RAZORBACK REPORT:

Freshman defenders get a crack

By: Bob Holt , Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, September 5, 2014
Arkansas linebacker Randy Ramsey warms up before the Razorbacks' game against Auburn on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas linebacker Randy Ramsey warms up before the Razorbacks' game against Auburn on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

FAYETTEVILLE -- True freshmen are likely to occupy three of the top eight spots in Arkansas' defensive backfield in Saturday's nonconference game against Nicholls State.

With two safeties and two cornerbacks unlikely to play, the freshmen will be needed, defensive coordinator Robb Smith said.

Freshmen cornerbacks Henre Toliver and Cornelius Floyd are expected to be in the rotation with sophomore D.J. Dean behind starters Carroll Washington and Jared Collins. Freshman Josh Liddell appears to be the third option behind safety starters Alan Turner and Rohan Gaines.

Junior safety Davyon McKinney, who has been slowed by a foot injury, missed the Auburn game and is questionable for Saturday, and freshman safety De'Andre Coley has a lower leg injury and is doubtful.

Senior cornerback Tevin Mitchel is out with a hamstring injury, and junior cornerback Will Hines is being asked to redshirt.

"We put some younger guys in the mix this week, and [we're] excited to see them in action," Smith said.

In addition to the young defensive backs expected to see playing time against Nicholls State, the Razorbacks have more freshmen across the defense primed for playing time.

Smith said all three freshman linebackers -- Randy Ramsey, Dwayne Eugene and Khalia Hackett -- have taken reps with the first and second teams this week.

End Anthony Brown also has a chance to join freshman Bijhon Jackson in the rotation on the front four, Smith said.

Mismatches

Nicholls State Coach Charlie Stubbs said the Colonels had trouble getting off blocks while defending Air Force's triple-option running attack last week, which sets up another difficult week against Arkansas' big offensive line that averages more than 320 pounds per starter.

"Of course it's a challenge, we realize that," Stubbs said. "It's a major concern. There's going to be some tremendous mismatches. We're going to come up with a very good game plan and strive to execute it."

The Colonels average 270 pounds across their starting front in their base 3-4 defense.

Tops in SEC

Defensive end Trey Flowers had a tackle for a 4-yard loss among his nine tackles last week at Auburn, giving the senior from Huntsville, Ala., 33 career tackles for loss and moving him into a tie for ninth place on Arkansas' career list with Jeb Huckeba (2001-04). Flowers is the SEC's active leader in tackles for loss.

Solid debut

Defensive end Tevin Beanum was among the Razorbacks who made their college debut last week.

"I got an adrenaline rush out of it for sure, and it was a big stage," said Beanum, who played about 15 snaps behind Trey Flowers. "I wasn't nervous, but I was anxious to get out there and get it over with.

Beanum forced a fumble by running back Cameron Artis-Payne that was recovered by linebacker Martrell Spaight.

"I saw that brown, so I went for it and popped it out," Beanum said.

Beanum said Saturday's game will be the first time his father, Kevin, a disabled veteran who served during Desert Storm, will seen him play in person.

"That will be a big thing for me, but also just being able to play in our stadium for the first time will be a big thing for me," said Beanum, who is from Forrest City. "I've been a fan my whole life, so it will be like a culmination of everything.

"I'm ready for it."

Close quarters

Defensive backs coach Clay Jennings was among the Arkansas assistants who were stuck on an elevator at halftime at Auburn.

"I'm glad I'm not claustrophobic," he said.

Jennings said the elevator operator did her best to first get the coaches downstairs and then to get them out of the elevator after it wouldn't move.

"The young lady was trying to help us, bless her heart," Jennings said. "She was sweet as she could be. She was just put in a tough situation."

Weather report

There is a 40 percent chance for rain at the 3 p.m. kickoff for Arkansas' home opener Saturday against Nicholls State, according to weather.com. The 40 percent chance falls from a 60 percent chance at 11 a.m., and thunderstorms are a possibility.

Call crew

The SEC Network crew assigned to call Saturday's game are Matt Stewart and Cole Cubelic in the booth and Kayce Smith on the sideline.

At home

Arkansas has won its past seven home-opening games by an average margin of 27.5 points, including a 34-14 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette last season.

The Razorbacks have won 16 of their past 17 home openers, the exception being a 50-14 loss to Southern California to open the 2006 season.

Arkansas has a 96-20-4 (.817) all-time record in home openers.

FCS streak

Arkansas has played a Football Championship Subdivision school, like Nicholls State, each of the past five years and has outscored those teams by an average of 44.6 to 13.0 per game.

Southland stomp

Arkansas has never played Nicholls State, but the Hogs are 6-0 all time against current Southland Conference teams. Arkansas is 3-0 against Northwestern (La.) State (1946, 1947 and 1961), 2-0 against Central Arkansas University (1923, 1926) and 1-0 against Abilene Christian (1948).

The Razorbacks' last game against a team that was in the Southland Conference at the time was a 44-15 victory over Louisiana-Monroe in 2005. The Warhawks joined the Sun Belt the following year.


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Good fit

AJ Derby's move to tight end paid immediate dividends when he caught 4 passes for 40 yards and 1 touchdown and blocked well at Auburn.

"He was out there against one of the better defensive units in the country, getting in there mixing it up, cutting guys," tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. said. "He did a really nice job. He wasn't perfect, far from it, but he did some good things in the passing game."

Derby, a quarterback last year, said he was comfortable playing tight end.

"I feel like I've been playing it a while," he said. "I didn't feel like it was my first game out there."

Quarterback Brandon Allen said he knew tight end would be a good move for Derby.

"He thinks like a quarterback, which is good for me," Allen said. "When he gets out there, he starts running his route and he sees the coverage and he knows where to get himself open."

Honorees

Jerry Lamb, an All-Southwest Conference receiver for the Razorbacks in 1963 and 1964, will serve as honorary captain for Saturday's game and be on the field for the coin toss.

Lamb, a Houston native, was elected to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and the UA Sports Hall of Honor in 2005. He has career totals of 58 receptions for 938 yards and 8 touchdowns. He holds the school record for longest reception in a bowl game with his 68-yarder against Ole Miss in the 1963 Sugar Bowl.

Canaan Sandy, a Cave City native and 2014 ESPN Fan Hall of Fame inductee, will participate in the "A" walk of honor prior to the game.

Sports on 09/05/2014

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