Running back Dennis Johnson appeared poised to take over the job as Arkansas' punt returner this season.
The coaches said he was the likely choice during preseason camp. He was listed as the starter on the team's depth chart earlier this week. Johnson even spoke with confidence about replacing Joe Adams, believing he was ready to add punt return duties to his list of responsibilities.
But Arkansas coach John L. Smith indicated Wednesday, while speaking at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club luncheon, someone else could be back there to return punts when No. 10 Arkansas plays Jacksonville State on Saturday.
"I guess the question for us special teams wise is who is going to return punts," Smith told the club. "We’ve been working Dennis back there some … The media is here aren’t they? … OK, I’m not going to say anything further. You just have to wait and see who returns punts for us. That will be a new, interesting deal. Look for some young guys out there."
Smith was pressed further after the luncheon, but declined to offer any specifics other than saying "we'll see" when asked if a true freshman was getting the job.
Johnson was joined by senior cornerback Kaelon Kelleybrew and true freshman Nate Holmes during practices open to the public. Sophomore receiver Keante Minor is listed as the No. 2 punt returner on the depth chart. Another candidate is running back Jonathan Williams. Smith confirmed this week the freshman will play this season.
"I still feel great about Dennis on kickoff return. Dennis will return some punts as well," Smith said. "Having to bring some younger guys along is crucial to us at this point. Dennis is old. Let’s face it. He’s as old as I am. But we need some younger guys to start coming along in the return category. So that’s part of the reason as well.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau