Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Mitchell to return vs. LSU
Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said offensive tackle Jason Peacock was “kind of in the doghouse” for last week’s 19-15 victory over Tulsa and that the senior would be available Saturday.
FAYETTEVILLE Brandon Mitchell will serve a four-game suspension and be available to return in Arkansas’ season finale against LSU, Coach John L. Smith said Thursday.
Mitchell has missed the past two games since returning from his hometown of Amite, La., following the Razorbacks’ open date on Oct. 20. He will also miss Saturday’s game at South Carolina and the Nov. 17 game at Mississippi State.
Smith said the university imposed a four-game suspension on Mitchell, but he would not say whether it was an eligibility issue involving the NCAA. A Freedom of Information Act request asking the school for public records involving football eligibility filed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette turned up no records involving Mitchell. But UA associate athletic director Kevin Trainor said there were further records that fell under the request that were protected from release by federal privacy laws.
“That’s just one of those things we discovered there was a problem, we checked into the problem, we’ve made a decision and now we’re correcting the problem,” Smith said. “He’s a quality young man that we love and he’s a valued part of this team, and so he’ll be back the LSU game ready to roll.”
Sources close to the football program have said Mitchell’s suspension related to his mode of transportation in returning from south Louisiana back to the Arkansas campus.
Tailback Knile Davis practiced with a sore hamstring this week, and his availability Saturday at South Carolina is questionable.
Coach John L. Smith said offensive tackle Jason Peacock was “kind of in the doghouse” for last week’s 19-15 victory over Tulsa and that the senior would be available Saturday.
“He has worked his tail off this week, so I like him,” said Smith, who did not rule out Peacock starting against the Gamecocks.
Defensive end Chris Smith is gathering up commitments for his Arkansas teammates’ extra tickets with the Razorbacks playing about 70 minutes from his hometown of Mount Ulla, N.C., when they take on South Carolina on Saturday.
“It’s going to be big,” said Smith, who estimated at least 20 relatives and friends would drive down to watch the game. “It’s always good to try and put on a show close to your hometown.”
Smith said fellow defensive end Trey Flowers’ performance in his home state, which featured 3 1/2 sacks in Arkansas’ 24-7 victory at Auburn, has inspired him for this game, along with the fact that South Carolina didn’t recruit him.
“That’s one thing, I have a chip on my shoulder, too, about that,” Smith said. “I’m glad to be at the University of Arkansas. ... So I’m just going to try to get after it Saturday.”
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson proved Saturday he can self-evaluate as well as he can pick apart secondaries when he offered analysis of how an early tackle impacted his performance in the 19-15 victory over Tulsa.
Wilson, who was drilled into the turf by Tulsa linebacker Mitchell Osborne after delivering a 19-yard pass to Cobi Hamilton on the first snap, was asked if the crunching blow made him gun shy.
“There were times where I felt like, later in the game, where I wasn’t standing in, my feet weren’t as in concrete as they were early,” Wilson said. “I did take a couple of big ones.
“I think that’s the difference in a lot of guys, in the guys who are able to stay in there and the guys who are gun shy. There were a couple of times late where I stood in there, but there was a period there in the middle of the game where I’ve got to kind of stand my ground.”
Wilson, who has been hit hard in several games this season and knocked out with a concussion on Sept. 8 against Louisiana-Monroe, has delivered some back-foot throws recently, has missed a few throws that have been high-accuracy passes in his past and has looked somewhat unsettled in the pocket on occasion. He had a late delivery on a deep ball down the right sideline in the second quarter against Tulsa that made for an easy interception for Dexter McCoil.
Wilson continues to lead the SEC and rank among the national leaders with 315.8 passing yards per game. His completion rate tipped back above 60 percent (.606) with a 21 of 31 showing for 272 yards against the Hurricane.
Wilson has made errors in both his games against South Carolina that resulted in defensive touchdowns: A fumble led to a 1-yard touchdown return in 2010 and a flip pass intercepted by end Devin Taylor was returned 48 yards for a score to put the Gamecocks ahead 14-10 last year.
Arkansas’ red-zone scoring percentage took another hit last week when two of its drives inside the Tulsa 20 resulted in no points. Zach Hocker missed a 26-yard field goal from the Tulsa 8, and Dennis Johnson was stopped on fourth-and-1 from the 16 late in the game.
The Razorbacks are 27 of 38 (.710) in red zone scoring to tie for 106th nationally. Only Kentucky (.696) has a poorer percentage in the SEC.
Punter Dylan Breeding was named Thursday to the NCAA District VI allacademic first team by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Breeding advanced to the academic All-America ballot with his selection.
Breeding, from Hoover, Ala., has a 3.8 grand-point average in marketing management and is scheduled to graduate in December. He is a twotime member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and has been named to the Athletic Director’s list three times in his career for a GPA higher than 3.5
Breeding, whose 46.2-yard punting average ranks sixth in the nation, is on the watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s top punter.
South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier, who started his career with a 4-0 record against Arkansas when he was at Florida, is now 5-5 against the Razorbacks. Arkansas is 5-1 against Spurrier at South Carolina.
Arkansas and South Carolina have played only one common opponent — Kentucky — and LSU will be the only other common foe in 2012. Arkansas drilled the Wildcats 49-7 in Fayetteville, while the Gamecocks won 38-17 in Lexington, Ky.
The Chick-fil-A bowl will have representative Steve Riddell in attendance at the Arkansas-South Carolina game on Saturday. The Razorbacks have never played in the Atlanta-based bowl.
Sports, Pages 22 on 11/09/2012