1. Starting Spot Open
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said the Razorbacks are going to miss sophomore Will Hines, who will be sidelined for the next several weeks after fracturing his right arm in the 30-10 loss at Florida last Saturday.
But Hines’ absence has created an opportunity for someone else.
Carroll Washington, Jared Collins and D.J. Dean are all vying for the starting spot vacated by Hines in practice this week. One of them will make their first career start when the Razorbacks play 14th-ranked South Carolina on Saturday.
“It’s been very competitive,” Collins said. “I think we are really feeding off each other. When one person makes a play it inspires the other to do the same thing.”
It’s nothing new for Collins. The redshirt freshman — who missed a game after suffering a concussion in the Southern miss win — had competed with Hines for the starting spot since the spring. Hines locked up the position and had started every game before suffering the fractured arm at Florida.
Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash said Collins has the upper hand in the battle for the starting spot this time. But nothing had been decided Wednesday.
So Washington — a junior college transfer — said he’ll continue to compete.
“It’s just just basically going out there doing what we have got to do and at the same time pushing each other because at the end of the day we are still teammates,” Washington said. “We want to get better and the only way we get better is to push each other. So that’s basically is how it has been.”
Bielema said the week has been a “nice opportunity for those three guys,” while Ash said a decision on the starter will be made after tonight’s practice.
“They’ve had a good week of practice,” Ash said. “They’ve practiced well all along. We try to preach the next man in mentality all the way through training camp because you never know when your chance is going to come. Theirs came this week and they’ve handled it well and we’ll see how they handle it on Saturday.”
2. Huddle Buddies?
Bielema has been an outspoken opponent of no-huddle, hurry-up offenses since arriving at Arkansas. It appears he has some support from South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who was asked about his relationship with Bielema on Wednesday and eventually shared his thoughts on up-tempo offenses.
“Those up-tempo teams, they don’t always win now,” Spurrier said. “I know their coaches are always bragging how fast they want to go and this, that and the other. It’s helpful every now and then. Every now and then we get up there and snap it, but we are not interested in seeing how fast we can score.
“Up-tempo teams, if their defense is not a great one, I don’t see that it’s any advantage trying to go real fast and make your defense play a whole bunch.”
South Carolina is averaging 69.8 plays a game this season, which is tied with Florida for seventh in the conference. Arkansas is ninth with 68.5 plays a game.
Neither team has eclipsed the 35-point mark in a game this season.
“I think Bret and I somewhat agree that maybe 31-21 or 24-17 or something like that would be fine,” Spurrier said. “Some coaches just want to see how many points they can score which is wonderful if you can do that and win. The object of the game is still to win and there are different ways to do it.”
3. Still His Job
Arkansas running back Korliss Marshall had a rough night returning kickoffs at Florida. The freshman had trouble fielding a kickoff late in the first half, fumbling it out of bounds at Arkansas’ 8-yard line. His first attempt in the second half was just as messy with Marshall catching the kick and stepping out at Arkansas’ 3-yard line.
But Bielema said he’ll continue to stick by Marshall in the return game.
“Sometimes you’ve got to burn your finger on that hot stove to fully learn your lesson,” Bielema said. “He’ll be back there. We’ll give him another shot. We’ll give him another opportunity to be around the football just because he A) physically has the ability to do it and B) he physically is an imposing figure who loves to do it.”
Bielema said Marshall will continue to team with receiver Keon Hatcher, but Arkansas will make some changes with its return schemes to help the duo.
Arkansas is averaging 19.5 yards on kick returns this season, which ranks 10th in the SEC. Marshall’s 38-yard return against Texas A&M is Arkansas’ longest.
4. Extra Points
• Bielema said RB Jonathan Williams was a little hampered by an ankle injury he suffered against the Gators, but has been “full speed all the way during the course of the week.” The sophomore was limited to just eight carries for 32 yards and scored Arkansas’ only touchdown in the 30-10 loss. He ranks second on the team in rushing (503 yards) and has a team-high six touchdowns.
• Spurrier said Wednesday morning DE Jadeveon Clowney would try to “practice a little bit” as he worked his way back from a muscle strain near his ribcage. The junior did practice in a full-contact jersey according to media reports in South Carolina. Spurrier said the Gamecocks are hopeful Clowney will be able to “help us out a little bit” against the Razorbacks.
• Bielema said RB Nate Holmes is “fully recovered” from the ankle injury that slowed him earlier this season. But Holmes hasn’t played because Arkansas needs the sophomore “on board with everything we need him to do to have success in the program.” Bielema said Holmes has made strides. “I’m excited to get him back in the game plan and let him go out there and do what he naturally does. It’s kind of a learning curve he needed to go through to get him where we needed him to be.”