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.
Gragg set for return
Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg (right) hasn’t played since he was injured in the loss to Rutgers on Sept. 29, but he is expected to return Saturday against Mississippi. “The coaches said I’ve been looking pretty fast on film, so I’m ready to go,” Gragg said. Video is available online at arkansasonline.com/videos.
FAYETTEVILLE Chris Gragg hasn’t seen a replay of the Rutgers defender diving straight at his right knee and flipping the Arkansas tight end late last month.
“They wouldn’t let me watch it, and I really didn’t want to watch it,” Gragg said of the scary hit that left him with deep bone bruises on his leg and knee but could have been much worse.
Gragg hasn’t played a down since taking that shot in the first quarter of Arkansas’ 35-26 loss Sept. 29, but he’s scheduled to return against Ole Miss on Saturday.
“It’s mostly dealing with soreness,” said Gragg, whose 19 catches rank second on the team behind Cobi Hamilton’s 46. “Once I’m out there and playing and everything, I don’t think about it. I don’t feel it.
“The coaches said I’ve been looking pretty fast on film, so I’m ready to go.”
Quarterback Tyler Wilson said Gragg appeared not to have missed a beat in his return to practice the past couple of weeks.
“It’ll be big from the standpoint that we can do some things from different formations, get him in the game plan,” Wilson said. “I think somebody brought up a stat that me and Cobi [Hamilton] and him haven’t been on the field together for very many combined quarters, so it’s good to have him back out there.”
The three senior leaders — Wilson, Hamilton and Gragg — have played together just two full quarters and parts of two others this season.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson wasn’t among the 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award this week, a glaring omission for a senior who leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally with an average of 326.2 passing yards per game.
“Obviously you want to be on there, because you’re a competitor and you think you’re a pretty good player, but we’ve got to go win this week,” Wilson said. “We’ll rattle off a few wins and prove our team’s worthy and able to win games. Then you’ll be considered in those awards. Until then, you don’t.”
Arkansas coaches have noted that tailback Dennis Johnson’s attitude about being a leader and practicing with better purpose took a turn for the better during the season.
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino can pinpoint the date of the turnaround.
“Ever since his mom [Rosalind Reems] came to town,” Petrino said. “His mom came to town and talked to us, talked to him. He’s been great. ... She obviously made a big difference. It’s been just a great change for him and for all of us.”
Petrino said Reems’ visit came Sept. 28, the day before Arkansas’ home game against Rutgers.
Running back Ronnie Wingo Jr. (shoulder) and defensive tackle D.D. Jones (leg) practiced Tuesday and are likely to be available for Saturday’s game against Ole Miss.
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said Wingo looks OK.
“He doesn’t look maybe quite as 100 percent as Chris [Gragg] does,” he said.
The Rebels expect to have defensive end C.J. Johnson (back), tight end Jamal Mosley (knee) and defensive back Mike Hilton (concussion) after the three made improvements during the open week.
Ole Miss receiver Collins Moore (shoulder) was ruled out for the season a couple of weeks ago.
Cowan coming on
Arkansas receivers coach Kris Cinkovich said the decision to get true freshman receiver D’Arthur Cowan in the mix in the Hogs’ 49-7 victory over Kentucky was a product of Cowan’s work in practice.
“We think he brings us more explosiveness and we can swing him in the game with Cobi [Hamilton] and think it will really help us at times,” Cinkovich said.
Cowan had a catch for 9 yards in his debut Oct. 13.
Home run Hogs
Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze was complimentary of Arkansas’ top backs, Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson, at his Monday news conference.
“Davis is more of a physical runner, but he’s got great speed, too,” Freeze said. “He’s a big-time back.
“And Johnson is in the mode of — a little stronger — of a Jeff Scott type. He’s going to make you miss and his lateral quickness is really, really good. While Knile is maybe not the lateral guy that Johnson is, they both are home run threats because they both have straight-away great speed.”
Davis rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-24 victory over the Rebels in 2010, and Johnson amassed 160 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in a 29-24 victory at Ole Miss last year.
Sophomore Tevin Mitchel and true freshman Will Hines worked with the starting unit at cornerback Tuesday, while redshirt freshman Davyon McKinney and senior Darius Winston ran with the second team.
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said Tuesday’s practice was “probably one of the best practices we’ve had all year.”
Sports, Pages 26 on 10/24/2012