Arkansas Spring Football Game: Questions For The Razorbacks To Answer

by Chris Bahn  on Saturday, Apr. 21, 2012 8:14 am  

Quarterback Tyler Wilson has been sharp throughout spring practice. Can he carry it over into today's Red-White game? (Photo by Mark Wagner)

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Much of the Arkansas football news entering today's Red White game has centered on off-the-field matters. But football will have our attention today at Razorback Stadium as the Razorbacks kickoff the Red-White game at 2 p.m.

Below are six questions we’re asking entering the final practice of spring:

I. How is the focus?
So far the Razorbacks have said all the right things about their mindset entering the final spring scrimmage. They’ve used practice as a refuge from all the Bobby Petrino news and conversations, and the Razorbacks say they’re confident the team still has what it takes to eclipse last year’s 11 wins. Petrino demanded non-stop focus from his players and by all accounts they’ve carried that out in practice through the last two weeks with few eyes upon them. Today they’ll play before a crowd that UA officials hope eclipses the record 41,000-plus that watched last spring.

II. What can Tyler Wilson do to top his spring so far?
If you haven’t heard much about Tyler Wilson’s spring it is through no fault of his own. Wilson has looked worthy of preseason Heisman Trophy candidate talk in every one of the team’s scrimmages. He’s completing 80 of 104 passes (nearly 77 percent) with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino has said repeatedly no quarterback in the country could possibly be throwing better and he even compared Wilson to “Superman.”

III. Who is Tenearius Wright: linebacker or defensive end?
Combine depth concerns at linebacker with a wealth of depth at defensive end and coaches have plenty of reason for trying Tenarius Wright in the middle. Wright was building for what could have been an all-SEC season at defensive end, but moved to linebacker after Alonzo Highsmith went down with a pec injury. Additional issues at linebacker (Tyler Gilbert’s arrest, Brock Haman’s transfer, lack of other playmakers) make this feel like more than a temporary move. How Wright performs in the Red-White game could lead to a tough decision for coaches.

IV. When will Marquel Wade make the first Joe Adams-esque play of the day?
Comparisons between Wade and Adams, a consensus All-American punt return specialist, began last year. Teammates called Wade, a freshman, Adams’ “mini-me” and noted the explosive game speed and ability to avoid tackles the two seemed to share. Wade didn’t match his mentor’s four punt return scores last year, but did have a special teams TD in 2011. Opportunities to catch passes were limited last season, but the departure of Adams and two other NFL-bound receivers will provide plenty of chances for Wade to shine on offense.

V. Why is Knile Davis just standing there?
Knile Davis cuts at the line of scrimmage like he used to. He seems to have the same burst upon receiving the football on handoffs from his quarterback. His strength and speed numbers in the weight room are as good as they've ever been. So why isn't he getting contact? Coaches have elected to bring Davis along slowly for a variety of reasons. Arkansas needs him healthy for the season, including a Week 3 game with Alabama. Plus, not putting him in contact situations gives more reps to Ronnie Wingo Jr. and Dennis Johnson.

VI. Where will the retooled defense be most evident?
New defensive coordinator Paul Haynes appeared to make an impactful debut in the Cotton Bowl. Haynes was on board for about a month before the final game of 2011. That left him just enough time to teach better tackling, even if it wasn’t enough time to learn his players’ names. Haynes seems to have better command of his personnel and is still working with the team on fundamentals and technique in an effort to cut down on big plays. Haynes has tried to simplify the defensive schemes, while adjusting some terminology and adding some new wrinkles. Defensive backs were Haynes' speciality at Ohio State. Many are anxious to see what kind of impact he has on what seemed to be a perpetually under-performing group under Willy Robinson.



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