FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS VS. OLE MISS NOTES
1. Healthy As Can Be
Arkansas isn’t completely healthy after its bye week. Four players — including two team captains — are out for the season with injuries.
But Arkansas coach John L. Smith believes his team is in pretty good shape as it continues preparation for Saturday’s game against Ole Miss in Little Rock.
“I guess we’re as healthy as we can be,” Smith said.
The key injury concern remains tight end Chris Gragg, who has been sidelined for three games because of a bone bruise in his leg. Smith said the team’s second-leading receiver continues to get repetitions in practice after returning last Tuesday, but is still experiencing some soreness as he tries to get back on the field.
“You just have to work through that,” Smith said. “So he’s doing fine. We expect him to be more and more each day.”
Other injuries issues running back Ronnie Wingo (shoulder) and defensive tackle D.D. Jones (fatigued legs). Both players missed the Kentucky game.
“Ronnie’s shoulder is fine,” Smith said. “D.D is gradually getting a little bit better. He just needs a few weeks to get his legs back under him.”
2. ‘Legit’ Practice
Arkansas typically holds a light workout on Sundays, but Smith and the coaching staff made some changes as players returned from two days off.
“It was a legit practice,” Smith said. “Normally on a Sunday we’re just going to run the soreness out and some of those things, possibly work a little bit of the kicking game. But this was actually a little bit more time and we did practice.”
Defensive tackle Alfred Davis said the Razorbacks didn’t know what to expect when they stepped out on the field. But he thinks Arkansas handled the extra workload well as it prepares for Saturday’s game against the Rebels.
“It was a little different to come out on a Sunday night and have a practice, but I think the guys came out with a lot of excitement,” Davis said. “It looked good from period one to the end. I think that’s a great start for the week.”
3. NFL Caliber
Arkansas has fallen well short of its lofty preseason expectations thanks to the 1-4 start. But Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze still sees plenty of potential in the Razorbacks as his team continues to prepare for Saturday’s game.
“They have NFL caliber players at certain positions there that always grab your attention when you’re watching the film,” Freeze said Monday.
“I think with the last couple of weeks and the confidence that they’ve gained and the job Coach Smith and his staff have done of rallying them amid some difficult times at the start of their season, I think speaks volumes for their character and the way they want to finish the year. I’m expected to have a great test and a great battle there.”
Arkansas has won two straight against Ole Miss, including last year’s 29-24 win in Oxford, Miss. The teams will play in Little Rock for the first time since 1992, when Ole Miss beat Arkansas 17-3 in the Razorbacks’ first season in the SEC.
4. Extra Points
Kickoff for the Arkansas-Tulsa game on Nov. 3 has been set for 11:21 a.m. The game will be televised by the SEC Network. It will be Arkansas’ third appearance on the SEC Network this season and fourth game to start before noon. … The Davey O’Brien Award, which is presented to the nation’s top quarterback, announced its 16 semifinalists Monday. Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson did not make the cut. Three other SEC quarterbacks — Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, and Georgia’s Aaron Murray — made the semifinal list.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau