FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS VS. RUTGERS NOTES
1. Wilson Update
Arkansas coach John L. Smith said Wednesday night quarterback Tyler Wilson still has not been cleared by doctors to play against Rutgers.
But Smith and the Razorbacks remain hopeful the senior, who is trying to return from the concussion he sustained on Sept. 8, will be on the field Saturday night.
“I’m optimistic,” Smith said. “(We) have not gotten Tyler cleared yet, but he’s made it through two days of practice and is looking very, very good at this point. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
Wilson also said he underwent concussion tests on Monday, too, and was “extremely optimistic” about his availability for Saturday’s game against Rutgers.
Smith said on the Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference Wilson was scheduled to go through a round of tests Wednesday.
The Greenwood native has participated in practice the past two days even though he hasn’t been cleared to play. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said the quarterback received roughly 50 percent of the work during Monday’s practice, while backups Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell received 25 percent of the work.
Arkansas safety Ross Rasner said Wilson was throwing the ball well Wednesday.
“He looks like regular Tyler,” said Rasner, who didn’t know if it meant Wilson was going to play. “Zipping balls in. Reading coverages. Just the same old Tyler.”
2. Smith On ‘Smile!’
Clips of Smith’s Monday press conference — when he shouted at media members to “Smile” before he would begin — have made the national media rounds this week.
It prompted further explanation from Smith during his weekly radio show Wednesday night. The coach said he was trying to remain positive despite the loss.
“In athletics, what do we teach our guys? Don’t show pain. Right? Why would you show that they’ve hurt you? Right?” Smith said. “So why would I walk into a press conference and say, ‘Nick Saban just ripped my heart out?’ Even though you feel that, you’re not going to say that. You’re not going to act like that.”
Smith said he had “never felt so much negativity coming at me in a long, long time” when he walked into the interview room Monday. But Smith didn’t want his message to be misunderstood as “not being serious about the game.”
“Football is our life. And coaching these young men is our life. And winning is our life,” Smith said. “So to misconstrue trying to be positive, trying to exude a little positive energy to not caring or not being serious, whoever they are, those people are sadly, sadly mistaken. And I apologize if that’s the way it came across.”
3. Tank Getting D-End Work
Smith also revealed on his radio show that linebacker Tenarius Wright could get more work at defensive end this week. Wright moved from defensive end to linebacker for his senior season, but hasn’t had a big impact at the position so far.
So Smith said using Wright some at defensive end will allow him to “use his strengths more.” But Smith also stressed the senior isn’t leaving linebacker for good.
The news came the same night Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said freshmen linebackers Otha Peters and A.J. Turner were getting more practice work.
“We’re actually working them in a little bit more this week,” Haynes said. “So, depending on how the game is going, depending on how the starters are doing then they may see some action.”
4. Practice Pep Rally
Roughly 200 students greeted players and coaches after Wednesday’s practice. The group, which held a banner saying “U of A Students Love Our Razorbacks,” showed up in support of the team despite their 1-2 start.
“I’ve been here four years and I’ve never seen anything like that,” Rasner said. “So it’s really special to know that all the students still have our backs. It’s been a really tough two weeks to say the least. So to see all that has been great.”
Haynes said it was an indication “Hog nation is strong.”
“We’ve got to put a better product on the field for them,” Haynes said. “That’s our job to make sure, but they are strong and they are proud.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau