No matter how hard I try to add perspective to the pre-season practice video the media are allowed the shoot it’s interesting to read reaction from fans who pretty much already have their minds made up about how Arkansas defense is going to look this coming season. Keep in mind that eight days into August Camp the video we’ve been able to shoot and post is mostly two on two competition between receivers and D-backs with no offensive or defensive lines involved and no pass rush. The quarterbacks and receivers are in a best case scenario. The corners, safeties and linebackers have to be perfect to defend against the pass and even then they can lose the battle.
Visually this fires up “the defense stinks” crowd on Twitter and Facebook.
It’s amazing how much better that defense looks in a real scrimmage. Linemen on both sides of the ball to obstruct the QBs vision. Blitzing and a pass rush from the D-line. Sam Pittman saw the difference right away. “I thought our D-line really played well,” he said afterward. “Really played well. I don’t know that we got a first down the first two series with the ones vs twos and twos vs ones.”
If you are posting that the defense will once against be the weakness of this team you might want to steer clear of redshirt sophomore Cam Ball if you see him out and about. Number five sent a pretty strong message about that when he sat down in front of reporters a half hour or so after the scrimmage had ended.
“All of us was hungry as a whole,” Ball said of the D-Line. “You could tell that the chemistry was really there. We all played together. Basically we just gave a preview of how it’s going to be this season.”
Pittman was quick to point out that after a slow start the offense got going in the situational part of the scrimmage. Jefferson hit Andrew Armstrong with 15 yard pass, Isaac Te’Slaa with a 17 yarder, Jaedon Wilson for 33 yards and Rocket Sanders with a 50 yard deep ball.
On the ground Pittman said Rocket Sanders ran for about 50 yards in limited action. He also singled out Rashod Dubinion who had 20-yard carry. But it was the return of Dominique Johnson that had him excited. Battling back from knee surgery Johnson gained more yards on one play than he had in the entire 2022 season, a 50 yard touchdown run that was the offensive highlight on Saturday.
“Just seeing him come back and produce the way he did,” Jefferson observed, “in the passing game and running the ball well, it’s great to have him back on full go and to show that he has a lot of confidence in his knee.”
Pittman was not happy with the number of penalties assessed on both sides of the ball by refs who were told to call the scrimmage as if it were an actual SEC game. He said the focus in week two of camp will be to reduce those penalties to near zero in the second scrimmage next Saturday.
Scrimmages introduce the possibility of injuries. There were two of them Saturday morning. Receiver Sam Mbake and tight end Nathan Bax went down and did not return to the field. Pittman was unsure of their status immediately afterward.
Another positive note for the offense, Cam Little booted field goals of 54 and 58 yards to go with a 60 yarder he connected on earlier in the week. Pittman noted that Little was “a little guy” and the head coach could not figure out how he has to strength to kick the ball that far. But, “he’s fast” Pitman added. Perhaps a fake field goal could be the result sometime in the coming season, Pittman hinted. Little apparently has also earned kickoff duties going into game one.