mitchell only had one but was impressive by bouncing off a would-be tackler once he caught the ball over the middle.
Kody Walker and walk-on Connor McPherson took the vast majority of the running back carries. Jonathan Williams is being held out from most contact during the spring and Denzell Evans tweaked his groin earlier this week and didn't play. Alex Collins played a little bit but twisted his ankle early on. He returned but didn't take too many reps. Both Walker and McPherson looked solid running behind Arkansas' mammoth offensive line. Both backs gained yards on nearly every possession. Ke'Tyrus Marks did break through toward the end and smashed down McPherson about as soon as he took the handoff.
The defense seemed to come more alive when the sun came out in the latter half of the scrimmage. The first team offense led one touchdown drive, but they had to earn it, even going for it on 4th down in the middle of the drive. It took them about 15 plays for Brandon Allen was able to run up the middle and into the end zone. Kody Walker was given several consecutive handoffs on the drive. Once he was held for negative yardage when Josh Williams and JaMichael Winston pushed him back, but most of the carries picked up solid yardage.
Austin Allen led a touchdown drive against the twos on defense and Ty Storey led a field goal drive.
Adam McFain seemed to be kicking with the ones but Cole Hedlund was the only perfect kicker today. McFain, Hedlund, and Lane Saling all made kicks from about 38 yards. Hedlund and Saling both hit from 47 yards. Hedlund and McFain both hit from 55 yards while Saling missed from that distance, and Hedlund knocked one through from 59 yards to end the scrimmage while McFain failed to convert. While they both made kicks from 55, McFain seemed to have better explosiveness on that kick while Hedlund's was more of a line drive, but on the 59, Hedlund got all of it for a really nice kick.
Bielema noted the kicking competition, as well as the backup quarterback competition will both be ongoing.
Two more weeks until the Red/White Game.