FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS VS. ALABAMA NOTES
1. Wilson Practices, But Isn’t Cleared
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson participated in Wednesday’s practice, according to coach John L. Smith. But Smith said the senior still hasn’t been cleared to play against top-ranked Alabama in Razorback Stadium on Saturday.
Wilson was knocked out of the 34-31 overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe with an “injury above the shoulders.” Smith said Monday the quarterback continued to experience “grogginess” and he sat out Tuesday’s practice. But Smith said Wednesday morning he hoped Wilson could be available to throw “a little bit.”
Smith said Wilson was “out there leading like he should.”
“He could have done whatever he wanted to do (Wednesday), basically,” Smith said during his radio show after practice. “And it was good having him out there doing that. But, he has not been cleared yet. So, we’re still day to day dealing with him.”
Arkansas continues preparing Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell for playing time against the Crimson Tide. Smith said the Razorbacks would make a decision on the starting quarterback late in the week. It’s not known if it will be revealed publicly.
Wilson has thrown for 563 yards with 5 touchdowns and one interception in six quarters of play this season. His importance to the Arkansas offense was clear last Saturday, when the Razorbacks squandered a 21-7 halftime lead without him.
Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes and defensive end Chris Smith said it was good to see the quarterback participating in non-contact portions of Wednesday’s closed practice. Haynes said Wilson threw the ball well. Smith is confident he’ll play.
“Tyler looked good (Wednesday),” Smith said. “He’s going to be ready to go.”
His availability for Saturday apparently remains to be determined, though. Smith said Wilson must be cleared by doctors before he can step back in the huddle.
“I am more optimistic,” Smith said Wednesday morning. “But that decision’s not been made yet and it’s not in my hands. I’m keeping my fingers crossed as well.”
2. Spy Games
Haynes said Wednesday a big part of Arkansas’ gameplan against ULM was keeping a spy on elusive quarterback Kolton Browning. After being pressed further, Haynes said it was linebacker Alonzo Highsmith and he struggled in the role.
“Alonzo would be the first one to tell you he was upset at himself afterwards because the very first probably five times that we did it, he did it exactly right,” Haynes said. “Then all of a sudden he kind of went wacky and didn’t’ do it right again, you know? We kept on talking to him, kept on telling him, and something just wasn’t clicking for him.”
Arkansas had trouble keeping Browning contained in the loss. The quarterback eluded tackles and made plays with his arm (412 passing yards) and feet (69 rushing yards) in leading the Warhawks to the win.
But Haynes said failed execution across the board played a big role in the downfall.
“We’ve just got to get them doing it right every single time because there’s four to six plays in the course of the game that’s going to change the game,” Haynes said. “When is it going to happen? You never know. That’s what happened again in that game. They got momentum three or four plays they made our guys didn’t make.
“We were there. We just didn’t make them. They did.”
3. Mitchel Update
Smith said on the SEC teleconference cornerback Tevin Mitchel had his gallbladder removed this week. The surgery was not related to the injury sustained during the head-to-head collision in the second half of last Saturday’s loss, though.
Mitchel has not been available for comment since his injury, but did send a message via Twitter: “Just want to take a moment and give thanks to everyone who prayed for me bcuz your prayers worked. I will be ok. God is an awesome God! #WPS.”
Arkansas, meanwhile, will press on with Darius Winston, Kaelon Kelleybrew and Will Hines at cornerback Saturday. The Hogs also have redshirt freshman Davyon McKinney and are preparing freshman Jared Collins for playing time.
“You’d like to save a redshirt if you could, but you have to prepare that guy just to make sure you have enough bodies should something happen,” Smith said.
4. Smith’s Plea To Fans
The summer-long anticipation for Saturday’s game took a big hit thanks to the ULM loss last Saturday. But Smith said Wednesday he’s hoping the atmosphere in Razorback Stadium can rival the 2010 game, which featured a matchup of top 10 teams and the largest announced crowd in school history (76,808).
“I don’t know that any of the fans in the stands ever sat down the entire game,” Smith said of the 2010 game. “We need that again this year. We need that 12th man. We need it to be just loud and out of control. That energy that you feel in the stadium needs to transfer to our guys. It’s crucial the fans get behind these guys.
“It’s the same group of guys that you were behind in spring ball, so don’t be jumping off the bandwagon. Get on in here and support these guys.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau