Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Bielema doesn't feel cornered anymore
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema watches before practice Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Until just lately, Coach Bret Bielema hadn't been able to find a comfortable corner since his arrival at Arkansas in December 2012.
The Razorbacks coach has at least two corners that he's comfortable with going into today's scrimmage at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Senior Carroll Washington, who was just getting his feet wet this time last year after transferring in from a California junior college, has been Arkansas' best cornerback throughout this preseason, Bielema said.
Now Tevin Mitchel, Arkansas' best corner as a freshman in 2011 but derailed the past two seasons by injuries and inconsistency, embarks on a fresh start healthy and with a new jersey number (23 instead of 8). Cleared since Monday to practice full tilt coming off shoulder surgery in April, Mitchel has worked all week at a level obviously aimed at being the best, Bielema said.
"Tevin physically is better than he was a year ago and his demeanor, too," Bielema said. "He is a different person in every way, shape and form. His mind is in his right place, his heart in the right place."
Apparently so is his pride.
"Tevin Mitchel wants to be the best corner on the team," Bielema said. "When [Washington] plays well, that usually makes the other guy play well."
Honoring Washington's commitment to the previous coaching staff, Bielema was shocked upon his arrival to learn that the 6-foot Baltimore native out of Hartnell (Calif.) Community College weighed only 162 pounds.
"Now he's 190 and runs and twists and flips and breaks on the ball extremely well," Bielema said.
LAST OF THE BUNCH
LeRoy Pearce, the last living coaching link to Bowden Wyatt era of Razorbacks football, passed away Aug. 6 at 86.
An all-Southwest Xonference tailback for Wyatt in 1947 at Wyoming, Pearce followed his mentor as an assistant to Arkansas in 1953.
He was part of the staff that coached Arkansas' "25 Little Pigs." Picked last in the 1954 Southwest Conference, Wyatt's Razorbacks stunned most by winning the SWC title and sprung a nonconference upset over SEC champion Ole Miss.
When Wyatt left Arkansas after the Cotton Bowl to coach Tennessee, Pearce accompanied him.
Unlike Wyatt, Pearce would come back to Arkansas and lived in his adopted state longer than he lived anywhere. After serving as an assistant coach at Tennessee, Iowa State, Nebraska and Miami -- which included coaching College Hall of Famers Johnny Majors at Tennessee and Ted Hendricks at Miami -- Pearce returned in 1971 to Northwest Arkansas and became a real estate force on Fayetteville's Dickson Street with rental and commercial property.
Although not that much older than the Razorbacks he coached, Pearce was an intimidating presence on an intimidating staff, recalled Eddie Bradford, a Razorbacks Hall of Honor member who was one of the 25 Little Pigs.
The two became friends upon Pearce's return to Arkansas, and Bradford said Pearce explained the ogre Bradford remembered that was such a contrast to the friend he came to treasure.
"I would have been fired if I hadn't played that role," Pearce told him.
Sports on 08/16/2014