Thursday Grid Update, 11/21

Bret Bielema

Bret Bielema sees good energy in his team as Arkansas heads to Little Rock to play host to Mississippi State. The Arkansas head coach provided some clarity on the cornerback situation after Thursday's practice.

Arkansas is full force at cornerback, but head coach Bret Bielema is still unsure of how the Hogs will line up for the first snap against Mississippi State on Saturday in Little Rock.

Junior Carroll Washington, a starter the last four games, is battling back from a heel injury. He was able to practice most of this week after being slowed during the open date week.

Will Hines, out since the Florida game, will play in the game, but won't start, according to Bielema.

Tevin Mitchel, under scrutiny after giving up big plays against Ole Miss, could keep his place in the starting lineup, a spot he's held in all 10 games.

"Carroll has been banged up, but he will play," Bielema said. "Jared Collins will start for sure. The other spot is between (freshman) D. J. Dean and Tevin."

Tackling has been a problem as the Hogs have given up big plays in the passing game, often on plays after short completions. How has that been addressed in the open week?

"We drill it every day, especially during the bye week," Bielema said. "We had extra emphasis on that, like the 2-yard routes that we've missed tackles and led to 80-yard plays. Those are the ones that must be eradicated."

The Hogs are trying to end a seven-game losing streak. But Bielema said there is only one game focused.

"I appreciate the question, but we only talk about a 1-0 mentality," Bielema said. "I'm tired of losing. Players are, too. Once we get that egg cracked, I hope we can take off and win quite a few in a row."

How is the energy in the locker room as the losing streak has mounted?

"I'm amazed," Bielema said, "to see their energy and resiliency. It's not a matter of energy. I see them get kidney punched and get back up. I had a senior come by my office this week to ask if I was alright.

"I told him, don't worry about me. I've got more years. This is about getting it done for those guys. We want to do this for those guys who just have two more games."

Bielema said the player was fullback Kiero Small.

"He's going to make a great coach," Bielema said. "I hope he plays a long time in the NFL, but I know I'll hire him back in a heart beat."

Bielema said he's excited to be making the trip to Little Rock.

"We had another good practice and our guys are locked in," he said. "The one thing I worry about is the speed of the game coming off the bye week, but we did the same things we did during the last bye week and we think we'll be fine.

"I'm excited to see the crowd in Little Rock. We've had great support all year and we hope the crowd can help us get the magic back on our sideline.

"We'd like to send the group out the right way. This group (of seniors) has had a lot of haymakers thrown at them during their time here."

Bielema said senior defensive end would carry on the recent tradition of wearing the No. 98 jersey formerly worn by injured senior Robert Thomas. Thomas, a captain, started the first seven games before going down with a broken leg.

There had been some reports that Alex Collins would also wear No. 98. Bielema chuckled and nodded his head that Thomas wanted lots of players to wear No. 98.

"There were thoughts about that, but we still have one more week," Bielema said. "I gave Robert a little bit of heat because we can't put so many in No. 98. He said he wanted Alex, Chris, Trey (Flowers) and JWill (Jonathan Williams) to wear it.

"I don't think they were going to let two No. 98s play on the same side of the ball."

It was the first time Bielema was able to comment on the addition of cornerback Chris Murphy, a mid-term graduate who will enroll at Arkansas in January and go through spring practice.

Murphy from Lassiter High School in Marietta, Ga., has signed an Institutional Financial Aid Agreement with Arkansas.

Under a new interpretation of NCAA legislation, high school seniors who are on schedule to graduate in December and plan to enroll in college for the spring semester have the opportunity to sign an Institutional Financial Aid Agreement. Murphy will enroll in January and go through spring practice with the Razorbacks.

"I'm excited to get Chris here in January," Bielema said. "He comes from a great family with great structure and is as concerned with his academic performance as his athletic performance. Chris will be a great addition to the Razorback family."

Murphy helped make history his senior season at Lassiter, as the Trojans repeated as Region 5-AAAAAA champions for the first time in school history. He finished his final campaign with 31 tackles, five pass breakups, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one blocked field goal. A second-team all-region selection as a junior, Murphy recorded 19 tackles, 15 pass breakups, three interceptions and one fumble recovery as Lassiter went undefeated with a 10-0 record during the 2012 regular season. As a sophomore, Murphy registered two interceptions, 13 pass breakups and 27 tackles. He was coached at Lassiter by Jeptha Irwin.

Murphy was a five-time academic honor roll selection, has played the violin since kindergarten and participates in volunteer work with special education children. He selected Arkansas over numerous offers, including Missouri, Louisville, Oklahoma State, Virginia and Vanderbilt. Murphy is the son of Frank Bell and the late Annie Murphy.

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