Going into the stretch run of spring football practice, the University of Central Arkansas defense has asserted itself.
"I think it’s a matter of getting people in the right spots, familiarity, knowing responsibilities and getting better techincally," said UCA coach Steve Campbell, who has switched his basic scheme for a 4-3 to a 3-4. "When you get comfortable with what you’re doing, you just play faster and we are playing faster on defense."
The Bears went through their third major scrimmage of the spring Friday (100 plays) and this one featured more strong defensive plays, including an interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Dominque Brown.
"The first two scrimmages, the offense had the upper hand; the defense came on in this one," said Campbell. "I think a lot of it was just getting used to what we are doing, just playing."
Brown, one of the most experienced defenders, is coming off ACL surgery.
"He had a really good day; it’s good to see how he has come back," Campbell said." The whole secondary had a good day. We lost a lot of experience back there. We are playing a couple of junior college transfers and redshirt sophomores and they are starting to come along."
Campbell also praised defensive linemen Derek Floyd and Jonathan Woodard and linebacker Blake Childress.
Offensively, Campbell said running back Willie Matthews continues to have an outstanding spring.
"He’s a hard worker and he’s really improved during the spring," Campbell said.
Joe Carmical, an H back, had a good day blocking, and wide receiver Dezmin Lewis made some big plays, including a fade route on a deep ball.
UCA has four practices remaining, including the climactic spring game at 3 p.m. Saturday. Campbell said the spring game format will be offense vs. defense with the No. 1 offense going against the No. 1 defense and No. 2 against No. 2.
"We need to use this week to improve some things on both sides of the ball," Campbell said. "I’m pleased with how the guys have picked up the system, but you are never satisfied. For the most part, we’ll come out healthy. We had some players bruised and nicked, but everyone should be ready to go by summer."
There is no admission charge for the spring game at First Security Field at Estes Stadium and the public is invited.