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.
Arkansas Razorbacks report:
Gragg out, Mitchell and Williams to return Friday
Chris Gragg caught 7 passes for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns in the season opener against Jacksonville State, but has played in only two full games since.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg, who returned from a Sept. 22 knee and leg injury only to hurt them again in his first game back, will not play in the Razorbacks’ season finale against BCS No. 7 LSU on Friday.
Gragg hyper extended his knee and suffered deep bone bruises on his knee and upper left leg on a low, blindside hit in the first half against Rutgers. The senior from Warren returned five weeks later against Ole Miss and caught a 42-yard touchdown pass, but was hurt after catching a 7-yard pass late in the first half.
Gragg finished the year with 22 catches for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns in five games. He still ranks second on the team in receptions behind Cobi Hamilton’s 80.
“I’m sure he’s disappointed, as everybody that gets injured has to go through that disappointment and work through that,” Arkansas Coach John L.
Smith said. “At this point, he has to look forward to whatever the future holds for him from here on out.”
Gragg was Arkansas’ top returning pass catcher with 41 receptions for 518 yards and 2 touchdowns last year. The 6-3, 242-pounder, who missed 2009 after dislocating his ankle in camp, has been one of several key Razorbacks seniors whose seasons were derailed by injuries.
Slot receiver Brandon Mitchell and linebacker Terrell Williams will be available this week, Coach John L. Smith said.
Mitchell, a junior who is also a reserve quarterback, missed the past four games on suspension while the university looked into an eligibility matter.
Williams, a senior, was suspended the past two games after being charged with DWI in the overnight hours following Arkansas’ 19-15 victory over Tulsa on Nov. 3.
“T-Will has worked hard the last couple of weeks, and we’re going to give him an opportunity to possibly go out and play a little bit in this game,” said Smith, who added Williams would not start.
Williams worked alongside Jarrett Lake at inside linebacker in Monday’s work, behind true freshman starters Otha Peters and A.J. Turner.
Defensive lineman Colton Miles-Nash, who twisted a knee last week, is questionable and he was not seen during the open part of Monday’s practice in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
“He was here last night treating, stretching, working it,” Coach John L. Smith said. “He’s going to do everything he can to be ready to go.”
Safety Rohan Gaines, who came out last week temporarily after being involved in a high-impact collision, has been tested and cleared to play.
Nate Holmes, a true freshman who returned kickoffs in Arkansas’ 38-20 loss at South Carolina and suffered a concussion in that Nov. 10 game, was back at work Monday after missing the Hogs’ 45-14 loss at Mississippi State.
Senior Cobi Hamilton did not make the cut to three finalists Monday for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s top receiver by the Tallahassee (Fla.) Quarterback Club.
The finalists are West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey, Southern Cal’s Marqise Lee and Baylor’s Terrance Williams.
Hamilton leads the SEC with 80 receptions for 1,237 yards, both Arkansas single season records. Williams, with 151.8, Lee (145.9) and Bailey (126.0) are the top three players in the nation in receiving yards per game, while Hamilton ranks sixth (112.5).
LSU has not been hit as hard as Arkansas or Kentucky on the injury front, but the Tigers have a significant list heading into the regular-season finale.
Tailback Alfred Blue(ankle), linebacker Luke Muncie (illness) and tackle Alex Hurst (personal issues) are out for the Arkansas game. Also, center P.J.
Lonergan (arm) and fullback J.C. Copeland (knee) are probable and linebacker Kwon Alexander (ankle) is questionable.
Tigers out for the season are guard Josh Williford (concussion), offensive tackle Chris Faulk (knee), receiver Travin Dural (knee) and defensive end Jordan Allen (knee).
Out of the Rock
Arkansas moved its season finale to campus to avoid traveling to road games at South Carolina and Mississippi State and then busing to Little Rock on three consecutive weeks at the end of the year.
“We love playing in Little Rock, OK, and are going to continue I’m sure,” Coach John L. Smith said. “But bringing the LSU experience here is better in my opinion, particularly if it falls on a week like this, which usually it always does, in a short week. For them to have to travel in a short week and for us not to have to travel I think is an advantage for us, without a doubt.”
LSU Coach Les Miles said he was excited about his first game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
“We recognize the traditions there and the venue and again we’re looking forward to playing there,” Miles said.
Arkansas is playing LSU on campus for the first time since 1992, the Razorbacks’ first season in the SEC.
Another Arkansas opponent has pulled down SEC honors, as Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell was named the league’s offensive player of the week for completing 19of 32 passes for 274 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 45-14 victory over the Razorbacks. Six other SEC players have won weekly honors after facing the Razorbacks, including Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger.
LSU’s Odell Beckham earned SEC special teams player of the week honors for his 89-yard touchdown return that pulled the Tigers into a fourth-quarter tie against Ole Miss in a game LSU won 41-35.
LSU senior center P.J. Lonergan played through injury last week to post 10 knockdown blocks and win the SEC’s offensive lineman of the week honor.
This will be the Golden Boot’s 17th season of being awarded to the winning team, with LSU holding a 10-6 edge in the series since its creation.
Arkansas has 18 players on its roster making their first college start this season, the highest number in the SEC and tied for the sixth-highest in the nation.
LSU at Arkansas, 1:30 p.m.
Georgia Tech at Georgia, 11 a.m.
Kentucky at Tennessee, 11:21 a.m.
Auburn at Alabama, 2:30 p.m.
Florida at Florida State, 2:30 p.m.
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, 2:30 p.m.
Missouri at Texas A&M, 6 p.m.
Mississippi State at Mississippi, 6 p.m.
South Carolina at Clemson, 6 p.m.
Sports, Pages 20 on 11/20/2012