Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Defense boosted by Wise
University of Arkansas defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr watches from the sidelines during the Razorbacks game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway , N.J.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr.'s return to health has Arkansas feeling better about its rotation on the front four and has Wise feeling feisty with a game at No. 6 Auburn looming Saturday.
Asked what it would be like chasing Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, Wise had some fun with his response.
"Well, I probably won't be chasing him down," Wise said. "I'll probably just be tackling him in the backfield, you know what I'm saying? He's a very fast guy. We've got to keep him contained. No missed assignments or gaps because he can bust it for a touchdown."
Wise will likely back up JaMichael Winston at the end spot opposite Trey Flowers after missing two-plus weeks with a knee sprain.
"He's a physically talented guy and a great leader for our defense," defensive line coach Rory Segrest said. "He steps up and he's a vocal guy and gets our guys into it, so we're excited about having him back for sure."
The Razorbacks defense is preparing for Auburn's hurry-up attack by having two huddles of scout teamers come at them in succession.
"They run no-huddle, so to get that back to back and get that tempo right at practice, it's going to be very significant for us on Saturday," defensive end Trey Flowers said.
"We just wanted to try to create some tempo, and that was the easiest way for us to do it as far as our look team is concerned," defensive line coach Rory Segrest said. "Instead of trying to get them in and out of the huddle looking at cards, we just wanted to try to get two groups that had already seen the card get up to the line and get it snapped."
Weather forecasters are calling for an 80 percent chance of rain and the possibility of thunderstorms in Auburn, Ala., for Saturday's 3 p.m. season opener between Arkansas and the No. 6 Tigers.
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said the Razorbacks worked with slippery footballs periodically during fall camp and went through additional work this week.
"We had wet balls and we threw some of those into yesterday's practice, and we will again today," Bielema said during his stint on Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference.
Bielema said during his appearance at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club that better ball security has been an emphasis throughout the off-season.
"One of our primary goals on Saturday is ball security," he said. "One of our truest indicators of success, in my opinion, is turnover ratio, and obviously [bad weather] has a hand in it."
Arkansas defensive line coach Rory Segrest, a former Auburn graduate assistant, and Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee were Samford assistants in 2011.
Lashlee said they have a great relationship.
"As a matter of fact, when Rory moved to Northwest Arkansas, he called me and asked me questions about schools for his son," said Lashee, who is from Springdale and was an Arkansas player and graduate assistant. "I've got great respect for him, and I'm looking forward to seeing him."
Segrest echoed that opinion.
"Rhett's a great guy, great family man and obviously a good football coach," he said.
The coaches typically stay in touch, but not this week.
"Maybe after the game we can get back on schedule there," Segrest said with a laugh.
Bret Bielema said cornerback Tevin Mitchel would likely not be ready to return to action by Saturday because of a hamstring injury.
Mitchel was cleared to return from his spring shoulder surgery after the first week of camp, then had the hamstring issue. Senior Carroll Washington and sophomore Jared Collins are expected to start at cornerback.
"I still think he's going to have a good season," Washington said.
"We've got a good group of kids and they've been practicing well for the last month," defensive backs coach Clay Jennings said. "Whether he goes or not, we'll have some guys who are prepared and ready to go."
Sam Irwin-Hill will add kickoff duties to his work as a punter for his senior year.
The native of Australia ranked 13th in the country with his 44.3-yard punting average last season, and he hopes to notch touchbacks on kickoffs at the same impressive rate Zach Hocker did.
"When I was back in San Francisco, in my freshman and sophomore years, I did handle the kickoffs and punts as well, so I have some background in it," Irwin-Hill said, referencing his time at City College of San Francisco. "I'm confident in myself and the special teams that we can get the job done."
Bret Bielema said the Razorbacks simulated kickoffs after a safety last week and Irwin-Hill put the kickoff from the 20 in the back of the end zone with the help of what he called "an Australian wind."
On the Air
Bret Bielema's weekly hour-long radio show, On The Air With Bret Bielema, will feature the Hogs' head coach and senior captains Brey Cook and Alan Turner at 7 tonight.
Gus knows Korliss
Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn, who was head coach at Arkansas State in 2012, is well aware of former Osceola High standout Korliss Marshall, the Hogs tailback.
"We recruited him when I was at Arkansas State ... and we know a lot about him," Malzahn said. "I got a chance to watch him in person on a Friday night, and you could really tell that he had a special-type talent. He can really run, and he's a strong runner, too."
Arkansas has a 94-22-4 record (.800) in season openers, with victories in 15 of its past 16 games. The lone loss in that period was a 50-14 setback to Southern California at Razorback Stadium on Sept. 2, 2006. The Hogs have won seven consecutive season openers.
Sports on 08/28/2014