First scrimmage has positives, but no answers

Preseason scrimmages are difficult, at best, to get a read on.

Saturday’s in Fayetteville was no exception.

There were positives. Austin Allen hit 19-of-22 passes, including a 67-yard scoring pass to La’Michael Pettway.

But there was also a drop (by Pettway) and he was working against the second-team defense. Allen wasn’t pressured as often by the second-team offense as Ty Storey was by the first-teamers. The first-team offense just couldn’t avoid tackles for loss on the running backs.

In some ways it was a replay of last season.

That’s scary.

We’ve heard since the spring that the offensive line was going to be better. Some nodded. Others wondered how. In this day and age, maybe one or two players make a measured leap in improvement from one season to the next, but not an entire line.

Not without some fresh faces. The second-team line at times didn’t have time to give a courtesy “Look Out!” holler as the defensive line went past.

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Why is that scary? That’s the second team, after all. It’s because you need at least four series a game from your second team linemen on average. Maybe not all at once, but nobody plays every down anymore.

All of the official comments afterwards were positive, which is usually the case. Let’s face it, coaches aren’t going to stand up and tell you anybody was terrible anymore.

Lou Holtz used to be the master of that. You’d think at times in those days the Hogs weren’t going to be able to win a game. Most of the time it was Lou sending a message to his players.

Coaches can’t do that these days.

Negative comments hurt recruiting. Players are different today. Check out the number of players who transfer each year if you don’t believe that. They get ticked off, they transfer to another school.

That’s why you have to take coaches’ comments as something akin to a used car salesman putting the best spin on that 10-year-old Cadillac with 185,000 miles sitting on the lot.

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The offensive line, which everyone was counting on to be vastly improved, had some really good moments. But there were almost as many tackles for loss (seven) and sacks (six) as those good plays.

Either the defense is vastly improved or the offensive line still has issues.

There are a couple of ways to look at that.

The hope for fans is the defense is that much better. The reality is they still gave up a lot of big plays and had trouble at times “setting the edge.” That phrase, by the way, is one of the latest rages in college football, along with “run fits,” which sounds like what Paul Rhoads had on a couple of occasions Saturday.

One of those came when freshman Chase Hayden went 74 yards for a score on the first-team defense after he got to “the edge” and then defenders just watched his number get smaller as he ran away from them.

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Yes, there were some positives. Some of them included:

• Allen played so well, Bret Bielema held him out of the second half of the scrimmage.

• Pettway’s five catches for 165 yards, but once again showed some inconsistency as he dropped another and had two penalties (a false start where he straddled the line of scrimmage about 10 feet from the line judge trying to get him back and a holding call).

• The first-team offense looked good passing, which is to be expected by a fifth-year senior quarterback against a No. 2 defense.

So, we’re left with the age-old question of how good are the backups the first team is looking good against.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

And won’t know until the second game of the year.