Hogs must weather Ole Miss' top-ranked D in wet conditions; more notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas' 17-0 victory last week over LSU came in freezing temps but without predicted snow at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Jr QB BRANDON ALLEN
This Saturday's forecast has temperatures in the 50s with rain, which could affect the ball-handling for Arkansas' 2:30 p.m. CBS-televised game with Ole Miss. It's the Razorbacks' 2014 farewell to Fayetteville before finishing the regular season Nov. 28 at Missouri.
How would rain affect the play-calling and offensive emphasis for Jim Chaney, the offensive coordinator for Arkansas?
"Well, it all depends on the volume of the water," Chaney said after Thursday's practice "It depends on the wind. If it's blowing and all that stuff. You deal with it when you have to. As long as it's not Buffalo (Buffalo. N.Y. has been hit with five and a half feet of snow) I think we'll be OK. Goodness, those poor people. I feel bad for them."
Chaney is more concerned about the "landsharks," the nickname for the Rebels defense coordinated by former Arkansas defensive coordinator Dave Wommack. Ole Miss has intercepted 19 passes and leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 11.9 points per game. The 8-2, 4-2 Rebels rank eighth in the AP and College Football polls.
"They're No. 1 in scoring defense. They're opportunistic," Chaney said. "You make a mistake and you pay. You're late throwing the ball, you pay. That's what good defenses do. They've been able to do that throughout the season against some very good offenses."
Chaney said Wommack can gamble for interceptions because it's no gamble if the defense delivers.
"I think they have cornerbacks who believe in their talent," Chaney said. "They'll take some chances occasionally and make the plays. Once you've done that a couple times, it doesn't bother you to do it again."
Chaney said Arkansas' offense "had a good week of practice, and we're ready to go play."
Since losing a heartbreaker Nov. 1 at Auburn, Coach Hugh Freeze's Rebels have enjoyed virtually two open dates, a 48-0 non-conference laugher two weeks ago over Presbyterian, and a true open date last week.
Certainly enough time for Freeze to add new offensive plays.
"I'm sure they will have a wrinkle," Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith said Thursday. "But at the same point when you get this far into the season you kind of develop an identity. They have done a lot of really good things on offense. I don't think they will stray too far away from those things."
MITCHEL FOR MITCHELL
Ole Miss' pass-oriented Spread formation likely means Arkansas senior run-stopping strongside linebacker Braylon Mitchell will play less even after starring against power run-oriented LSU, and that senior nickel/cornerback Tevin Mitchel will play more.
"Tevin will have little bit more on his plate this week," Smith said. "We expect a heavy dose of three wide receivers and four wide receivers stuff and those are the games that Tevin has been able to do some good things for us out there on the slot. I think between those two guys we can match personnel and be in pretty good shape."
SPAIGHT IN SENIOR BOWL
Smith was elated to learn senior linebacker Martrell Spaight will join senior defensive end Trey Flowers in the prestigious NFL-operated Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., after the college bowl season concludes.
"It's hard not to be happy for a guy like Martrell Spaight," Smith said. "I don't know if there is a guy who works harder in this building and studies his craft more and has really earned the respect of his teammates. And it's great to see he has earned more respect now in the NFL scouting community and he is going to get a chance to showcase his skills later on this winter."
TWO HALVES TWO SAFETIES
Smith and defensive backfield coach Clay Jennings prep freshman strong safety Josh Liddell to start Saturday's first half and junior strong safety Rohan Gaines for the second half. Gaines fulfills a first-half NCAA suspension because he was ejected from the LSU game because of a hit ruled as "targeting."
"It's probably a silver lining because it gives Josh Liddell a few more reps, and I am excited about what he has in the future," Smith said. "By the same token, I feel really good about Rohan and have gotten him enough reps to make sure he is ready to go in the second half."
Smith credited senior free safety Alan Turner of Junction City for taking charge and easing Liddell's burden when Liddell was thrust into the LSU fray.
Twenty Razorback seniors will be honored Saturday and so will one posthumously who played with most of them.
Redshirt freshman tight end Garrett Uekman of Little Rock died of complications from an undetected enlarged heart the night he returned from playing against Mississippi State in Little Rock. Uekman's parents will be introduced with the seniors Saturday.