Hogs: Defensive frosh to play more, especially in struggling secondary
FAYETTEVILLE - By design and by need, Arkansas will count on more defensive freshmen for longer periods in Saturday's game against Nicholls State than in the season-opening loss at reigning SEC champion Auburn.
Sr CB TEVIN MITCHEL
Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith, the lone coach meeting with media Thursday as head coach Bret Bielema was whisked to the Catfish Hole for his radio show, listed several true freshmen including safety Josh Liddell of Pine Bluff Dollarway, cornerbacks Henre Toliver and Cornelius Floyd, linebackers Randy Ramsey, Dwayne Eugene and Khalia Hackett and nose tackle Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado for more time in Saturday's 3 p.m. SEC network televised home opener at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Liddell is the top backup to senior free safety Alan Turner of Junction City and junior strong safety Rohan Gaines, while backup safeties Davyon "Sleepy" McKinney, the junior from Forrest City, and redshirt freshman De'Andre Coley are sidelined by foot and leg injuries. Coley was injured during the first half against Auburn.
McKinney was injured during preseason but has practiced on a somewhat limited basis.
"He's a guy we are trying to be smart with," Smith said. "We have high hopes for Sleepy this season. We have to pick our spots with him, make sure when we get him back out there he's 100 percent."
At cornerback, senior Tevin Mitchel is missing his second consecutive game with a pulled hamstring and does have a redshirt available if needed. Bielema also announced that junior two-year letterman cornerback Will Hines will redshirt.
"Josh Liddell, hopefully you will get a chance to see a little more of him at the safety position and then we have got the young corners in Henre and Cornelius Floyd," Smith said Thursday. "Hopefully we can get a chance to get those young guys on the field and see what they have to offer."
Toliver played against Auburn.
Of the freshmen linebackers, Hackett didn't play at all while Eugene and Ramsey were used on special teams against Auburn. Sophomore JC transfer middle linebacker Josh Williams debuted backing up sophomore incumbent middle linebacker Brooks Ellis.
True freshman defensive end Anthony Brown also could be worked into the mix, said Smith, who was asked about Jackson's debut backing up starting noseguard Taiwan Johnson.
"He's part of that young group of guys," Smith said. "We want to see what they can do. I thought Bijhon did some good things in there. He has got to work on keeping some gap integrity at times. But he is a guy we are excited about and we have to continue to get him better."
Smith said the Hogs' tackle drills included taking ball-carriers to the ground in practice last week and certainly included that in the padded practices Tuesday and Wednesday. Auburn rushed for way too many yards on Arkansas after contact, Smith said.
"We worked a lot on our tackling," Smith said. "We have got to do a much better job there. We try to be smarter with our takeaway opportunities and create some more of those. And that's where the bulk of our time has been spent."