Strange things are afoot at the Arkansas Spring Game.
Let’s be clear, that wasn’t a spring game. It wasn’t really a scrimmage, at least most of it. It was a practice. There were a lot of basic drills at the beginning. Lots of situational plays. There wasn’t even much tackling. No one seemed to be keeping stats for the television broadcast, although the local media in attendance were likely keeping their own.
The weather in Northwest Arkansas has been mostly terrible over the last few days. We’ve been in a flash flood watch for basically the last full day. Big storms hit Fayetteville throughout the scheduled time of the game, so Arkansas first decided to cancel the game from public attendance, then on Friday decided to just do the whole thing as a practice inside their indoor facility.
The most notable thing was the injury to running back Rawleigh Williams early in the practice. It’s well-known that Williams broke his neck against Auburn in the middle of his freshman year in 2015, but was able to come back and have a great season last fall. But because of that injury in 2015, in which he laid motionless on the field for several minutes before being taken away on the stretcher, seeing him lying on the ground with trainers, coaches, family, and players circled around him, was a frightening scene. The television broadcast showed his mother and younger brother upset while it was going on. It was a bad scene.
Fortunately, doctors diagnosed him with a “stinger” that is unrelated to the previous injury, and the effort to put him on the stretcher and take him to the hospital was just a precaution because of it. Bret Bielema seemed to be optimistic about the situation after the game.
I found it difficult to follow much of the practice on the broadcast. The show frequently cut to interviews or to commercials while the practice continued to go on. The Walker Pavilion isn’t set up for this sort of thing, so many of the camera angles weren’t great. I’m not sure why they decided not to do a full scrimmage inside, but whatever. Although, if you’ve always wanted to watch a real practice and not a scrimmage, hopefully you enjoyed it.
Here are some notes:
Bielema announced just before the practice that the team captains this year will be Austin Allen, Frank Ragnow, Kevin Richardson, and Santos Ramirez.
Cole Hedlund made all of his field goal attempts to start the practice.
Jamario Bell was moved back to defense this spring. He’s playing one of the outside linebacker roles in the new 3-4 defense and Bielema says he’s been great. Bell made a great play on a ball late in the practice that he nearly intercepted after tipping it in the air.
Despite the loss of senior receivers, I think Arkansas will be fine there. Jared Cornelius didn’t participate in the practice, but the new guys are looking good, led by the two new junior college players Brandon Martin and Jonathan Nance. Jordan Jones is also getting a lot of buzz.
Freshman running back Maleek Williams was getting some play after Rawleigh Williams was injured. There have been good reports on him throughout the spring. We’ll see how the injury impacts Williams’ offseason, but he and Devwah Whaley are still expected to be 1A and 1B in the fall.
Considering how bad the offensive line and the defense were last year, I don’t think it’s smart for most of us to try to evaluate how they look when facing off against each other. There were several non-tackle sacks today, but I wouldn’t read too much into it for either the defense or the offense. We might have a better idea in preseason camp when the entire team will be on campus (reminder for spring practice - this is not the full roster for next year). But even then, we probably won’t have a real idea until the TCU game in Week 2.