Four Downs: Kelleybrew, Winston Battling For Starting Spot


FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS VS. LOUISIANA-MONROE NOTES

1. Kelleybrew vs. Winston

Arkansas cornerback Kaelon Kelleybrew knew he was going to play in last week’s 49-24 win against Jacksonville State.

But the senior didn’t expect to step on the field so quickly. Or play so much.

“I had to take the situation in hand and handle it the best I could,” Kelleybrew said. “My mother always told me to be prepared for any situation. I feel like since they threw me in I was just going to be prepared for any situation that comes your way.”

Kelleybrew got the majority of the snaps at cornerback after the Razorbacks benched returning starter Darius Winston in the first half. He finished with four tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in his Arkansas debut.

It may lead to his first career start this week, too. Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said Kelleybrew and Winston are competing for the starting job for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock.

“It’s up for grabs right now,” Haynes said Wednesday. “We told both of those guys we’re going to see how the week went and it will be a Friday or Saturday decision.”

Haynes said Arkansas meant to put Winston back in the game after he was pulled off the field last Saturday. It didn’t happen. But Haynes said both will play Saturday.

“We talked to him right after the game,” Haynes said of Winston. “He probably should have went in a little bit earlier. With us all being in the first game and kind of getting caught up in the thing we didn’t really think about putting him back in — and Kellybrew was playing also pretty decent too.”

Kelleybrew said the competition has been good this week, but “at the end of the day … we’re still family.” The Little Rock native said he would love nothing more than to earn his first career start in his hometown, though, as both corners try to help shore up an Arkansas defense that surrendered 322 passing yards last week.

“It would mean a lot,” Kelleybrew said. “But I have no control over playing time. All I can do is go out here and practice, give it my all and let the rest take care of itself.”

2. ‘Bring ‘Em On’

Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said it’s no secret Louisiana-Monroe wants to put pressure on the Razorbacks on Saturday.

In fact, Petrino said the Warhawks “feast of famine” defense may blitz up to 70 percent of the time in War Memorial Stadium on Saturday. So Petrino said it should mean one thing for the Razorbacks: More opportunities for big plays.

“Hopefully, you say, ‘Bring em on. Let’s light em up,’” Petrino said after Tuesday’s practice. “You want people to pressure. That’s what we always say. If they pressure, we make big plays. That’s what we need to do.”

3. Strong Debut

Haynes said freshman defensive end Deatrich Wise only played six snaps in the opener. But it was enough to help him finish as one of the most productive players.

Wise had two tackles and a sack in his debut. It should lead to more opportunities.

“He’ll give us something in there,” Wise said. “He’s a great pass rusher. He’s long, rangy. We’ll probably get him in there a little bit more in certain situations.”

4. Extra Points

Chris Gragg was named the John Mackey Tight End of the Week for his performance against Jacksonville State. The senior caught 7 passes for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. … Haynes said fullback Kiero Small didn’t get any snaps at linebacker against Jacksonville State. But Small has spent time with the defense in practice this week and coach John L. Smith said Wednesday morning he believes that will change Saturday. “He has been spending a lot more time on the defensive side of the ball,” Smith said. “So that’s where I would expect to see him a bunch.” … Arkansas has emphasized tackling drills in practice this week after a handful of misses in the opener. “It was something we did early in camp that we felt we needed to do again and kind of emphasize tackling a little bit more,” Haynes said.

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau