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The Daily Call – May 2, 2014

BY ANDRES FOCIL
The Daily Call – May 2, 2014

@RazorbackFB Secondary Embraces Aggressive Approach Throughout spring practices, Arkansas football head coach Bret Bielema has consistently maintained the secondary has been the Razorbacks’ most-improved unit. That improvement was on display last Saturday at the annual Red-White Spring Game when four different members of the secondary grabbed an interception, including Rohan Gaines’ 31-yard return for a touchdown.

The addition of defensive coordinator and secondary coach Robb Smith from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and defensive backs coach Clay Jennings from TCU has led to the implementation of a more aggressive style in the defensive backfield.

“That’s the way they are being taught,” Coach Bielema said. “Early on, when I began to have conversations with Robb about becoming our defensive coordinator, we were on the same page. He really believes in challenging receivers at the line of scrimmage. He always says ‘Dictate to daylight’. Robb takes an offensive approach to defense as well as you can. He tries to set the tone defensively and make the offense play a little bit left-handed. It allows our corners to play his base technique with a lot more aggressive and physical attitude.”

Senior safety Alan Turner led the Razorbacks in tackles and ranked seventh in the conference in tackles per game while starting all 12 games last season. The Junction City, Ark., native felt the secondary brought a sense of urgency to spring practice.

“We wanted to take positive strides forward every time we had the opportunity,” Turner said. “I believe we did that throughout spring and in the spring game, and I feel like the defensive backs group as a whole is playing with way more confidence.”

Sophomore cornerback Jared Collins has embraced Coach Jennings’ approach.

“He’s brought a mentality of physical and mental toughness as well as aggressiveness,” Collins said. “I think it’s helping us a lot to cover people up close.”

Collins, a Tulsa, Okla., native, appeared in 11 games last season and started the final two contests, finishing the year with a season-high six tackles at No. 15 LSU. He felt his unit performed well in the Red-White Spring Game and will utilize competition over the summer to show continued improvement leading into the season.

“I feel like we played well in the spring game,” Collins said. “We had great ball disruption and we broke up a lot of plays. The competition at our position has helped us all to get better and work on improving our craft every day. When everybody gets better it helps us to compete against the best and be ready for a tough fall.”

With a relationship dating back to Coach Bielema’s time at Iowa, he knew what he was bringing to the Arkansas staff when he hired Coach Smith. Coach Bielema also credits Coach Jennings for the strides made by the defensive backs in just a short amount of time.

“Robb is a very intense guy,” Coach Bielema said. “What I love about what he brings is he wants guys to maximize their strengths. He has made our defense understand that there is going to be accountability for their actions. They have to believe and have faith that the coaches are going to try to put them in the best position, and that’s happened. I think Clay Jennings has single-handedly had as positive of an effect on our DB room as I’ve seen. He’s a detailed teacher. He cares, and he does a great job of balancing the fun of football with the business of football. I couldn’t be happier with those two hires.”

The secondary heads into the summer with momentum after taking full advantage of the spring practice sessions. Building into summer workouts and working throughout fall camp that begins in early August, Arkansas gets to showcase its new approach to a national television audience right off the bat in 2014 when the Razorbacks open Aug. 30 at Auburn on the SEC Network.

@ArkCoachLance Talks About the Women’s @RazorbackTF Distance Crew The Razorbacks posted a highly successful indoor season, in which the women’s distance medley relay team of Stephanie Brown, Chrishuna Williams, Grave Heymsfield and Dominique Scott won the program’s very first DMR National Title at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Earlier in the season, the quartet had set a new school record in the event with a time of 10:51.15 at the Armory Invitational in New York. Following the DMR record-breaking performance, Heymsfield and Scott both surpassed the school record in the 3,000-meter, with Scott setting a new record of 9:02.33 at the Husky Invitational.

The distance crew has been at it again so far during the outdoor season, with Scott breaking the school record in the 5,000-meter, crossing the finish line in 15:42.42. At the same meet, a personal-best performance by Stephanie Brown in the 1,500-meter elite section earned her the top time in the NCAA and the SEC with an effort of 4:11.40.

It’s no secret that the No. 9 Razorbacks have one of the strongest distance squads in the nation. Head Coach Lance Harter sat down to talk about the team’s success, what it takes to get there and how the coaching staff is here to help.

Following a highly successful indoor season, the distance crew has easily transitioned to outdoor competition without missing a beat… One of the things that my peers have all said is that it’s impossible to have a real successful indoor seasons and have a real successful outdoor season. I beg to differ and I think we’ve proven that thus far. The way we train indoors is very much an important part to the phase of training and racing, but outdoor holds more precedent. It’s a progression throughout the year. If you want to become the best of the best, it’s during outdoor season, not indoor. Ultimately we’re really pleased with the way things are going and with the progression we’ve made into the outdoor season. We’re really proud of what they’ve done and we feel that they have even more to improve on.

The amount of depth displayed on this distance squad is impressive, with strong leaders and young talent all working toward a common goal… Coaches have great ideas and great plans, and obviously have to serve as leaders. But having leaders from within is key, because peer expectation far exceeds any coaching expectation. Seniors such as Stephanie Brown, Grace Heymsfield, Keri McClary, three seniors, have done a fantastic job of providing that student-athlete versus coaching perspective. We also have Paige Johnston, who left the team for a year and came back with a tenacity that gives a different perspective. That carries down to our younger developers in Sandie Raines, Victoria Feole and Jessica Kamilos, who is only a sophomore. Those are the people who continue to get better and better. In addition, Regan Ward has now qualified for NCAAs. Any time you have a freshman qualify for the NCAAs — indoor, outdoor or cross country — that’s a rare breed. It doesn’t happen that often. They have a tendency to take It for granted, but those of us that have been around a long time really appreciate that they are in a special group who can make it to the elite level of racing and be so young.

The final meet of the regular season is Friday at John McDonnell Field, embellish on the importance of this time of year… This is the time of year when everything is focused upon in terms of training. If we look at the 2013-14 track season, it really began clear back in July or August of last year and now is approaching that culmination of a lot of hard work, a lot of miles, a lot of sacrifice to achieve their dreams. As a coaching staff our goal is that they realize their dream. When we go way back to cross country season in August, we sit down with each athlete and have them determine their goals and their dreams, then try to make sure we adjust everything to realize those opportunities. So far, knock on wood, we’re on schedule.

Arkansas is known for hosting and attending the most elite meets in the nation, how does that attest to recruiting and consistent performances? The high school world is very encompassing when attending national meets and higher competition, but they also know there is a whole world outside of that, collegiately, then there is a whole other world outside of that, the world scene. It’s kind of a stair step approach. When we ask what their dreams are, what they want to do ultimately, it might take two years, five years, it might even take 10 years. But if you’re committed to doing it, we’re going to help get you down that path. I think the other thing we try to convey to them is we’re going to build a competition schedule around their abilities but it will always include the best weather we can possibly find, the best facilities we can possibly find, and the best competition that you are capable of competing against. The worst case is taking someone that is a novice and exposing them to the top of the collegiate or world scene. You want to nurture them where they see that they’re making progress, then let them realize they can become a part of the next step. But it goes back to hard work and dedication and keeping everything in perspective. You’ve got to get in, be patient and be consistent.

@RazorbackBSB Travels to No. 10 Ole Miss for Weekend Series The Arkansas baseball team opens a three-game series at No. 10 Ole Miss tonight, as Trey Killian will take the mound for his 10th start of the year. For a complete preview click here.

PREVIEW | Razorbacks travel to #10 Ole Miss for weekend #SEC series >> http://t.co/ypdFLE3vwB #NeverYield #WPS pic.twitter.com/xBqQlVProE

– Razorback Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) May 1, 2014

The players got a look at the brand new indoor facility set to open in the coming weeks! #NeverYield #WPS #OmaHOGS pic.twitter.com/gND75TS9mJ

– Razorback Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) April 30, 2014

Too ambiguous? Know exactly what coverage we’re missing? Have a general question for the athletic department? Tell us. Shout at arkmr@uark.edu with suggestions of what you would like to see covered and what the column is missing. Interaction is good. Think of this as your portal to all things Arkansas.



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