Hogs: Bielema names game MVPs; injury report; more notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas has lost perhaps its most valuable and certainly most versatile defensive back for the season.
Kevin Richardson, the fourth-year junior starting at nickel back while also a backup cornerback, reserve safety and prolific special-teamer, tore pectoral muscles Saturday during his seven-tackles performance at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Richardson had surgery Monday for his season-ending injury, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said at his Monday press conference.
For Saturday’s ESPN-televised 6 p.m. game at No. 13 TCU, Bielema said the Razorbacks likely would start as they finished the Louisiana Tech game with starting junior cornerback Henre Toliver at nickel and sophomore Ryan Pulley in Toliver’s cornerback spot opposite senior starter Jared Collins.
Senior starting cornerback DJ Dean, out all spring practice after toe surgery and sidelined in August with a pulled hamstring, is ready to play, Bielema said.
Richardson’s loss is capsuled by defensive backfield coach Paul Rhoads’ August preseason evaluation of the ex-walk-on who earned a scholarship in August, 2015.
Describing all the positions and special teams roles that Richardson plays, Rhoads said, “A guy that marketable is very valuable. He is arguably the smartest player on the defense, if not smarter than half the coaches on the defense, too, in terms of what we are doing. He is extremely intelligent.”
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said Richardson’s presence always is appreciated.
“Kevin is a favorite of mine,” Smith said. “He does everything you ask, but we’ve got to move forward. I think we have been developing a lot of depth at that position. Henre Toliver, Ryan Pulley, DJ Dean being back in the fold. We’ve got some guys at that slot corner position.”
Richardson joined junior college transfer Britto Tutt (torn ACL in August) as defensive backs lost for the season.
Bielema announced that junior defensive end Tevin Beanum of Forrest City is first-team opposite senior defensive end Deatrich Wise.
BEANUM STARTING AGAIN
An eight-games starter last season, Beanum was excused from reporting to August to clear up some personal issues until just two weeks before the Louisiana Tech game. He reported in such good condition and with such knowledge retention that he played off the bench against Louisiana Tech.
Beanum forced a punt, ending quarterback J’mar Smith’s scramble at 2 yards on third-and-4.
“He was productive,” Bielema said. “If he continues do the things we’re doing, he’ll be the first guy in there.”
Robb Smith also touted Beanum’s game
“I thought he generated some pass-rush for us,” Smith said. “I really liked the way he practiced last week as well. We are expecting tempo this week and expecting a lot of Spread and four-wide receiver looks. He is a guy we think gives us our best opportunity with the matchups involved.”
Randy Ramsey, a key sack against Louisiana Tech, and Karl Roesler, last week’s starting defensive end, also played well against Louisiana Tech, Bielema said.
RAMIREZ & COLEY TIED
Bielema said third-year sophomore Santos Ramirez, last week’s starter, and junior De’Andre Coley start practice this week in a dead-heat at strong safety, while junior Josh Liddell is “stalwart” at free safety.
CORNELIUS, CANTRELL RETURNING
Bielema said junior receiver Jared Cornelius and backup tight end Austin Cantrell, both removed from Saturday’s game with injuries, should practice Tuesday.
Redshirt freshman Cantrell caught a 5-yard pass during his Razorbacks’ debut and nearly knocked himself out clobbering a Louisiana Tech Bulldog during a punt return.
“That poor guy he hit looked like he stepped on a mortar,” Bielema said.
Cornelius caught a 13-yard TD pass from quarterback Austin Allen before a recurring back ailment flared up and sidelined him the remainder of the game.
BIELEMA PICKS MVP’S
For his MVP’s of the game, Bielema cited sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams (24 carries for 96 yards and a TD) and senior receiver Keon Hatcher (six catches for 86 yards). Hatcher made two big receptions on the game-winning drive before Allen’s 4-yard TD pass to senior tight end Jeremy Sprinkle.
Bielema also cited senior linebacker Brooks Ellis (six tackles and zero mental errors), senior defensive end Deatrich Wise (seven tackles including a sack). Wise also was credited with three QB hurries and a pass breakup. Senior punter Toby Baker, four punts for a 47.5 average with a long one off 55, and sophomore Ryder Lucas were Bielema’s special teams MVPs.
Already the holder for place-kicks and the snapper for punts, senior Matt Emrich of El Dorado may get a chance to kick off, if senior Adam McFain doesn’t start kicking off in games like he does in practice. Walk-on Connor Limpert and Emrich will be evaluated as alternatives, Bielema said, though McFain still has a leg up because of his strong leg in practice.
“Adam gives us the best chance, but he kind of freaks out a little bit on game day,” Bielema said. “We addressed that pretty heavily on Sunday, and we'll see where it goes.”