FOUR DOWNS – ARKANSAS VS. RUTGERS NOTES
1. Tank Back To End
Senior Tenarius Wright moved to linebacker in the offseason in hopes of filling one of Arkansas’ biggest voids without departed four-year starter Jerry Franklin.
But it sounds as if Wright will be spending much more time at defensive end again when Arkansas (1-2) plays Rutgers (3-0) on Saturday night. Arkansas coach John L. Smith said the Razorbacks want Wright back on the line of scrimmage — where he spent the first three seasons of his career — for a couple of reasons.
“Putting him back up on the line of scrimmage is actually not only going to put him where he’s used to playing, where he’s going to make a ton of plays, where he’s going to help us with a pass rush, it may lessen his chance of getting another stinger and that type of thing and keeping him maybe more healthy,” Smith said.
Wright was held out of contact for most of preseason practice because of injuries. He is tied with teammate Alonzo Highsmith for second on the team in tackles (25) in three starts, but Wright hasn’t made a big impact for a struggling defense.
He has 20 tackles and 9 sacks in his career as a defensive end and should help a rotation that includes Chris Smith, Trey Flowers, Austin Flynn and Colton Miles-Nash whenever he lines up to the position. Smith said Highsmith would then move from his weakside linebacker to the middle. Freshman AJ Turner and senior Terrell Williams would get more work at the weakside position.
“Any time you bring in a freshman, just the more reps he can get, you have to play the game to know the game to get better at the game,” Smith said. “So the more reps he gets all of the time, then the better he gets. So all those young guys, now, T-Will has been there for a while, and you do have a little bit of a veteran leader in there and between the two of those guys they’ll have to carry the load at that spot.”
2. Like Dennis Johnson
Arkansas’ defense will have its hands full with Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison.
The sophomore has been a key component in Rutgers’ success, rushing for 373 yards and two touchdowns in three wins. It included an impressive 41-carry, 150-yard performance in last Thursday’s win against South Florida.
Arkansas’ coaching staff said the 5-foot-8, 200-pound Jamison reminds the Razorbacks of someone they see every day: Running back Dennis Johnson.
“He is a tough, hard runner, and we stressed that to our guys,” defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said. “We’ve got to make sure we keep our head up, we keep our eyes on him, because he breaks tackle after tackle. And the thing about him as you watch him, he gets better as the game goes on. He gets tougher. He runs harder.
“So we’ve got to make sure we stay after him the whole game.”
3. Hines In Line To Start
Arkansas cornerback Will Hines has worked with the first-team defense this week and is in line to earn the first start of his career Saturday.
Haynes said the decision hadn’t been made when speaking to the media Wednesday night, but Hines was working with the starters in place of senior Darius Winston in practice this week. So Haynes said Hines “will probably run with the ones” Saturday.
“He’s being a little more aggressive,” Haynes said. “We love his speed, his cover ability. He’s aggressive. He can blitz. … All those things that we like, that we ask that corner spot to do, he’s starting to do for us, and he’s getting better at doing them.”
Arkansas will be without cornerback Tevin Mitchel for the second straight game.
4. Extra Points
Smith was asked Thursday if more option remained a possibility with backup quarterback Brandon Mitchell on Saturday. Smith paused, grinned and said: “It’s a possibility.” … Quarterback Tyler Wilson was named one of 30 candidates for the 2012 Senior CLASS Award on Thursday. The award is awarded annually to the senior that best demonstrates achievements in four areas: Community, classroom, character and competition. The 30 candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists later this season. … Former Razorback Jackie Brasuell, who died at the age of 67 earlier this month, has been named the honorary captain for Saturday’s game. Brasuell played for the Razorbacks from 1963-65 and was an All-Southwest Conference selection. He will be represented on the field by his son, Toney, on Saturday.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau