Last Friday’s scrimmage sent a very mixed message to Hog fans.
The offense appears to have picked up right where they left off, even with Ryan Mallet sidelined with a foot injury. The defense looked to be where they left off, too. Unfortunately, that’s not a good thing.
The early part of the scrimmage produced some big plays in the passing game, and no one had a bigger day than Cobi Hamilton.
Hamilton hauled in four passes for 145 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
Kudos to Hamilton for having a big day making big plays, but Arkansas fans can’t be happy with what the defense allowed in the first scrimmage. Much of Arkansas’ success in the 2010 season hinges upon the defense’s ability to stop these big plays.
The scrimmage might not be a tell-tale sign that progression is delayed, but it is discouraging. Some people will argue that scrimmages are set up for the offense to succeed. For example, the defense won’t work in its blitz packages until the end of the scrimmage, so many of these deep plays came against a base defensive package.
The latter half of the scrimmage was focused on the running game. Petrino wants the offense to be tough and finish out games with a run game that can wear down a defense. Transversely, he wants the defense to be tough late in games and make the stops they need when they’re worn down.
The last five possessions of the scrimmage where mostly run plays, and Dennis Johnson and his backfield cohorts made the most of their opportunities to impress this spring. Johnson has reportedly made great strides in a leadership capacity, and it seems that he’s also leading by example on the field.
Johnson finished the scrimmage with 78 yards rushing on nine carries and one touchdown. Ronnie Wingo, Broderick Green, and Knile Davis all added touchdowns late in the scrimmage.
Once again that doesn’t show the defense in the most positive light. The offense seemed to score at will with the running game in the red zone, or as Petrino calls it, the “critical zone.”
The Hog’s defense needs to get tough in these situations. There were a number of close games last season where the inability to stop the running game late kept other teams in contention. Arkansas has developed a lot of depth on the defensive side of the ball. This spring they need to let that depth show, and not get tired late in scrimmages.
Tomorrow the Hogs will strap on the pads and have their second scrimmage of the spring. I would like to see the big plays from Hamilton in the passing game limited. Maybe a more complex defensive scheme will yield higher success for the defense in the second scrimmage.