There's a few disclaimers everyone should be aware of before seriously discussing this spring game:
- The red team were the starters, for the most part. They went against the 2nd team on both offense and defense. In the scrimmages I saw earlier this spring, there was much more 1s vs 1s.
- Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins were both held out. Williams has been out of contact all spring and Collins tweaked his ankle a couple of weeks ago. Both should be full-go once preseason camp kicks off in August.
So with that in mind, let's discuss the spring game.
There were clearly two stars of the game: Brandon Allen and Kody Walker.
Wearing a green jersey and going against the 2s, it's easy to dismiss the game as being set up for Allen to shine, and that is true to a certain extent. However it should be noted that Allen was under the same setup last year, and was far, I mean FAR better than he was this time a year ago. How much of that is experience and how much of that is the impact of new offensive coordinator Dan Enos is difficult to say, but he looked really good and ultimately that's all that matters.
Allen finished 17/21 for 230 yards and three touchdowns. No interceptions (Bielema noted he hasn't thrown a pick all spring). The tight ends were his favorite targets with both Hunter Henry and Jeremy Spinkle catching four passes. It will be interesting to see if the focus on tight ends will continue in the fall. While most everyone agreed that the tight ends were an Arkansas strength last season, they were not always utilized to the fullest extent, or so it seemed. Keon Hatcher led the team in receptions last season and had three today, and one of them was the play of the day in a beautiful, perfectly thrown 65-yard bomb from Allen for a touchdown in the first half.
Walker had a great day running behind the first team offensive line. He ended up with 26 carries for 174 yards and three touchdowns. He broke free a couple of times for a 25 yard touchdown around the left side and a 44-yard run that was stopped at the 1-yard line. It remains to be seen how many carries he'll get this fall behind Williams and Collins, but if he sees the field frequently in more of a fullback role he will have some real impact.
The first team defense was solid. They were barely on the field, it seemed, because the backup offense was never able to make any progress against them. They only allowed one 1st down and that came late in the game. The white offense only ran 28 total plays. None of the other three quarterbacks completed more than 50% of their passes. Austin Allen was 3/6 against the red defense (5/6 against the white defense), Rafe Peavey was 1/4 and Ty Storey 2/5. The red team sacked the three backup quarterbacks three times, all by JaMichael Winston. Newcomer Jeremiah Ledbetter did have one of the better defensive plays as he came around the line on a running play and ran over to tackle Walker in the backfield on the opposite side of the line.
The reason the white team had 18 points is because the team held field goal kicking contests between quarters. Lane Saling played with the white team but beat Adam McFain, at least on the number of kicks they made. Saling was 6/8 and McFain was 5/8. Cole Hedlund was on the sidelines but did not participate.
All in all it was a solid showing. There were no turnovers by either team. The team wasted some time by having SEC Network reporter Laura Rutledge try to catch a 2-point attempt on the famous "Tretola Left" play but she was unable to bring down the pass on both attempts. Bielema said they only used about 50% of the playbook today.
I don't know that anything was really answered today. The offense looked great against the #2 defense but it's hard to say how well that will translate this fall. The defense looked great against the #2 offense but it's hard to say how well that will translate this fall. The good news is that there didn't seem to be any reason for any new concerns heading into the long, hot offseason, and the team is clearly better than they were last April.