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.
Kiper says Wilson 3rd senior
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson could be one of the top three quarterbacks taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.
FAYETTEVILLE ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson ranked as the No. 3 senior quarterback available in the 2013 NFL Draft.
“Right now, as we speak today ... I have Tyler Wilson as the third overall quarterback behind Matt Barkley and Geno Smith, so I’d say first round is not out of the realm of possibility,” Kiper said on an ESPN conference call on Wednesday. “I have him more as a second-rounder.”
Kiper said Virginia Tech junior Logan Thomas is a first-round talent by his estimation, making Wilson his No. 4 quarterback prospect if Thomas declares early.
“Tyler Wilson, some say he could be the first quarterback taken,” Kiper said. “That’s going to be a three-way battle and hopefully they will all be down [at the Senior Bowl] in Mobile and that will be a good week of evaluation for them.”
Kiper said he has Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton as the fifth senior receiver on his board and a potential third-round selection.
Tight end Chris Gragg, Kiper said, ranks with UCLA’s Joseph Fauria as the top two seniors available in the draft, despite a leg injury that has kept him out of all but one of the past six games. However, a selection of junior tight ends, including Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame, Zach Ertz of Stanford and Jordan Reed of Florida, are ahead of the seniors in Kiper’s rankings.
“The senior tight ends are going to be kind of playing second fiddle to the junior tight ends in this draft,” Kiper said.
Kiper also discussed Arkansas tailbacks Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis.
“Knile Davis, it’s a hard call,” he said. “If he says, ‘OK, just let me come into the NFL, I don’t care where I go. I know I have NFL ability. Let me just get a chance to compete.’ If that’s his attitude, then he moves on.
“If his attitude is ‘I want to be an early round pick and maximize my rating,’ then you go back [to school].
“Johnson is an underrated guy that can be a No. 2 back in this league. You think about where he could go, probably the later rounds, 5 to 7, but he’s certainly a guy that’s going to get some looks.”
Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes didn’t say whether linebacker Terrell Williams was out for the Mississippi State game or could return from the scout team status he held Tuesday after his suspension last week for a DWI arrest.
“Terrell is still continuing to work his way back and prove himself to this team that he’s worthy,” Haynes said.
Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell, a 6-4, 220-pound junior, has passed for 2,249 yards, with17 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions this season.
“The guy slings the ball around,” Arkansas defensive tackle Alfred Davis said.
“Big guy. He can see down the field. ... I think they only gave up 10 sacks. Those guys are blocking great for them.”
Said Arkansas senior Jared Green, “He’s got a strong arm. He can run when he has to. I think his arm has gotten better over the years. He’s a quarterback we’ve got to affect to have a chance to win.”
Arkansas Coach John L. Smith, who turns 64 today, was asked this week whether he held hope he could retain his job in 2013.
Smith didn’t exactly answer the question, but said, “I am the most optimistic guy you can imagine. I’m always optimistic.
“I’m optimistic on us going to Starkville and getting a win this weekend and the other stuff can take care of itself, so I’m not overly worried about any of that.”
Smith said practice was the best part of his day and he was glad to have the opportunity to be a major college head coach again after a five-year hiatus.
“And I’m just knocking on wood to stretch it as far as we want or as far as we can,” he said.
Senior Kaelon Kelleybrew will get his first shot at returning punts this season on Saturday with freshman Nate Holmes slowed by a concussion.
“I’ve done it before,” Kelleybrew said, referencing his time at Little Rock Central and Mississippi Valley State. “I mean, as far as being in the SEC as a return man, that should be a very good test for me this weekend. As far as being back there, I definitely feel pretty comfortable back there.”
Holmes (10 for 71) and Keante Minor (8 for 61) have been Arkansas’ only punt return men this season.
Kicker John Henson got his first action of the season last week, attempting an onside kick that traveled only 8 yards, 2 short of the required distance, and was awarded to the Gamecocks.
The SEC Network crew of Dave Neal, Andre Ware and Cara Capuano will be getting their fifth look at the Razorbacks this season on Saturday.
Sports, Pages 24 on 11/15/2012