There was lots to feel good about after the University of Central Arkansas’ first major scrimmage:

The offense moved the ball well at times, better than it has in an initial scrimmage in several years.

The receivers have big-play potential.

The defense appears solid front to back.

There was also areas of major concern with one more major varsity scrimmage remaining until the Sept. 1 opener at Ole Miss:

The Bears are thin in the offensive line and are still trying for the right mix at guards. There were nine sacks in the scrimmage, seven when the second team was in the game.

The veteran secondary got beat more than once over the top.

And the givens: The Bears have a lot better offensive dynamic when running back Jackie Hinton, recovering from ankle surgery, is in the game. Quarterback Wynrick Smothers is very efficiency but needs to be more proactive involving his leadership on the offense. Radarious Winston, who missed last season because of an injury, is a solidifying presence at strong safety. The linebacker corps, led by Seth Allison and Justin Heard, is solid and deep.

Some presence surprises? Corey Howard being moved from guard to center.

"He could be the best we’ve had at that position we’ve ever had in my 13 years here," said UCA coach Clint Conque. Defensive end Markeith Gaines seems to be the next good one in a line of very good players at that position.

"He’s starting to bear a strong resemblance to Thomas Hart (former All-American defensive end and NFL draftee)."

More will become known at the Bears’ second scrimmage Saturday afternoon, the last major one for the veteran frontline players.

"You talk about teams making the greatest improvement from Game I to Game 2," Conque said. "You hope to see that same improvement from scrimmage 1 to scrimmage 2."

Still a long ways to go and a relatively short time to pull things together.

Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or