Hogs: Highsmith out for year; young linebackers, D backs impress at Auburn
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks (2-4, 1-2) began this season with senior captains Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright as their starting linebackers.
Now they proceed with Highsmith out for the season and Wright not expected to play Saturday against Kentucky at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Highsmith (team-high 54 tackles) broke his foot during Saturday's 24-7 victory at Auburn and had surgery Monday afternoon. Arkansas coach John L. Smith said the junior college transfer would miss the remainder of the year, his last college season.
Alonzo Highsmith's college
career ended by broken foot
Wright, who has since been moved back to defensive end, missed the Auburn game with a reoccurring shoulder injury and was scheduled for a MRI Monday, Smith said. Wright's earliest return would be Oct. 27 against Ole Miss. The Razorbacks have an open date Oct. 20.
"It's a big blow," Smith said. "Because you're without your two middle linebackers that you were hoping to start the season with and continue with. It's just something we have to do, and I think our football team realizes that. We've had to adjust for other guys missing time, and whoever is there, has to step in and play and go make plays."
Senior Terrell Williams, who began the season as a reserve, has become the regular Will linebacker and finished the Auburn game at the Mike middle linebacker with true freshman Otha Peters at Will.
Veterans Jarrett Lake and Matt Marshall, both former inside linebackers since moved to outside linebacker, join Williams, Peters and true freshman linebacker A.J. Turner (Lepanto) at inside 'backer on Tuesday, Smith said.
"Lake may be a guy to bounce in there," Smith said. "So I think that's probably going to be one of your first looks along with a Matt Marshall, who has been pretty much been down working on the scout team. But Matt has some experience and, you know, we can bounce some guys around. That's what we're going to have to do."
Sophomore cornerback Tevin Mitchel is cleared to return, Smith said, after missing all games since suffering a concussion during the Sept. 8 loss to Louisiana-Monroe and subsequent gall bladder surgery.
"Tevin Mitchel informed the coaching staff and the team that he is going to be ready to go this week," Smith said. "That's his diagnosis. It will be great to get Tevin back."
Senior cornerback Kaelon Kelleybrew (Little Rock Central) has practiced little after a head injury at Texas A&M but dressed out against Auburn and may factor this week.
So the Hogs may have more cornerback depth than they have had all season since freshmen Will Hines (interception and fumble recovery at Auburn) and Davyon "Sleepy" McKinney started last week and drew praise.
"The two young guys, Hines and Sleepy, did a really good job for being young guys," Smith said. "Both those guys were active and did very well."
Senior tight end Chris Gragg (Warren), out since a deep leg bruise during the Sept. 22 game against Rutgers, "ran gingerly," Sunday night. Junior Austin Tate (Harrison) has started the past two games. Tate caught four passes against Auburn, including two on Arkansas' first scoring drive.
"We did some things with play action," Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson said, "and that allows him to be one or two in a lot of progressions and get the ball in his hands. That's what they gave us, and we gave it to him early in the first drive and he made an exceptional catch and run toward the goal line and did some really good things for us."
Smith praised Terrell Williams for his leadership during the injuries at linebacker. He also praised sophomore defensive end Trey Flowers, the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his 3.5 sacks against Auburn.
On his own contract situation, Smith declined comment.
USA Today reported that Smith, who has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, has had $600,000 of his UA $850,000 salary deferred. Deferring payments, USA Today reported, could be a strategy for Smith to keep money away from creditors.
Court documents report Smith has $40.7 million liabilities from failed real estate investments. Smith was asked by media Monday if he had broached the UA on deferring payments.
"I will comment on football," Smith said. "I would rather not comment on any of that. That's not in my hands. I am preparing for Kentucky."
Smith, a former Arkansas assistant from 2009-2011 until becoming Weber State's head coach last December, was hired on a 10-month contract as Arkansas' head coach on April 23 following the firing of former Coach Bobby Petrino on April 10.
A meeting of creditors in the Smith bankruptcy is scheduled Friday in Fayetteville.