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 could be redshirted
Austin Jones, left, hugs Tevin Mitchel Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 after a tackle during the third quarter of the game against Louisiana-Lafayette at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema suggested for the first time Wednesday that senior cornerback Tevin Mitchel might eventually be considered for a redshirt season because of injuries.
Mitchel, a 24-game starter, missed the Razorbacks' 45-21 loss at Auburn in the season opener while continuing to recover from a hamstring injury. Mitchel had shoulder surgery during the spring and had just been cleared for full contact in camp when he injured the hamstring, according to Bielema.
Mitchel's hamstring injury is expected to keep him out at least another week.
"He's getting better and I think he's excited about the progress, but obviously ... you know there's a redshirt year available to him if that ends up being the case," Bielema said. "But we're not ready to cross that bridge yet."
Arkansas traveled to Auburn without the services of Mitchel or junior Will Hines, a 15-game starter that Bielema has encouraged to redshirt.
Defensive backs coach Clay Jennings said Wednesday he's not sure when Mitchel will be ready to return.
"I'm not trying to sugarcoat anything, but we just have to take it one day at a time," Jennings said.
Jennings said Mitchel was having a great camp for the four or five days he was able to work.
"The bad thing is that he's not out there working," he said. "The good thing is we've got a couple of other young guys that are having an opportunity to get thrown into the fire and they're learning by trial and error."
Senior Carroll Washington, sophomore Jared Collins and true freshman Henre Toliver played all of the snaps at cornerback at Auburn. The Razorbacks also have sophomore D.J. Dean and true freshmen Cornelius Floyd and Santos Ramirez available, though redshirts could also be options for the latter two.
The Razorbacks say their focus is on Nicholls State and they won't take the Colonels, losers of seven consecutive games, lightly.
"Of course, we're not going to look over any team," defensive end Trey Flowers said. "Coach [Rory] Segrest reminds us every day that a lower-division school takes out a D-I college every year. So we're not taking this team lightly. We've got the most respect for them."
Arkansas will take a school-record 10-game losing streak into the game.
"The main thing is, don't sell them short because of the name of the school, basically," linebacker Matrell Spaight said.
Freshman cornerback Henre' Toliver and safety Josh Liddell debuted at Auburn, with Toliver playing about 13 snaps and Liddell getting three or four reps, defensive backs coach Clay Jennings said.
"They lined up against Auburn and neither one of them flinched," Jennings said. "I don't believe those guys are afraid of the big stage."
Bret Bielema said both players should see increased playing time.
Toliver said he graded out pretty well.
"It was nerve-wracking, but once I got out there that first play I was good after that," Toliver said.
Bret Bielema said tight end Hunter Henry was tough on himself after allowing the pressure from blitzing Auburn safety Robenson Therezie that forced a bad throw from Brandon Allen, which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown to give Auburn a 35-21 lead late in the third quarter.
"I tell you nobody felt worse than Hunter Henry," Bielema said. "What we have to do is we have to respond better. He in particular got really down after that play. He knew he missed the block that got the quarterback hit and that hurt him."
Allen took a shot from Therezie under the chin just as he threw the pass, which floated to Jermaine Whitehead for an easy pick.
"He was able to bounce back from that and come out and be competitive," Bielema said. "Hopefully our team continues to grow."
Nicholls State is only just beginning its run of games against teams from Arkansas this weekend.
The Colonels host Division II power Henderson State next Saturday in Thibodaux, La. Two weeks after that, they travel back north to play Central Arkansas in Conway.
#NeverYield and follow @wholehogsports on Twitter now for breaking news and score updates.
When last Saturday's game resumed in a steady rain, Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen wore black gloves to help improve his grip.
"Fashion statement," Coach Bret Bielema said. "No ... some gloves are better suited for wet conditions. The gloves that we found ... B.A. really liked throwing in. ... You know a lot of quarterbacks are wearing gloves in the NFL, especially in the colder-weather games and wet weather."
Arkansas' opponents went 11-1 on the opening weekend, with the only loss coming from Saturday's opponent Nicholls State, which lost 44-16 at Air Force.
The Colonels also have a tough schedule, playing five of their first six games on the road, including at FBS schools Air Force, Arkansas and North Texas and its Southland Conference opener at Central Arkansas. The Colonels are averaging 26 points per game during their seven-game losing streak and allowing 46.9 points per game.
Transfer lineman Sebastian Tretola is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best "quotes" on the team, and the big guard showed why this week.
Asked about the talent and depth on the Arkansas offensive line, Tretola launched into a descriptive review of veterans like Brey Cook, Dan Skipper, Denver Kirkland and Mitch Smothers.
"I mean, these are some big boys," Tretola said. "You obviously have Skip [Dan Skipper]. I've met some mean ones in my time, but Skip has the mean streak. And that really makes a D-lineman think twice, like 'Oh My God,' when I've got to line up against him.
"Mitch is great, stays low, blows you up off the ball. Denver, I mean speaks for himself. He's amazing, awesome in what he does. And Brey is so athletic and so quick in his movements. So, I mean as a line, I would say we're pretty scary to see when you step on the field."
Nicholls State allowed 539 rushing yards to the Air Force Academy last week, the most accumulated by an FBS school by a margin of 41 yards over Nebraska.
Sports on 09/04/2014