Thursday Grid Update, 8/28
The hay is in the barn for Arkansas. Next up: No. 6 Auburn.
What feels like the longest off-season in Razorbacks history is over after Arkansas held its final practice of the preseason on Thursday. Head coach Bret Bielema reaffirmed cornerback Tevin Mitchel won't play Saturday and could miss another couple of weeks with a hamstring injury.
Bielema also said junior cornerback Will Hines won't travel with the team this weekend and is likely to redshirt.
"I suggested he take a redshirt year to get everything in order, get more in line with what we are asking people to do," Bielema said. "I think he has got a priority on getting a degree and playing at as high a level as possible. He isn't ready to do that right now. He wasn't in our two-deep. I explained the options to him. Him and Otha (Peters) were teammates. Obviously he probably went through a little bit of a transition there deciding what to do. I told him he still had a redshirt year and it would probably be in his best interests to explore it right now.
"I don't want him to be our fifth corner or sixth corner, and waste a year. I'd rather have him develop and do what we're asking him to do on a daily basis. If we could get him back for another two years, that would be awesome."
Despite being without Mitchel and Hines, who have a combined 39 starts between them, Bielema said he isn't worried about depth in his secondary heading to Auburn.
"I think everybody is losing sight that Carroll Washington, Jared Collins have played a lot of football," Bielema said. "They’re our two best corners, hands down, right now and have been all camp.”
Mitchel might not be the only player out Saturday with an injury. Bielema said receiver JoJo Robinson suffered a ribs injury in practice this week and his status for the Auburn game is questionable.
Among the healthy, Bielema praised receiver Eric Hawkins, who he said had the best week of practice after struggling with drops earlier in fall camp. He also said he likes the competition he has seen from his offensive line, which could have as many as eight or nine players rotate Saturday.
"To be honest, Sebastian Tretola won't start but he's going to play a lot of snaps," Bielema said. "The same can be said of Brian Wallace. The guy who has probably had the best two weeks of camp overall has been Cameron Jefferson - the amount of improvement he's made has been light years since we moved him inside to outside to that tackle position. It's been fun to watch him at that."
Tretola, Wallace and Jefferson are all newcomers this season, though two have experience at the Division-I level. Bielema said newcomers will feature prominently into the team's plans maybe as early as this week, with 12 true freshmen, "a half-dozen" redshirt freshmen and three transfers expected to play this season.
"If there's one dynamic they all have it's they're very athletic," Bielema said. "They're very talented and they love the game."
Bielema said he especially likes the true freshmen on the defensive side. Players like linebacker Randy Ramsey, cornerback Henre' Toliver and safety Josh Liddell have made several plays in open scrimmages.
"The emphasis that our defense has put on attacking the football, ball disruption, the things that we saw to that early on," Bielema said. "Again, I think if you asked our offensive players and coaches that was really very, very apparent to them."
Asked if he thought nerves would impact Saturday's game, Bielema indicated a reporter would need to ask Auburn.
"When I walk in the room, I feel bad for the other guy," Bielema said. "I think that's the way you've got to act as a person. We're confident in what we're doing. A lot of people are talking about what we're not going to do. For the University of Arkansas, we've got to worry about what we're going to do and concentrate on winning."