While much of the scrimmage was situational down-and-distance work, Bielema let the offenses take some stabs at moving the ball as the day went on. A couple of observations from the RBN crew that was in attendance:
As promised, DE Trey Flowers did not get to scrimmage. Flowers has nothing to prove to the coaching staff this spring, and will only be practicing. RB Korliss Marshall, WR Demetrius Wilson, and Eric Hawkins (concussion) were also held out.
With Flowers out, fellow defensive ends Deatrich Wise, Brandon Lewis, Tevin Beanum and JaMichael Winston got to shine. Wise and Beanum totaled 2 sacks each. All of them have a chance to be impact players in defensive coordinator Robb Smith’s new scheme which brought a lot of pressure off the edge all day.
When we’re talking about Robb Smith bringing pressure on the edge, it is from every angle. A lot of zone blitzing from safeties and outside linebackers will give the Hogs more of an NFL look. A stark contrast to what we saw last season, when the Hogs struggled to make plays and force turnovers.
Before the scrimmage commenced, the Hogs went through 7 periods of regular practice time. We like defensive backs coach Clay Jennings already after watching him put his secondary troops through several spirited tackling drills. Tackling in the secondary was a definite weak spot for last year’s defense.
All the wide receivers had a nice day catching the ball, but we left most impressed with true freshman Jared Cornelius. Cornelius (6-1, 192, Shreveport Evangel) showed great hands in traffic and flashed, making several catches (4 catches for 60 RecYds) across the middle. Jared was deep to return punts as well during Saturday’s scrimmage.
With what appears to be a stable of possession receivers like Drew Morgan, Cody Hollister and Keon Hatcher, the Hogs are going to need Cornelius and JoJo Robinson (when he arrives in the fall) to become playmakers – guys that can get separation – in the wide receiver rotation.
Sophomore defensive tackle Darius Philon is going to be an All-SEC player before he leaves us. Philon has transformed his body this offseason, losing a lot of the ‘baby fat’ he played with a year ago. His quickness and high motor were on display Saturday, wrecking havoc from his defensive tackle position.
In one of the more entertaining moments, a brief skirmish broke out between several of the interior lineman early in the scrimmage. Philon, Beanum and sophomore Dan Skipper were among the parties involved. Skipper got in a punch before teammates and coaches separated the fray. Not an unwelcomed event when players are competing like the Hogs were Saturday.
The first team starting offensive line looked impressive. It included LT Dan Skipper, LG Mitch Smothers, C Luke Charpentier, RG Denver Kirkland and RT Brey Cook. Smothers had two false start penalties and was replaced by Grady Ollison twice. It appears that there is still a good battle there between Smothers and Ollison that will play out. Charpentier looked ok at center, but we think he could be challenged by newcomers Frank Ragnow (Victoria, Minn.) and Sebastian Tretola (Iowa Western CC) in the fall.
The kicker is not on campus yet…and we’ll leave it at that. True freshman Cole Hedlund is your man in the fall.
The best play of the day was without question the 67-yard touchdown to TE Hunter Henry from Brandon Allen. Henry split wide left and ran a crossing route across the middle. Allen (17-20, 247 PaYds, TD, Int) delivered a perfect strike, and Hunter split the safeties and took it to the house for six.
All in all, it was a good, spirited scrimmage and as fans, you can start to see the glimpses of what Bielema and staff are trying to build.