Four Downs: Youth Evident on Arkansas Depth Chart


1. Depth Chart Released

Arkansas released its depth chart for the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday afternoon. And Arkansas’ youth – outside of its starters – was clear.

The Razorbacks listed 15 freshmen or redshirt freshmen on offensive or defensive two-deep depth chart. All of the young players are projected to work in reserve roles when the season begins in Razorback Stadium.

The amount of youth is no surprise. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said earlier this summer he expected roughly 10 true freshmen to play this season, while positions like defensive end are relying heavily on first-time players to help as reserves.

The depth chart also included five junior college transfers (QB AJ Derby, FB Patrick Arinze, LB Martrell Spaight, S TQ Coleman and CB Carroll Washington).

In all, there are 20 offensive or defensive players listed on the depth chart for the opener who could be making their Arkansas debuts against Louisiana-Lafayette.

There was only one notable change in the first-team group from the spring, when Arkansas last released a depth chart, was at cornerback. Sophomore Will Hines — who started nine games as a true freshman last season — was listed ahead of redshirt freshman Jared Collins for the starting spot. Collins left after the spring.

It doesn’t mean Hines has won the job, though. Bielema said last Friday the competition between the two cornerbacks would continue this week.

2. Injuries? No Big Deal

Arkansas lost four players to significant injuries during preseason camp: WR Demetrius Wilson (knee), LB Otha Peters (broken arm), TE Austin Tate (shoulder) and WR D’Arthur Cowan (foot). Bielema said he didn’t consider it as a sign of an injury-plagued camp, though.

“It really wasn't that bad,” Bielema said. “I don't know what you're used to, but with the style of play that we play with and the physicality that we practice with - if you ask our kids I'm sure they'd tell you that's not like something they've gone through before. We whack them.”

Bielema said the injuries were simply a by-product of the physical Arkansas practices. C Travis Swanson, FB Kiero Small, DT Byran Jones, WR Javontee Herndon, S Rohan Gaines and WR Keon Hatcher also are known to have missed time.

“We had a little system set up to recognize those who championed through three weeks of practice without missing a drill, without missing a beat, without missing a practice,” Bielema said. “It's going to be fun to reward those guys for it.”

3. Hartfield Ready?

Arkansas WR Melvinson Hartfield didn’t arrive until the second week of preseason camp. But the freshman appears to be catching up quickly.

Hartfield — who wasn’t one of four receivers listed on the depth chart Sunday — is expected to play this season. While injuries have played a role in his climb up the depth chart, Bielema said Hartfield also is proving he’s talented.

“Good football players don't take a lot of time,” Hartfield said. “Now, he'll get better and better with more practices and all that gets into it. But there are a lot of times you can just drop a guy on a football field and you see whether or not he's a football player, and he's one of those guys.”

4. Hocker To Handle Three

Place kicker Zach Hocker will be Arkansas’ punter, place kicker and kickoff man for the season opener.

Bielema said the only thing that would change is if the Razorbacks need a pooch punt. He would then turn to transfer Sam Irwin-Hill.

“Sam Irwin is a very, very good pooch punter,” Bielema said “Hock is as well. But the kid's got a very unique gift and I think the factors that come with Sam Irwin being in the ball game really bring a lot of problems to a punt return unit.”

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau