Arkansas linebacker Otha Peters is transferring, according to coach Bret Bielema.
Bielema announced the news on his Twitter page, saying the Razorbacks “will assist with the process to find a new home moving forward. Wishing him the best!”
Peters opened preseason practice working at middle linebacker with the second-team defense. The junior — who was limited to nine tackles in seven games last season because of injuries — was part of a linebacker corps that also had first-team players Braylon Mitchell, Brooks Ellis and Martrell Spaight returning in 2014.
Arkansas linebackers coach Randy Shannon said Peters had a strong summer as he put the injury-plagued 2013 season behind him.
“He’s trimmed down his weight, his body fat composition and (strength coach Ben Herbert) has done a great job of getting him to where he needs to be at this point in time,” Shannon said last week. “He’s had some injuries, but Coach Herb has done a great job with his staff of getting Otha where he needs to be.”
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said late last week he believed Peters would make an impact after the Razorbacks put on full pads for the first time.
“Otha’s a guy that likes to play with his shoulder pads on, so the last couple of days have been good for him,” Smith said last Friday. “A guy like him, he’s the guy that usually shows up on Saturday when we go live and that type of thing.”
Peters — who finished with 41 tackles in 17 games, including three starts at Arkansas — couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
“Nothing but love to the U of A from me but I must continue my playing career somewhere else! #WPS,” Peters posted to his Twitter account.
Arkansas has been impressed with a trio of freshmen at the position after one week of preseason camp. In fact, Bielema said he believed all three — Randy Ramsey, Dwayne Eugene and Khalia Hackett — could factor into the depth chart this season.
So could junior college transfer Josh Williams, who opened preseason practice as the third-team middle linebacker. But Bielema said Sunday the Razorbacks moved Hackett to middle linebacker behind Ellis and Peters on the depth chart.
An Arkansas spokesperson said fullback Chris Jones has replaced Peters on Arkansas’ 105-man roster. Jones, who redshirted as a walk-on last season, was not part of the program for the first week of preseason camp.
Arkansas went back to work after taking Sunday off to concentrate on the program’s annual media day. The first practice of the new week was highlighted by two-minute and red zone work, according to offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
The areas of emphasis are the next phase of Arkansas’ offensive installation with less than three weeks before the opener at Auburn on Aug. 30. Chaney said the Razorbacks saved the two-minute work for the end of Monday’s practice.
“When you’re really tired and run the two-minute drill that’s the only time to practice,” Chaney said. “We have a lot of work to do on that. We’re not where we need to be with the details of the two-minute drill, but for the most part they performed.”
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said the bulk of the redzone work was from the 10-yard line and in. There, Allen believed the offense did a good job.
But like Chaney, there’s plenty of room to improve in the two-minute drill.
“We weren’t exactly on sync completely in the two-minute drill,” Allen said. “I think it’s only our second time to work it. We have a lot of time to improve on that and get the signals in quicker. Get people lined up faster, get the snap off faster, so there’s a lot of things we can do to get better at that.”
Room for Six?
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said the Razorbacks trusted five players at wide receiver after the first week of practice. But position coach Michael Smith said the five — Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan, Demetrius Wilson, Jared Cornelius and Cody Hollister — may have to make room for one more.
Freshman Kendrick Edwards — who is from South Florida — has made an impression in preseason camp with his size (6-foot-6), speed and hands.
Edwards only had one catch for 17 yards in last Saturday’s scrimmage, but Smith said the receiver’s potential is clear after one week of work.
“You have got a kid that is 6-6 that is real smooth that has the ability to catch the ball really natural,” Smith said. “He has a good demeanor about him, has picked up what we have put on his plate pretty well. And he just brings a different dimension that we haven’t had since Coach B and myself have been here.”
• Chaney said RB Alex Collins returned to practice, as planned, Monday. But TE A.J. Derby did not participate in Monday’s practice after suffering a right knee injury last Friday. Derby still scrimmaged and caught two passes for 11 yards, but Bielema said his knee swelled up and was examined. “It was frustrating, but I’m definitely getting better every day,” Derby said. “Just trying to get back up to 100 percent.”
• Offensive line coach Sam Pittman said both Cameron Jefferson and Sebastian Tretola have gotten some work at center. None of the work has been in live repetitions, though, and it probably won’t change this week. “You hate to play a kid who is just trying to learn the offense a bunch of different positions,” Pittman said. “The one thing you have to be is confident and if you start moving around and you start questioning yourself than you can’t play fast, you can’t play physical.”
• Bielema said via Twitter the play of Monday morning’s practice was a one-handed catch by WR Damon Mitchell. The practice was closed to the public.
• Chaney may be in charge of the offense, but he noticed something about Arkansas’ defense during last Saturday’s scrimmage. “I think the defense tackled extremely well,” Chaney said. “That’s one thing that stands out in my mind. They are coming up and putting a helmet on you and tackling well and that’s good to see.”
• Freshman kicker Cole Hedlund said he and John Henson have combined to go 23-for-25 on field goal attempts in practice so far. Both misses came from 49 yards. The two are competing for a position manned by Zach Hocker for four seasons.