Thursday Grid Update, 11/1

John L. Smith

Arkansas knows what Tulsa will do in a tight situation -- throw the ball up for wideout Keyarris Garrett. John L. Smith said the 6-4 Garrett is a big threat.

Arkansas coach John L. Smith knows the task at hand. The Hogs must stop the run when 7-1 Tulsa comes to town.

The Golden Hurricane averages 248.8 yards per game on the ground and has 27 rushing touchdowns. That's just a little over double what the 123.4 the Hogs allow rushing. That doesn't mean TU can't produce big plays in the passing game, especially if defenses over play the run.

Still, Smith thinks "it's a good thing" if the Hogs shut down the run and force the pass -- as long as they can match Tulsa wideout Keyarris Garrett, a 6-4 leaper. Just as the Hogs sometimes do with Cobi Hamilton, Smith said Tulsa will "throw the ball up for Garrett in jump ball situations."

That's why Smith said Thursday at his end of the week media opportunity that "Garrett is the one who scares me. He's a good player. They look for mismatches with him and you have to defend the jump ball."

The Hogs would like to match Garrett with 6-1 sophomore cornerback Tevin Mitchel, but Smith said that isn't always possible because of formation switches. Mitchel usually plays the open field side and that will be where Garrett goes most of the time.

"We need a good game from Tevin," Smith said. "We'll try to get him on Garrett when we can."

The Hogs won't have one of their mismatch receivers for the second straight week. Smith said Brandon Mitchell won't be available. He missed last week because of a violation of team rules. Smith still hasn't clarified that, but said he's got his fingers crossed that Mitchell will eventually return.

"He just didn't practice enough this week to be in the game plan," Smith said. "When you haven't practiced by Wednesday, you aren't in the plan. So he's not going to play."

The Hogs hope to stabilize their special teams with a change in punt returners. Nate Holmes, used early this season, takes that job back after battling with Keante Minor during practice. Minor fumbled away one punt against Ole Miss and muffed another before batting it out of bounds so the Hogs could retain possession.

"This week it will be Nate," Smith said. "We kicked a number of balls to both to see who could catch it the best. Nate was the best."

Holmes has more speed and shiftiness. Could he provide some big-play potential that has been missing in special teams? Joe Adams was a threat there every time he returned a punt the last several years.

"We see that in Nate," Smith said. "We thought that all along. We wanted to give him another opportunity and he's appreciative of the chance."

The Hogs, who had one punt blocked and another near miss against Ole Miss, haven't gotten the points on special teams this year after Dennis Johnson, Marquel Wade and Johnson all had returns for touchdowns last year.

"You can win a ball game there," Smith said. "You can with a blocked punt, too, or you can lose it there. A TD return wins you a ball game. We had six (TD returns) last year, so maybe that's six game winners."

The threat of a kickoff return has been reduced by the change to start kickoffs from the 35-yard line.

"I think the combination of replacing Joe and the change in the kickoff rule has hurt," he said. "As a coach, I don't like that rule. I want to see that part of the game put back in and I'm sure it (frustrates) Dennis, too. He's the school record holder with that."

Smith rated the week's practices as solid. He said Thursday might not have matched the best Thursday of the season, but it was still a good practice.

"It was pretty good, but not best," he said. "It was not the perfect Thursday we look for. Some of that might have something to do with the scouts. We tell them that the Thursday is sometimes about how good a look they give us. They tend to think Thursday is an off day."

Arkansas and Tulsa meet at 11:21 a.m. Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Recommended Stories

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