Hogs: new head coach Bret Bielema's postspring 2-deep offers a few surprises
FAYETTEVILLE - Upon assessing Arkansas' 15 spring practices, first-year head coach Bret Bielema published a 2-deep depth chart that raised eyebrows only at a few positions.
Although Bielema prominently mentioned this spring senior tight end Austin Tate, a starter late in 2012, the new head Hog lists sophomore walk-on Mitchell Loewen first-team tight end.
UA hc Bret Bielema
The bigger surprises exiting spring are the first-team linebackers: fourth-year junior Braylon Mitchell of Heber Springs at outside 'backer, junior ex-reserve safety Daunte Carr at middle linebacker and senior Jarrett Lake at the inside linebacker.
All three played just special teams last fall.
To no one's surprise based on Bielema's comments after the Red-White game, third-year sophomore Brandon Allen of Fayetteville officially is the first-team quarterback.
"Brandon Allen, really from the first week through the game you saw on Saturday, made progress all the way along," Bielema said during his wrap-up press conference. "But just really the last two weeks he has been exceptional."
Fifth-year senior QB Brandon Mitchell, who moved to receiver last year, is the backup. He prefers to stay there, though Bielema has talked about using Mitchell's athleticism at another position should his QB time be limited.
"Brandon Mitchell does a lot of really good things as well," Bielema said. "One thing we can't do is turn the football over. We can't create negative plays on our own. I think Brandon Allen did a lot better job of that just overall and has progressed in a way that has put him in that position."
Mitchell threw an interception in the end zone during the Red-White game, while Allen played turnover free. Mitchell, a powerful 6-4, 230-pound runner and two-year basketball letterman, was picked off in the end zone in a previous spring scrimmage.
"Brandon Mitchell obviously got some special gifts that we definitely can use or make better," Bielema said. "If there's another role, him at another position, it'll be something that we kind of work through together."
Mitchell wants to quarterback. "I'm just focused on strictly quarterback," he said. "I don't even want to consider anything else right now. My mind's on quarterback."
All the Razorbacks will meet individually with their position coaches and then meet individually with Bielema.
Allen quarterbacks a first-team backfield that includes running back Jonathan Williams and fullback Kiero Small while three first-teamers, Javontee Herndon, Demetrius Wilson and Julian Horton, are listed as wide receivers.
Holding forth in the offensive line are three-year starting center Travis Swanson, third-year players from Springdale and Springdale Har-Ber at guard with third-year sophomore Mitchell Smothers on the left and junior Brey Cook on the right. Third-year sophomore Grady Ollison of Malvern mans right tackle, and senior incumbent David Hurd returns at left tackle.
The first-team defense returns last year's front four intact: senior Chris Smith and junior Trey Flowers on the ends, and seniors Byran Jones of Junction City and Robert Thomas of Muskogee, Okla. on the tackles.
For the secondary, senior Eric Bennett and sophomore Rohan Gaines, both starters last year, hold forth at free safety and strong safety, and junior Tevin Mitchel is back at one cornerback. Redshirt freshman corner Jared Collins is listed just ahead of sophomore Will Hines, who closed 2012 as a starting cornerback.
Defonta Lowe, the sophomore safety from Bearden whom Bielema said was not participating in spring drills to concentrate on academics, is leaving the program, Bielema said. "He's going to look into the options he wants to pursue here in the next couple of weeks," Bielema said. "He's still in school and doing really well academically."
Matt Emrich, a walk-on redshirt freshman deep-snapper from El Dorado with scant chance to play behind 2-year incumbent Alan D'Apollonio, is a first-teamer thanks to senior kicker Zach Hocker.
Bielema asked Hocker to pick a holder involved in no other position but to hold for the placekicker through the majority of practices when the kickers are by themselves.
Since Brian Buehner, Hocker's holder the past two years also QBs the scout team, spare snappers like Emrich became logical candidates.
Emrich held for Hocker kicking field goals of 27, 37 and 52 yards Saturday.
"Coach told me to choose my holder wisely, and Matt Emrich did an awesome job throughout the spring," Hocker said Monday. "He just has a gift for it. We threw him in with the ones one day and since then that's been his spot."
ARKANSAS POSTSPRING DEPTH CHART
Here is a depth chart released by Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. The offense includes 12 spots for a three-receiver set and when there is a fullback.
Demetrius Wilson, Sr., 6-3, 181
Mekale McKay, So., 6-6, 195
Julian Horton, Sr., 6-1, 202
Keon Hatcher, So., 6-2, 206
Javontee Herndon, Sr., 6-1, 194
D'Arthur Cowan, So., 6-3, 187
Mitchell Loewen, So., 6-4, 265
Austin Tate, Sr., 6-6, 266
David Hurd, Sr., 6-6, 309
Austin Beck, So., 6-7, 296
Mitch Smothers, So., 6-4, 313
Johnathan McClure, Jr., 6-4, 321
Travis Swanson, Sr., 6-5, 314
Luke Charpentier, Jr., 6-4, 312
Brey Cook, Jr., 6-7, 318
Cordale Boyd, R-Fr., 6-3, 311
Grady Ollison, So., 6-5, 274
Chris Stringer, Jr., 6-7, 318
Brandon Allen, So., 6-3, 214
Brandon Mitchell, Sr., 6-4, 239
Jonathan Williams, So., 6-0, 220
Nate Holmes, So., 6-1, 176 OR Kody Walker, So., 6-2, 244
Kiero Small, Sr., 5-10, 246
Patrick Arinze, Jr., 5-10, 254
Chris Smith, Sr., 6-3, 266
JaMichael Winston, R-Fr., 6-6, 254 OR Brandon Lewis, R-Fr., 6-5, 258
Robert Thomas, Sr., 6-3, 318
Darius Philon, R-Fr., 6-3, 284
Byran Jones, Sr., 6-2, 310
DeMarcus Hodge, So., 6-1, 340
Trey Flowers, Jr., 6-4, 258
Deatrich Wise, R-Fr., 6-6, 265
Braylon Mitchell, Jr., 6-3, 229
Austin Jones, Sr., 6-2, 230
Daunte Carr, Jr., 6-3, 229
Robert Atiga, Sr., 6-3, 237
Jarrett Lake, Sr., 6-3, 220
Otha Peters, So., 6-2 232
Tevin Mitchel, Jr., 6-0, 181
Carroll Washington, Jr., 6-0, 182
Rohan Gaines, So., 5-11, 190
Tiquention Coleman, Jr., 5-10, 198
Eric Bennett, Sr., 6-0, 191
Alan Turner, Jr., 6-0, 198 OR Kelvin Fisher, So., 5-11, 200