FAYETTEVILLE — Regarding Dominique Reed’s Arkansas progress, you are about to hear from the good cop, the bad cop, and the position coach mentoring him in between.
Reed, the Camden Fairview grad and junior college transfer via Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, was recruited to bring much-needed speed to the Razorbacks’ receiving corps.
In last Saturday’s 24-20, SEC victory over the Tennessee Volunteers, Reed delivered the express route in Knoxville, Tenn. He caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brandon Allen, juking a nearby tackler and leaving a trail of orange-clad Vols behind him like nobody else could have done among the Razorbacks at Neyland Stadium.
“You really saw his speed,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos said. “As you look at it, it’s kind of funny. He never looks like he’s running, but nobody catches him. When he first got here, I always used to be like, ‘Hey, Dominique, you need to pitch it up.’ He’d look at me funny. Then we’d watch the tape and he’d be five yards behind somebody running. He’s just one of those guys that looks effortless when he runs.”
A great play, coach Bret Bielema concurs, but not so great when Reed runs the wrong route and leaves Allen lingering for a pass rush to nail while he readjusts his target.
“All three of those guys,” Bielema said, of receivers Reed, redshirt freshman Jojo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards, “we would like to get more and more involved, but they have to be more disciplined about where they are on the routes. A lot of times we have combination routes or route concepts that play off one another. And if you are not running the right route and it screws up the read for the quarterback, and the quarterbacks looks the other direction. You just to go to where you know a guy is going to be and where he said he is going to be.”
Receivers coach Michael Smith commented on the ups and downs.
“The play he makes is exceptional,” Smith said. “It’s a great play, making guys miss him, running like he did.
However, I am kind of like with coach (Bielema), now I am praising him, too because he has made a lot of progress, but there were things he did in the game that weren’t fundamentally sound. Things we have to improve on. What I am trying to explain to him and Kendrick — I put them both in the same boat right now — the details of the position. After watching the film, I saw a lot of stuff that people don’t see. He freestyled a lot. There were some routes that he needed to be on that he didn’t run. Those are things that we are talking about.”
And those are things, Smith said, that makes a quarterback distrustful at best and pulverized at worst.
“Fortunately for B.A., our offensive line did a great job of protecting him,” Smith said. “There were a couple of times they weren’t on the right route and B.A. was able to go to his second read and make a play. The things they (Reed and Edwards) have to do is not only gain trust from us as coaches but they have to gain B.A.’s trust. Once B.A. feels comfortable with them, I think you will see them get more balls thrown their way.”
Of course, the Razorbacks don’t win without that one Allen threw Reed’s way that maybe only Reed could take all the way.
“On the running part, I think so,” Smith said. “He did a great job getting into his open area. B.A. found him on the scramble and once he got the ball in his hands and he started running, I was pretty confident he was going to get in the end zone because he can run. The first guy was close to him and he made him miss and he cut back across the grain and made a play.”
It’s the kind of play the 16-point underdog Hogs (2-3, 1-1) likely must have to prevail against the eighth-ranked, defending SEC champion Alabama Crimson Tide (4-1, 1-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Arkansas sophomore right guard Frank Ragnow, banged up during the Tennessee game and perhaps not apt to practice until later in the week, Bielema said Monday, did practice Tuesday, offensive line coach Sam Pittman said.
“Yeah, he had a nice practice,” Pittman said. “So he will be fine.”
Pittman was asked if the ball-control that Arkansas has exerted the last three games might be wearing out his own line, since the depth doesn’t approach his starters’ caliber.
“What happens is a lot of people play a lot of players against us,” Pittman said. “But the positive we are playing together and we are figuring each other out a little bit better now. We had some guys that had new positions (Denver Kirkland from last year’s right guard to left tackle, Dan Skipper from last year’s left tackle to right tackle and Ragnow from last year’s backup center to starting right guard) and now they are starting to understand each other a lot better. If they get tired we’ll throw somebody else in there.”
In fact redshirt freshman Johnny Gibson of Dumas did just that at left tackle for Kirkland against Tennessee though not because of Kirkland’s fatigue.
“Denver’s helmet came off so Johnny Gibson ran in there and did a nice job,” Pittman said. We passed that one so I was a little nervous but he did a really good job.”