Hogs count on focused Mitchel vs. UAB, work on protecting QB Allen
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks are counting on cornerback/nickel back Tevin Mitchel in Saturday's non-conference game against Alabama-Birmingham even though the senior committed a key penalty during Georgia's 31-point second quarter last week.
Sr CB TEVIN MITCHELL
Kickoff is 11 a.m. on SEC Network television for Arkansas' homecoming at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"We need him," Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith said after Thursday's practice. "He is one of our guys. We get those teams with three wide receivers in there we have to have three guys out there that can cover them, and the toughest place to do that in my opinion is on the slot."
How has Mitchel responded?
"A little bump in the road (last week's penalty negating a third-down stop and prolonging a Georgia touchdown drive) but you have got to keep pushing forward," Smith said. "This game is not easy and a lot of it is how you respond more than anything else. I think he has had a good week of practice. He is focused and he wants to be successful and we have got to put him in position to do that. That's our job."
Against Spread formation teams, Smith has employed a nickel but in others, especially Alabama and Georgia other than obvious passing situations, Smith has eschewed the nickel for a strongside Sam linebacker (senior Braylon Mitchell of Heber Springs for freshman Randy Ramsey).
UAB presents a Spread team but a running team with tailback Jordan Howard already at 752 yards rushing.
"Hopefully, we can get a bead on down and distance when they are running the football and we can get a guy like Randy Ramsey in there or Braylon Mitchell," Smith said. "I don't know how to describe it our Sam, our nickel, we are kind of a Sam/nickel by committee, try to get the best matchup and best down and distance. That formula has been good to us at times this year and we have to get in sync with it."
Head coach Bret Bielema on his radio show Thursday night said freshman cornerback Henre Toliver's status (injured against Georgia) is still iffy and that sophomore cornerback D.J. Dean has practiced well this week.
Smith was asked about middle linebacker with sophomore incumbent Brooks Ellis healing from his deep knee bruise two games ago against Alabama. Sophomore junior transfer Josh Williams is ready to start again as he did against Georgia if Bielema opts to give Ellis another game to recover before the Nov. 1 SEC visit to nationally No. 1 Mississippi State.
Smith tipped no hand.
"Brooks Ellis is a great football player, and Josh is coming and doing some really nice things," Smith said. "If Brooks is ready to go, you don't want to keep a guy like that on the sideline. But by the same token we have got all the confidence in the world in Josh Williams."
Playing behind a senior stalwart like Arkansas All-SEC defensive end Trey Flowers can get you forgotten by fans, but Smith and defensive line coach Rory Segrest keep close tabs on Tevin Beanum, the redshirt freshman end from Forrest City.
"Tevin has had a good week of practice and hopefully he has some opportunities to get in there this week," Smith said. "But it's hard to get those opportunities when you have got a guy like Trey Flowers in front of you. But just being in the same room as Trey and watching him practice every day I think that is going to really be beneficial to Tevin down the road."
Offensively, coordinator Jim Chaney said the Hogs got back to running as they did their first five games before Alabama held them to 89 yards rushing. Georgia's big second quarter last week forced the Hogs to attempt 45 passes.
"We had a good week of practice," Chaney said. "I am comfortable with what we have done. We wanted to make a point of emphasis of getting back to who we want to be as far as running the ball and being physical, and I felt the kids have been trying to do that all week. We'll see how it plays out on Saturday.
Officially sacked three times, quarterback Brandon Allen was hit more than 10 times on passing attempts against Georgia, causing concern about pass protection.
"So far so good," Chaney said of this week's practices in pass protection. "We play the game we'll find out. Tedious thing when you have to throw it as often as we did last week. That's a tough time. So hopefully we won't have to throw it that much but if we do we felt like we corrected a few little things and some mistakes, and Sam has worked a lot on some technical stuff out front to clean up that. I worked with B.A. (Brandon Allen) about getting the ball out of his hand a little quicker on some route structures and we'll see if all that pays off in protecting the quarterback a little better."