Four Downs: O-Line ‘OK’ After First Test; Hamilton ‘Fine’ After Injury

1. O-Line Review

Three offensive linemen earned the first starts of their careers during the 49-24 win against Jacksonville State last Saturday. Guard Tyler Deacon and tackles David Hurd and Brey Cook worked alongside veterans Alvin Bailey and Travis Swanson.

So how did they perform? Arkansas running back Knile Davis, who had a team-high 70 rushing yards on 18 carries, said the group did “pretty good” in its debut.

“There were a few missed blocks, but it came from miscommunication,” Davis said. “It was just miscommunicated. They didn’t know which way to go.

“But it’s not that they weren’t physically capable or anything like that.”

The line helped Arkansas finished with 564 yards, 400 through the air, against Jacksonville State. The Razorbacks averaged 4.7 yards a rushing attempt and allowed one sack, when Jacksonville State’s Dimetrio Tyson got to Wilson.

Smith said the first group played “OK” in the opener, but needs to see improvement from the group. Arkansas could get some in the form of tackle Jason Peacock, who was suspended from the opener as part of his punishment for an offseason arrest.

Smith said Peacock — who started nine games last season — is on schedule to be available for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock.

“Hopefully we can develop some more competition there as well,” Smith said of Peacock. “We’re trying to get him added to the mix a little bit. The more we can keep pushing him to put pressure on those tackles, the better they’re going to be.”

2. Hamilton OK After Injury

Arkansas coach John L. Smith said receiver Cobi Hamilton was “fine” after leaving last Saturday’s game with a neck injury or possible concussion.

Hamilton caught two passes in the first quarter before suffering a big hit from a Jacksonville State defensive lineman. He left the field and didn’t return, spending part of the night inside the Arkansas locker room.

The Razorbacks played well without Hamilton on Saturday, getting production from the trio of Chris Gragg (7 catches, 110 yards, 2 touchdowns), Brandon Mitchell (4 catches, 122 yards) and Javontee Herndon (4 catches, 96 yards and a touchdown).

“That hurts without a doubt,” Smith said of losing Hamilton. “But that’s going to happen throughout the year. The other guys have to step up. Some other guys stepped up and I think you saw a lot out of Mitchell. He’s, I think everybody can see now, he’s a legit guy. He’s going to help us a bunch and he stepped up big.”

3. Winston Fighting For Job

Starting cornerback Darius Winston started the opener, but didn’t last long after Smith said he made mistakes in the first half Saturday. Senior Kaelon Kelleybrew worked alongside Tevin Mitchel with the starters the rest of the game.

Smith said there’s no guarantee Winston, who started six games last year, will return to the lineup for Saturday’s game. He will battle with Kelleybrew for the job.

“There’s some great competition going on there,” Smith said. “When you step up and don’t make those mistakes, that’s what we’re looking for. Now you bring in a guy, Kelleybrew, and he plays OK. He does a decent job. But Darius has to just step up now and go earn that spot back. … We’ll see this week at practice.”

4. Smith Earns SEC Honor

Defensive end Chris Smith was named the SEC’s co-defensive lineman of the week Monday. The junior shared the award with Ole Miss’ C.J. Johnson after collecting six tackles and one sack against Jacksonville State.

“Chris played well,” Smith said. “Chris can play even better than he did, but he made a lot of plays. When Chris knows what they’re going to do, like, the fourth down play. He shouldn’t’ be blocked. He should be able to beat that guy and get around the corner. We expect that from him. He played a good game.”

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau