Tuesday, October 11, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> U of A stays in the Top-25

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Despite the Arkansas Razorbacks wallowing 0-2 in the SEC West, voters in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls kept perspective on Arkansas because of who beat Arkansas.

The Razorbacks, 4-2 overall, identically dropped five spots in both polls but stayed Top 25, falling from 17th to 22nd.

No. 1 reigning national and SEC champion Alabama beat Arkansas 49-30 last Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

On Sept. 24 since they advanced to No. 6 in both polls Texas A&M beat the Razorbacks, 45-24 at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

These next two Saturdays bring Arkansas two more ranked SEC West opponents.

The Ole Miss Rebels, 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the SEC ranking 12th in AP and 13th in the Coaches poll, come to Reynolds RazorbackStadium for Saturday’s 6 p.m. on ESPN.

The Auburn Tigers, 4-2, 2-0 in the SEC West off winning last Saturday at SEC West rival Mississippi State, now rank No. 23 in the AP and is the leader among vote-getters just short of the Coaches’ Top 25. At its Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., Auburn on Oct. 22 hosts Arkansas at 5 p.m. on ESPN.

The Arkansas vs. Auburn kickoff time and TV coverage was announced Monday. Like Ole Miss this Saturday, Auburn will enter its Arkansas game after an open date.

Arkansas’ open date Saturday is Oct. 29 prior to the Razorbacks hosting Florida Nov. 5 in Fayetteville. Florida of the SEC East ranks 14th and 18th in Monday’s Coaches and AP polls.

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said Monday he was “too quick” presuming last Saturday night that sophomore weakside linebacker Dre Greenlaw’s season ended breaking a bone in his foot on the second series against Alabama.

Greenlaw did undergo surgery Monday, Bielema said, but the coach said he’s been told Greenlaw possibly could return in four to six weeks.

Though each missed some alignments, freshman De’Jon “Scoota” Harris made four tackles and forced a fumble, and junior Dwayne Eugene logged an interception and made three tackles, splitting weakside linebacking time against Alabama after Greenlaw’s exit.

“I thought both De’Jon Harris and Dwayne Eugene did an admirable job when they got in there,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith said Monday. “ “We are going to look at ways to put them in some better positions this week when they get in the football game. I think both those guys have worked really hard and earned this opportunity. We will kind of see how things shake out this week but I am excited to see these guys progress through this week of practices and see them in action on Saturday.”

Which one starts in Greenlaw’s place?

“I think we are going to take it one day at a time,” Smith said. “Both those guys are going to prepare as if they are starters and whoever performs the best will emerge there. I think both of those guys are very, very capable. I am excited to work with them this week and excited to see what they do.”

From the first day that Harris practiced in preseason, Bielema projected big things in Harris’ future but said Eugene’s junior experience put him ahead last Saturday.

Because Greenlaw’s injury depletes depth, junior Khalia Hackett, a backup at the season’s outset demoted to scout team, practices with the varsity this week.

And because Scoota Harris, to concentrate on weakside linebacker, will cease also practicing as the reserve middle linebacker behind senior Brooks Ellis,
senior Josh Williams and sophomore Josh Harris of Watson Chapel, will alternate at second-team middle linebacker, Bielema and Smith said.

Josh Harris has been a demon on special teams making seven tackles in five games.

Hackett’s career has been marked by ups and downs, but his ups have had him practicing first team at times.

“I actually just had a conversation with Hack,” Bielema said. “We wanted him to take a step in maturity. He’s pretty much been out of the game plan the last three or four weeks, and he expressed to me he needed to do it and he’s shown signs of that the last two weeks down on scout team and his details in the classroom as well. That’s why I’m rewarding him with an opportunity.”

Despite officially taking a six sacks beating from Alabama and unofficially far worse considering how often he was hit right after delivering most of 48 passes that included 25 completions for 400 yards, junior quarterback Austin Allen announced himself ready to go Sunday, Bielema said Monday.

I walked into the QB room Sunday afternoon and I just said ‘How you doing my friend?,” Bielema said. “And he says ‘I feel great.’ What he put on film gains great respect from our players and coaches. When you’ve got No. 8 (Allens number) playing quarterback back there for you, you better play until that whistle blows. Don’t give up on a route, don’t give up on a block, don’t stop protecting, because he’s going to keep it alive.”

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos lauded Allen trying to take out a tackler on his 18-yard run.

“Man, that’s awesome, watching him do that!” Enos said. “Third-and-20, he makes that 18-yard run. Lowers his shoulder … I mean, what a competitor. Tough guy. I’m really, really proud of the way he competed.”