1. Arkansas Responds
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema defended his team one day after Florida center Jon Harrison alleged a Razorback subjected him to racial slurs earlier this season.
Harrison alleged the harassment led to his third quarter ejection during Florida’s 30-10 win over Arkansas in Gainesville, Fla., on Oct. 5. Harrison — who spoke to the media in Florida on Tuesday for the first time since his ejection — didn’t name the player who allegedly used the racial slurs.
But Bielema doesn’t believe it took place.
“Actually, in that game, the Florida game, all 11 of our defense players were African American,” Bielema said in reference to his team’s starters for the game. “I have a hard time believing that anybody on our roster would say anything along that line without getting noticed by our own guys. So I don’t feel there’s an issue there.”
Harrison was ejected with 6:49 left in the third quarter. Video of the ESPN broadcast showed the center being separated from Arkansas linebacker Jarrett Lake immediately after a play.
“One play I got face-masked, then the next play I got called every version of the ‘N-word’ known to man,” Harrison said Tuesday, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “I went up to the ref and I’m like, ‘Ref, please, you have to control this player. He’s been calling me every racial slur.’”
It’s not known if Harrison was referring to Lake, but the linebacker said he was a “little bit shocked” by the allegation after Wednesday’s practice. Lake said he didn’t hear use any racial slurs and didn’t hear any from other teammates.
“I have no idea,” Lake said Wednesday night. “I guess he said somebody on the defense. But like I said, while I was out there I didn’t hear anybody else say it.”
Harrison was ejected after appearing to poke the official that separated the two players, although he denied it Tuesday. Harrison said he talks with his hands and inadvertently touched the official, which led to the ejection.
“I was honestly just trying to tell the ref to get this player because I was getting attacked, I felt like I was getting harassed, and it was beyond football,” Harrison said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Bielema was first made aware of the allegation while on the road recruiting Tuesday. While no specific player was named, Bielema said he called Lake and the senior “categorically denied” the allegation.
Bielema doesn’t think it came from any other player either.
“I think if it was a big deal, I probably would have heard about it after the game, not four weeks later,” Bielema said. “I understand that player just (this week) got a chance to talk. But that wouldn’t go on with our guys.”
2. Welcome Back
Arkansas cornerback Will Hines has returned to practice after missing four games because of a broken wrist. The sophomore said he’s still on track to return for next Saturday’s game at Mississippi State as well.
I haven’t felt much pain really,” Hines said. “I’ve been tackling and doing everything in practice. I’ve been lifting weights too and there is no problem.
“I should be playing (against Mississippi State). It just depends how much coach wants to play me and how well I play with my arm and everything.”
Hines started the first six games before suffering the injury in Arkansas’ loss at Florida on Oct. 5. He had 22 tackles and an interception before the injury and Bielema said he was starting to “play his best football” before going down.
“He had made a play a couple of plays before he got injured that was one of the best plays that he had all year,” Bielema said. “He is a competitive kid. He has got all the length and dynamics and measurements that you want at corner. So to get him back in the lineup will be a great thing.”
3. The Other Side
Starting cornerback Tevin Mitchel was benched in place of freshman D.J. Dean late in the Ole Miss loss last week. Bielema mentioned after the loss the Razorbacks would look into making a change at the position for the final two games.
But defensive coordinator Chris Ash said the Razorbacks were still trying to determine who would be with the starting defense against Mississippi State.
“It’s just like every other position right now, but that probably mores than others,” Ash said. “We’re trying to find an answer, trying to find a solution to the problems that we’ve had. Right now we’re still trying to work through that. We’ll figure out something before next week.”
Mitchel has started every game this season and ranks fifth on the team in tackles (46), but has made mistakes that have led to big plays the past few weeks. Dean has played in nine games as a reserve as a freshman, logging two tackles.
“We’re just are all competing,” Dean said. “Whoever does the best gets the job.”
4. More Comfort
Middle linebacker Brooks Ellis led the Razorbacks with 11 tackles during the Ole Miss loss. The freshman said he was “very comfortable” in his second start.
“I felt good about it, but we didn’t win the game,” said Ellis, who now has 17 tackles in his two starts. “So I’ve got room to improve always. This bye week’s going help me get better and got to move on to Mississippi State.”
But Ellis was involved in a critical play late, being penalized for a block in the back on safety Eric Bennett’s interception return. Ellis took responsibility for the mistake even though the Razorbacks may not have agreed with the call.
“It was stupid of me to just even go down there,” Ellis said. “I don’t know. I feel that it was kind of a bad call, but it was a dumb move on my part.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau