Hogs vs. Samford sans its head coach; OLB Mitchell to play more; Osceola frosh impresses
|UA HC Bret Bielema|
The Razorbacks (1-0) play host Saturday to the Samford Bulldogs (1-0) at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and available on pay-per-view TV.
Samford coach Pat Sullivan, a Heisman Trophy winner when he quarterbacked the Auburn Tigers in 1971, missed the Bulldogs' 31-21 victory at Georgia State last week while recovering from major back surgery. Sullivan is not fit to travel from Samford in Birmingham, Ala., to Little Rock, a Samford spokesman confirmed Thursday.
Bill D'Ottavio, Samford's defensive coordinator, was acting head coach last Saturday and continues head coaching this week while Sullivan convalesces.
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said Monday he looked forward to meeting a Heisman winner and reiterated that Thursday. "Like I said the other day, I looked forward to meeting a man of his stature," Bielema said.
Arkansas starting strong safety Rohan Gaines, injuring a knee during last Saturday's 34-14 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, is "a game time decision," whether he will play against Samford, Bielema said Thursday.
Alan Turner, the junior from Junction City, made six tackles subbing for Gaines at strong safety and playing safety when Gaines played nickel against ULL. Turner will start Saturday if Gaines doesn't, Bielema said.
EXPECT MORE OLB MITCHELL
Even before Gaines was injured, Turner played more against ULL than did starting outside linebacker Braylon Mitchell of Heber Springs though the junior's playing time should increase Saturday.
"Last week it wasn't anything against Braylon," Bielema said. "We just felt like our nickel package was a lot better so that moved Rohan from safety to nickel, took Braylon out of the game and put A.T. in the game. So the dynamic that would change is A.T. would still be in the game, but we would probably play more base defense with Braylon at Sam (linebacker)."
Bielema called Mitchell, "a kid who continues to impress me. Anything we ask him to do defensively or special teams he has been lights out. He is someone who is very eager to have success."
Bielema also lauded senior middle linebacker Austin Jones, who in his first career start made six tackles and recovered the fumble that defensive end Trey Flowers stripped from ULL quarterback Terrance Broadway.
"I think Austin Jones was a pleasant surprise to everybody," Bielema said. "I think the middle linebacker is a lot like the quarterback on offense. He is the guy who controls the huddle and makes the calls at the line of scrimmage."
BURN THAT RED SHIRT
Korliss Marshall, a true freshman out of Osceola expected to redshirt after converting from running back to safety, may be activated on special team Saturday, Bielema said Thursday.
"Korliss has been very impressive," Bielema said. "Last week we were on the verge of playing him. He's a kid that every day continues to grow. He's very gifted athletically, very fast, very physical."
Marshall is projected in next year's future with senior safety Eric Bennett graduating. "There are certain kids you realize they'll be better a year from now if they play now," Bielema said. "Even if it's in a very minimal role. Just to get him used to playing at the speed of the game. Safety is relatively new to him, but we think that's something he can grow into."
He might not be a safety, if the Hogs hadn't recruited nationally renowned freshman running back Alex Collins to blend with sophomore standout running back Jonathan Williams. "I'm not too sure he couldn't be maybe our third- or fourth-string running back to be quite honest," Bielema said. "That's how talented he is."
Bielema cited Samford's strengths off what he's seen on film.
"Obviously Samford is a team that is much improved from a year ago," Bielema said. "They won their opener and executed very, very well. They are dangerous in the kicking game. We have been concentrating all week in our preparation for that. Their offense is controlled by their quarterback (Andy Summerlin). They have a talented running back in No. 2 (Fabian Truss) and receiver, No. 11 (Kelsey Pope). A lot of good players all over the place. On defense they have got a very active middle linebacker (Justin Shade) They have a good defensive line, a safety, No. 6 (Jaquiski Tartt) who is as good as anybody out there right now."