Arkansas Football: Winners and Losers of 2013 Spring Practice
With brand-new head coach Bret Bielema running his first spring practices for the Arkansas Razorbacks, the winners and losers will be vast. He will have to evaluate the units from top-to-bottom, before he decides which players are the best fits for starters.
The overall team competition will be beneficial for the Razorbacks, as they try to re-establish themselves as a dominant power, not just in the SEC but in the nation. With the coordinators finally taking looks at these players, let's explore who the best and worst of spring practice were.
Loser: Quarterback Brandon Mitchell
Brandon Mitchell came into the spring looking like he'd be the starter at quarterback. However, it's looking more and more like he will lose the job to sophomore Brandon Allen.
Mitchell will have to improve on his deep-ball throws to potentially earn the starting job for the Razorbacks. It will be interesting to see who starts the season, though, as this is still a two-horse race for the starting job.
When asked to compare the two quarterbacks, Bret Bielema has said the following:
Bielema: Brandon Allen played his best football the last two weeks. Mitchell does good things, does things that set you back
— Thomas Murphy (@TomMurphyADG) April 20, 2013
That's not good news for the senior quarterback. Earning a starting job in his final year doesn't look as good as it once did.
Winner: Quarterback Brandon Allen
While the play between the two quarterbacks looks very close, Brandon Allen looks to have the edge. Allen performed slightly better against the first units than Brandon Mitchell did against the second.
Looks like top QBs done: Allen 11-16-0, 158 yds, 1 TD (172.3 rating); Mitchell 12-17-1, 138 yds, 1 TD (146.4). More big plays than expected— Thomas Murphy (@TomMurphyADG) April 20, 2013
Mitchell throwing an interception will hurt him as well. Allen has been playing great football, though. He deserves the starting spot and should have the edge at the beginning of fall camp.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney seems to be much happier with the idea of Allen starting as well.
Ark OC @coachjimchaney is touting the passing game from the past several days. Said downfield throwing was much better. Allen slightly ahead— Thomas Murphy (@TomMurphyADG) April 16, 2013
Loser: Bobby Petrino's Legacy
When people still talk about you after you have resigned, that can be a good or a bad thing.
Unfortunately for Bobby Petrino, it's a horrible thing. Everywhere he goes, he gets his name dragged through the mud, especially after he left. People have also noted how his coaching style doesn't work in comparison to a talented coach like Bret Bielema.
Dykes: Bobby Petrino motivated out of fear. Bret Bielema is motivating guys out of respect & by coaching the person.— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) April 19, 2013
This will only be good for the Arkansas football team. It can finally move on from the shadow that Petrino cast on the squad, as Bielema gives the Razorbacks a much-needed fresh start.
Winner: Offensive Line, Defensive Line and Receivers
When a head coach comes into a new situation, he isn't looking for instant improvement to starting level for every single player out there.
However, what he does want to see is improvement. So when a coach tells you which units improved the most, he's telling you the group of guys who he expects to show up the most in the fall camps.
Bielema says the offensive and defensive lines and receivers are units that have grown the most.— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) April 20, 2013
The offensive line, defensive line and receivers growing the most will be huge for Bret Bielema's schemes on offense and defense. These positions are trench-intensive and rely completely on high levels of performance from the big nasties.
Loser: Overall Defensive Depth
When a new coaching staff comes in, the first thing that takes a hit is depth on all units. But the defensive depth seems to be hurting the Razorbacks more than any other unit.
Ash: Depth is a concern... Is there a drop off at certain positions? Yeah, there is.— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) April 11, 2013
Defensive coordinator Chris Ash stated to Bo Mattingly that depth will be a problem. When there is a drop-off at any position, it's never good. But when the drop-off is at multiple spots, it could be detrimental to this team's title hopes for the year.
However, that can be improved long-term with better recruiting and talent development.
Winner: Braylon Mitchell, Daunte Carr and Jarrett Lake
The Razorbacks came in with a ton of questions on their linebacker corps. Those questions were all answered in the spring, as it looks like Chris Ash has found his starting crew in Braylon Mitchell, Daunte Carr and Jarrett Lake.
Braylon Mitchell, Daunte Carr and Jarrett Lake have been the No. 1 linebackers and will be with the first team on Saturday— Hawgs Illustrated (@HImagazine) April 18, 2013
The pair of juniors and the senior will have to make sure they retain the jobs. But after coming into the spring not knowing who would end up starting, this has been a big win for them.
Loser: The Run Defense
During the spring game, the run defense was having a ton of trouble containing the rushers. This wasn't just the first team but the second team as well.
Over the first half alone, there were 22 carries for 114 yards (5.18 yard per carry average), according to the numbers put out by Hawgs Illustrated:
Arkansas rushing: Patrick Arinze 8 carries, 50 yards; Kody Walker 7 carries, 40 yards; Jonathan Williams 6- 21 yards; Keiro Small 1-3— Hawgs Illustrated (@HImagazine) April 20, 2013
While having a bad run defense hurts in any league, it's the worst thing to have in the SEC. While this could be considered something good for the offense, the defense needs to make sure it can stop running backs in the SEC, especially with LSU and Alabama having tough-to-stop running games.
Winner: Overall Health
Overall, health of a team trying to re-establish itself as a top team in the nation is huge, and the spring game led to no injuries for the Razorbacks.
Bielema said no major injuries in spring game. CB Tevin Mitchel did leave with hamstring injury. DE Chris Smith was limited by an illness.— Robbie Neiswanger (@NWARobbie) April 20, 2013
Tweaking a hamstring and having a guy miss the game due to being sick are a pair of things that are pointless to worry about with games still over four months away.
Arkansas can breathe easy knowing that it has the time to completely heal from any ailments that it currently has.
Loser: RB Nate Holmes
Nate Holmes was expected to compete for the starting running back role. However, he's been having troubles academically and was suspended for half of the spring game due to that.
Bret Bielema doesn't want these players treating academics like they don't matter, so an example may have been made with Holmes.
Either way, the talented running back should easily be towards the top of the Arkansas running backs depth chart. But he will have to improve academically to stick with the Razorbacks.
Winner: Safety Eric Bennett
Eric Bennett was looking like a benchable safety in the 2012 season despite playing almost every snap. However, new defensive coordinator Chris Ash has taken a liking to him. He was quoted by ArkansasNews.com's Robbie Neiswanger as saying this about Bennett:
“I’ve been more than pleased with what Eric Bennett has done,” Ash said. “He’s been a great player. He’s been a great student of the game. He’s been very coachable.”
When the defensive coordinator says that about a senior who is playing safety, it's only a good thing. Expect a huge improvement from Bennett now that he has a legitimately good defensive coordinator in Ash.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.