Four Downs: Backs Banged Up During First Week


1. Running Back Injuries: Running back Alex Collins, who led Arkansas in rushing as a true freshman last season, did not participate in Saturday’s 93-play scrimmage.

Arkansas’ second-leading rusher — Jonathan Williams — didn’t finish it.

The Arkansas backfield wrapped up the first week of preseason practices with some leg injuries. Collins was held out of the scrimmage because of a groin injury he suffered earlier this week, while Williams strained his hamstring Saturday.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema doesn’t believe either issue is a concern.

Williams was hurt after being swarmed by a handful of Razorbacks at the end of the run play, which resulted in a three-yard loss. One of the defensive players — safety Alan Turner — lifted Williams’ leg in the pile up and it led to the injury.

“We have got to take better care of ourselves,” Bielema said.

Williams limped to the sideline and didn’t return the rest of the scrimmage, finishing with 18 yards on four carries. Sophomore Korliss Marshall (8 carries, 28 yards), freshman Juan Day (5 carries, 31 yards) and redshirt freshman Denzell Evans (4 carries, 10 yards) handled the bulk of the work in the backfield the rest of the day.

It’s not clear if Williams’ strained hamstring will keep him out of any practice work when the Hogs return to the field Monday. But Bielema is optimistic Collins will be back after hurting his groin during Friday’s practice.

“He had actually had a good camp up until that,” Bielema said. “We thought he might be able to go (Saturday), but I would rather get some good quality work with him all the way up to camp. He’s got some soreness in there, but nothing that we think of lasting significance.”

Arkansas also practiced without defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson (ankle), wide receiver Jojo Robinson (hamstring), cornerback Santos Ramirez (calf), Tevin Mitchel (shoulder) and Mitch Loewen (knee) on Saturday.

Mitchel and Loewen are working their way back from offseason surgeries, while the three freshmen were injured during practices this week.

Fullback Patrick Arinze (shoulder), LB Braylon Mitchell (heat), DT Demarcus Hodge (heat), DB Davyon McKinney (unspecified) also left Saturday’s scrimmage with issues. Arinze and McKinney were injured during an open-field collision.

Bielema doesn’t believe any of the injuries will keep players sidelined for long.

2. High on Louisiana: Bielema emerged from his first week of practice impressed with the potential in his newcomers. The Louisiana Razorbacks in particular.

Three members of Arkansas’ 2014 signing class — cornerback Henre’ Toliver, wide receiver Jared Cornelius and linebacker Dwayne Eugene — have had a productive start to preseason camp. Cornelius got a head start by enrolling last winter, while Toliver and Eugene have a chance to earn early playing time as well this season.

“I might send 10 coaches over there (to recruit),” Bielema said of the state. “Those Louisiana kids play ball the right way. I’m very impressed with those guys early on.”

Toliver spent portions of Saturday’s practice working with the first-team defense, taking advantage of some injury issues at the position. He did well with the work.

“Henre’, really, the last three days has shown up,” Bielema said. “It was kind of interesting. All the coaches want to make decisions after day one, day two. This guy can do that. … We didn’t have pads on until Wednesday. Players change so much when we put pads on them. Not just because I like to play the way we play, but football players show up when pads are on and that’s what Henre’ has done.”

3. Center of Attention: Freshman Frank Ragnow has been working at center with the second-team offense during the first week of preseason camp. His adjustment was evident Saturday.

Ragnow had three exchange issues with second-team quarterback Austin Allen during the 93-play scrimmage. Two snaps ended up on the ground, while a third came out of the shotgun and nearly sailed over Allen’s head.

Bielema believes it has still been a productive week for the Minnesota native, who is working behind Mitch Smothers on the depth chart. But he added Arkansas would have to make a decision about its depth chart after Saturday’s scrimmage.

“I can’t imagine being a true freshman and doing what he’s doing, popping in there,” Bielema said. “ There are some things he has got to get down.

“I think the progression of the kid six days into an experiment … It looks like it’s going to go well. We just have to make a decision. Is he our best option until he gets to the point that he is vying for I? I don’t think he is anywhere close in getting to a Mitch level yet, but I do like the progress he has made in a week.”

4. Extra Points

• Bielema called his offense together after some ball security issues in the opening possessions Saturday. “Obviously I want to have better ball security on offense,” Bielema said. “We came together and talked about it. We only had one mishap after that so that shows that a point of emphasis does carry through.”

• Cornerback Jared Collins scrimmage despite a dislocated finger that required stitches earlier this week. “I have to give him a lot of credit when we didn’t know if he was going to be able to go,” Bielema said.

• Arkansas didn’t incorporate any special teams work into Saturday’s scrimmage. It was by design. The Razorbacks held a special teams practice Saturday night.

• Bielema said Saturday that cornerback D.J. Dean would probably be Arkansas’ punt returner if the season was starting now. He said the kick return battle remains open, but it might be hard to remove Marshall from the position.

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau