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.
Mitchel latest Hog to undergo surgery
Arkansas cornerbacks Tevin Mitchel (23) and Carroll Washington (21) run drills during practice Thursday afternoon in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas defensive players Tevin Mitchel and Brandon Lewis have undergone surgeries in recent days as the Razorbacks begin a healing and strengthening process that will last through the summer.
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema disclosed Mitchel’s injury during his post-spring news conference Wednesday at the Fred Smith Football Center. Lewis’ minor knee clean-up had been scheduled previously.
“Tevin had a routine shoulder surgery and he should be back with us if not for the first part of fall camp, very soon thereafter,” Bielema said. “Doctors are very encouraged. It was a clean surgery,very routine, something that I’ve had a lot of our guys do in the past that shouldn’t be a factor at all.”
Mitchel, who struggled last season, was a starter at cornerback early in the spring along with Carroll Washington before being sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Lewis, a sophomore defensive end, rolled his ankle during the Red-White game Saturday and had X-rays taken to clarify that injury, but his surgery was on a pre-existing knee problem.
Bielema said Lewis had his arthroscopic procedure done Wednesday and that everything went well.
As for personnel movement, Bielema said the previously announced departures of defensive linemen Horace Arkadie and Darrel Kelly-Thomas and safety Kelvin Fisher Jr., were the only imminent losses for the Razorbacks.
Bielema said he spoke after the Red-White game Saturday with redshirt freshman Damon “Duwop” Mitchell and his parents and said Wednesday that Mitchell’s status is still up in the air. Bielema asked Mitchell to move from quarterback to receiver the final two weeks of spring, which he did, while Mitchell wanted to remain at quarterback.
“They [the Mitchells] were going to have some conversations, obviously, to continue the process,” said Bielema, who added that he was encouraged by Mitchell’s spring exit interview with receivers coach Michael Smith. “Duwop seemed very, very positive and said he was going to come back and try the wide receiver position and move forward, but I’m not going to make him do anything he doesn’t want to do.
“I also did share with him if he wanted to move on, I’d work with him in any capacity to help him find a home if he truly wanted to stay with the quarterback, but I think it’s moving in the right direction.”
Mitchell caught three passes for 27 yards Saturday and showed good open-field potential in practices down the stretch of spring.
Bielema said his assistant coaches had a roughly 36-hour window to hold exit interviews with their groups before they headed out on the road to conduct recruiting evaluations.
Quarterback Brandon Allen said Wednesday he was aware of the criticism he’s been subject to since the spring finale, when he struggled along with the offensive starters in the first half before finishing 12 of 21 for 108 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
“You know, you’re going to get a lot of criticism, especially at the quarterback position,” he said. “That kind of stuff, all it does, it can fuel you. I’ve had it before. Really, it’s just that motivation that gets everyone going.”
Tailback Jonathan Williams said Allen “got the blame for everybody for the whole offense going bad” during the lackluster first half.
“He wasn’t the only guy making mistakes,” Williams said. “Nobody really had a lot of energy. Nobody was really playing with a lot of emotion. It was a combination of everybody doing bad and him getting the blame for it.”
Tight end Hunter Henry, the team’s top returning pass catcher, said the Razorbacks didn’t want a lot of their newer offensive sets and plays on film.
“We had a lot of new stuff we did this spring that we really didn’t want to put out there,” he said. “It was vanilla at times. I think we came out a little lackadaisical.”
Bielema said better communication and a more physical style of play on defense were two of the biggest improvements of spring.
“I think some of the things you saw on Saturday in the spring game were a direct result of our defensive players being on the same page with their coaches, being able to play extremely fast and physical,” he said.
Bielema also said he “couldn’t be more excited” about the direction of the team, even though attendance for the spring game dropped off from an estimated 50,000 last year an estimated 30,000 last Saturday.
“Everybody wants to win and everybody is entitled to their feelings and their urgency to do that, but I can’t speed up the process of getting what we need to do to win,” Bielema said. “We know that we’re a better team than we were a year ago at this time.”
2014 Arkansas schedule
Aug. 30 at Auburn *
Sept. 6 Nicholls State
Sept. 13 at Texas Tech
Sept. 20 Northern Illinois
Sept. 27 Texas A&M *^
Oct. 11 Alabama *
Oct. 18 Georgia * (LR)
Oct. 25 Alabama-Birmingham
Nov. 1 at Mississippi State *
Nov. 15 LSU *
Nov. 22 Ole Miss *
Nov. 29 at Missouri * * SEC game ^at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas NOTE All times TBA. Auburn game will be televised on SEC Network, others to be determined
Sports, Pages 17 on 05/01/2014