As he prepares for his Arkansas Razorbacks farewell at the Dec. 29 Texas Bowl game against the Texas Longhorns in Houston, fifth-year senior safetyAlan Turner relishes that Arkansas’ redshirts and young, seldom-used reserves finally get the extra December practices that he did back in 2010 and 2011.
Turner was a rookie redshirt when the 2010 Hogs spent December practicing for their Sugar Bowl game against Ohio State, and as a second-year freshman, lettered on special teams but seldom cracked the secondary for the 2011 team that defeated Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl.
Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino devoted portions of those bowl practices for scrimmaging the redshirts and other reserves, as a head start for spring practice and early gauge if they would be ready to help the following year.
Although Petrino didn’t last at Arkansas through the 2012 spring practice during which he was fired, Turner said those bowl practices enhanced his preparations to become a three-year starter starting in 2012.
“I felt like it was really big,” Turner said.
Turner said a player is bound to look better playing the defense he was recruited to play, over playing on the scout team to give your own offense a look at the next opponent’s defense.
“When I was on scout team, my thing was giving the best look I could and I felt I did that for the most part,” Turner said.
But he said the coaches can really look at you differently playing your own defense according to your team’s plan.
Ending last Saturday’s practice with a scrimmage of redshirts and young reserves not likely to play against Texas, second-year Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema promises more of the same once the Razorbacks complete final exams this week.
Bielema so lamented opportunities lost from no bowl practices for last year’s 3-9 Hogs, that he began ending last November practices scrimmaging the redshirts.
Arkansas was perched on the bowl bubble before winning two of its last three games to finish a bowl eligible 6-6.
Bielema said the bowl practices not only allow the coaches better opportunities to evaluate the players’ progress at their intended positions, but sometimes — even more importantly — a look at players where they have never been looked at before.
Bielema recalled some bowl practice position switches from his 2006-2012 Wisconsin head coaching years and preceding defensive coordinator days at Kansas State and Wisconsin.
“I remember taking a walk-on wide receiver, telling him that he couldn’t catch a cold, which he didn’t want to hear and moving him to defense,” Bielema said. “He begrudgingly did it and I think he signed a contract for over $8 million and has been in the league now for five years. I think about that story.”
“I think about a defensive end that was an outside linebacker during bowl practice,” Bielema said. “I took him from outside linebacker and moved him to defensive end. He didn’t want to do it. A year later, he started one game as a defensive end, as an undersized rush end kind of guy. Three years later he was a third-round draft pick and has won a Super Bowl. These are really the times that we’re allotted to find stories happening. And it’s really fun to be a part of them.”
Not a complete
Of course head coach Mike Anderson was pleased to see his hoop Hogs bounce back from road losses at Iowa State and Clemson with a 69-55 victory last Saturday at Walton Arena over a Dayton Flyers team that finished their 2013-2014 season in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight last March.
However, he wasn’t so pleased taking note that off turnovers, Dayton outscored Arkansas (17-11) and that Arkansas’ second half — Dayton led it 32-29 — wasn’t nearly so intense as Arkansas’ 40-23 first half.
“We turned the ball over unnecessarily,” Anderson said. “We had 16 turnovers and we forced 15. That’s not our recipe. We value the basketball. We have to clean that up.”
Nate Allen is a syndicated reporter and columnist who has covered University of Arkansas sports for over 40 years. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Baxter Bulletin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.