FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS VS. AUBURN NOTES
1. Wilson-Hamilton Connection
Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said quarterback Tyler Wilson was worried Texas A&M would pay extra attention to Cobi Hamilton last Saturday.
It made sense on the surface, considering Hamilton had set the Southeastern Conference’s single-game receiving record with 10 catches for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns against Rutgers. But Petrino told his quarterback to relax.
“I told him there’s a lot of people that aren’t going to change,” Petrino said. “A lot of defensive coordinators are going to run what they run and say, ‘If that guy gets that many yards, we’ll let him. We’re just going to shut him down and tackle him after the catch.’”
So Wilson did find Hamilton plenty during the 58-10 loss to Texas A&M. There weren’t many bright spots in the blowout loss, but Hamilton caught a game-high 11 passes for 162 yards. It helped the senior set another Arkansas mark, breaking the two-game receiving record with 21 catches for 465 yards.
There’s no doubt he remains a vital part of Arkansas’ success again when the Razorbacks play at Auburn on Saturday.
“We’ve been taking full advantage of it,” Hamilton said. “I try to be there for Tyler as much as I can. He’s a guy that I trust and hopefully he trusts me. We’ve been having a good year and hopefully we have a lot more to come.”
It’s clear Wilson has found a connection with a receiver similar to 2011, when Jarius Wright proved to be his top target en route to Arkansas’ single-season records.
It’s not a big surprise Hamilton has stepped into the role, considering he was the veteran receiver in a group of youngsters entering the season. But Hamilton is on pace to top Wright’s marks with 31 catches for 591 yards in five games.
He leads the SEC in receiving yards a game (118.2) and ranks ninth in the nation.
“There’s a lot of particular plays that we understand and are on the same page on,” Wilson said. “So when things break down or happen, that’s a guy you go to.”
Wilson said he was surprised he was able to find Hamilton so much during the Texas A&M game, but admitted there should’ve been even more. There were times he should’ve hit Hamilton. Petrino said Hamilton had chances for more yards after the catch, but couldn’t break free for big plays like he did against Rutgers.
Either way, Wilson and Hamilton plan to connect plenty more times Saturday.
“Obviously a 100-plus yard performance is very, very good,” Wilson said. “We’ll continue to work together and feed him the ball because he’s an excellent receiver.”
2. Injury Updates
Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg did not participate in Tuesday’s practice and Petrino said the senior remains day-to-day. Gragg did not play in the Texas A&M game because of a bone bruise in his leg, which he sustained against Rutgers.
Junior Austin Tate logged most of the snaps at the position Saturday.
“When it comes to speed I don’t try to be Chris Gragg,” Tate said. “I’m not that guy. As bad as everybody wants me to be that quick guy I am just not. I have got a whole other aspect to my game that he may not have. I am a little bit bigger and heavier and he is quicker so I just try to use what I know I can do my best attributes.”
Arkansas did get safety Eric Bennett back on the practice field after the junior missed the Texas A&M game with a leg injury. He worked with the first-team defense during the portion of practice open to the media.
Other injury news: Cornerback Kaelon Kelleybrew practiced in a yellow non-contact jersey after being injured Saturday. Freshman Will Hines and redshirt freshman Davyon McKinney worked with the first-team cornerbacks Tuesday.
Cornerback Tevin Mitchel practiced Tuesday, but did not participate in contact drills. Mitchel is expected to miss his fourth straight game Saturday.
3. Change It Up
Arkansas is trying to find different ways to keep players motivated through the four-game losing streak. One method was noticeable Tuesday, when the Razorbacks began the workout with a few players going one-on-one while teammates watched.
That’s the first time I’ve ever experienced that at the beginning of a practice,” said Hamilton, who wasn’t one of the players called into the middle of the circle. “I never did it in practice. I’ve heard about it, but I’ve never heard of it at the beginning of practice. I’ve seen it in movies … but never took part in it. But that’s good. It got everybody pumped up and got enthusiasm and got practice started off right.”
Petrino said the one-on-one ring was a way to get some “a little emotion and fire going” as the work week began.
“It got a little juice going,” Petrino said. “I thought it was a good thing.”
4. Positive Thoughts
Arkansas running back Knile Davis said he was trying to ignore the negatives surrounding the 1-4 start Monday. The first place to start: It’s a new month.
“We’re ready to turn the September chapter to get to the October chapter, try to go get some wins in October, and I think we will,” Davis said. “We’re getting better. A lot of people are focusing on the negatives, but I focus on the positives.
“The one positive thing I did see is the O-line’s getting better. That meshing, that chemistry is getting better, so hopefully we can pull the win off this weekend.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau