Tyler Wilson’s ability to take a hit and keep throwing was on display again Tuesday. Hours after a mid-morning accident on Interstate 540 the Arkansas quarterback was on the field, going through practice with the Razorbacks.
A disappointing start to what was supposed to be a good season means the Arkansas Razorbacks will serve as the Saturday brunch entertainment on national television today as the Hogs play at Auburn in an 11:05 a.m. kickoff. Auburn is off to a disappointing start as well, but in no way close to what the Hogs have endured the past four weeks. The Tigers were off last Saturday after giving LSU all it wanted in a 12-10 loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium in a night TV game. Maybe that's the only advantage for the Razorbacks today: They don't have to play a fired up Tigers bunch at night in front of a roaring, partisan 87,000 AU fans. Maybe the Tiger faithful will be arriving late or still groggy when the game kicks off. So, sit back, join in on the blog and let's get the conversation going. We'll be providing some insight and all the particulars to today's game in our usual live game blog format. Join in with your comments in the comment section.
Not every Arkansas football player witnessed captain Alonzo Highsmith tear down the 2012 schedule that once hung in the team weight room. Not every Razorback had heard details of Highsmith’s symbolic gesture, ripping opponent after opponent off the wall until only Rutgers remained. But they got the message just the same.
About this point in the season last year, Arkansas was way behind its opponents in takeaways. Then-head coach Bobby Petrino seemed to credit it mostly to luck — he insisted the turnovers would start balancing out the Razorbacks’ way. If we apply that logic to this Hog team under Petrino’s successor, John L. Smith, then turnovers should start coming Arkansas’ way by the bushel. In just three games, Arkansas is minus-8 in the turnover margin: six lost fumbles and four interceptions while claiming one fumble and one interception.
The media at War Memorial Stadium last Saturday night were still looking at video and reading the reports from a hit in the Tulane-Tulsa game earlier that day — the play that left Tulane safety Devon Walker with a spine injury and an uncertain future — when, suddenly, Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel was sprawled on the stadium turf. For a few quiet moments, no one with binoculars could detect any movement from the player. Just like in Tulane's game, in which Walker and a teammate appeared to sandwich a Tulsa player and hit each other at the same time, Mitchel had collided helmet-to-helmet with teammate Alonzo Highsmith. Mitchel just happened to have his head at the wrong angle compared to Highsmith's when the helmets banged at high, athletic speed as the defenders converged on a Louisiana-Monroe receiver (who, understandably, dropped the ball).
Arkansas was inconsistent in its season-opening win over a Football Championship Subdivision program at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, and our grades reflect it. Lots of work awaits these Razorbacks before powerful Alabama comes to town Sept. 15.
Welcome to the Showgram. It's the collaborative effort of ArkansasSports360.com editor Chris Bahn and Adam Alter, assistant sports director of KNWA/KARK Razorback Nation. They'll talk Arkansas Razorbacks with some Breaking Bad and 90s rap lyrics mixed in for good measure. Think of it as sports talk radio at your convenience. Sports talk shouldn't be available only when you're parked at your desk or in drive time traffic.
In theory, Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright playing alongside each other at linebacker is a good thing for Arkansas. Highsmith is the team’s top returning tackler and led the team in tackles for loss last season. Wright hasn’t played the position since high school, but has the size and the leadership needed in the middle. Their rapport off the field is solid and could help chemistry on the field. Only trouble is, injuries have kept them from getting on the field together. They’ve been alongside each other for the first time in a long time this week.
Getting to and from Arkansas’ new practice space took a few extra minutes Monday. Getting acclimated to the elevated field might take a few days. But the Razorbacks could immediately appreciate how much better the fields, part of a $40 million football ops project, are than their previous arrangements. Arkansas has more space than the area on the north side of the Walker Pavilion offered. These new digs are more private than the intramural fields and no tarp is needed to keep outsiders from sneaking a peek.
Nick Holt has been in coaching nearly 30 years. He’s getting a year’s salary from Washington after being replaced as defensive coordinator. So why take an administrative position with the Arkansas football staff making $55,735?
Coaches are no longer harping on linebacker Jarrett Lake making a certain weight. They’re much more interested in him making plays. Lake, who has gained “15 or 20 pounds” since arriving on campus in 2010, is still small for the linebacker position at 6-foot-3 and approximately 220 pounds. But Lake is athletic, has good speed for the position and his skills seem to be a good fit at the “star,” a hybrid outside linebacker/safety position.
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino understands why defensive coaches want to see Kiero Small at linebacker. He gets why they had the tough, hard-working Small in a white defensive jersey for all of Wednesday’s practice.
Arkansas didn’t engage in full contact on Monday, but there was a big enough collision to force linebacker Tenarius Wright into an early exit. Wright made contact with running back Knile Davis, suffering a possible concussion, during inside run drills. Players weren’t tackling to the ground, but the impact was enough to shake up Wright, who Coach John L. Smith said was being evaluated post-practice.
Rather than bring the newcomers and veterans together for practice on the day the team donned full pads and went full contact, Arkansas Coach John L. Smith did it a day early. That way the new players could get a feel for the speed and tempo of practice and work their way into contact.
Senior linebacker Alonzo Highsmith admits he is having to adjust to being coached on field by Taver Johnson. He’s also getting used to working alongside Tenarius Wright, who was a defensive end last season. Not that Highsmith is complaining. He’s just happy to be back on the field after sitting out in the spring with a pectoral injury.
Arkansas football players gave John L. Smith a standing ovation on the day he was introduced as coach. They loved his quirky personality and appreciated his willingness as an assistant coach to dole out either pats on the back or kicks in the butt as needed. How will they respond to him this season? There might be no bigger question hanging over the 2012 season, but there are others as well.
Kiero Small epitomizes the Bobby Petrino recruit. As a 5-foot-10 runner whose strength was blocking, he fell below the radar of the national recruiting "gurus" as Petrino and the Razorbacks signed Small out of Hartnell Community College in Valley Forge, Pa., in February 2011. But immediately, when the former Hog coach was discussing that particular recruiting class, his eyes lit up over the way Small could light people up as a blocking back and how he hit as a linebacker. Arkansas plans to get him on the field doing both, blocking as well as hitting on defense, Paul Haynes said Thursday.
No, there hasn’t been a college football award watch list announcement every day of the summer. It just seems that way. Below we roundup what players with state ties have been nominated. Keep in mind some lists allow players to be added later in the year, so strong performances over the first half of the season from players at Arkansas or Arkansas State could land a player under consideration.