Hogs healthy for Bama; LT Skipper switches jersey number for image change
FAYETTEVILLE - Even among football behemoths, 6-10 stands above the crowd.
Soph LT DAN SKIPPER
So while changing his No. 76 to the new jersey No. 63 for Saturday's 5 p.m. ESPN-televised and soldout clash with visiting Alabama, Arkansas left tackle Dan Skipper is still going to be recognized by officials.
But Arkansas coach Bret Bielema figures a new number might start an image change for his left tackle. Skipper's holding penalty wiped out an Arkansas touchdown and his tripping penalty negated a run to the 1-yard line during the Razorbacks' 35-28 overtime loss Sept. 27 to Texas A&M.
"I'm sure a lot of you probably saw that we changed Dan's number to 63," Bielema said. "I'm not trying to hide a 6-10, 325-pound guy. I mean everybody knows it's Dan Skipper."
Football is a rough, tough game. Bielema isn't necessarily looking for a kinder, gentler Dan Skipper, but one who can change his image and earn a reputation for playing within the rules.
"After conversations with him and some people involved in the decisions that happen on game day," Bielema said, "we just felt that this was the kind of going to be a rebirth for him. I played a certain way and certain style in my career. Now let's take the good of 76 and let's move forward. Let's leave some of the things in the past that's brought negativity and let's move forward with a new number."
The No. 63 has no significance other than it was available, Bielema said.
During last week's three practices, Bielema auditioned place-kickers after senior John Henson missed badly from 44 yards against A&M. For now it seems Henson will kick extra points and short field goals. Kickoff man Adam McFain will attempt field goals of 40 yards or longer.
Walk-on Lane Saling will be evaluated too, but scholarship freshman Cole Hedlund, the most recruited kicker in Texas, will redshirt.
"We kind of make a (redshirt Hedlund) decision when we went with John in the opener," Bielema said. "Cole had done a lot really good things, but he wasn't really at the leg strength or consistency that we wanted to go ahead and play him as a true freshman. So we'll stick with the plan."
Injuries at receiver and in the secondary hampered Arkansas vs. Texas A&M at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.
The Hogs appear full strength now. Henre Toliver, the starting freshman cornerback, was inadvertently injured when Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen threw one away out of bounds and caught Toliver in the eye while staring at the Jumbo Tron. Toliver practiced Sunday and will play, Bielema said.
Senior receiver Demetrius Wilson, in and out of the lineup with injury with six catches for 76 yards in six games, and sophomore Drew Morgan, two catches for 30 yards in two games, are available against Alabama, Bielema said.
"Demetrius Wilson looked 100 percent," Bielema said of Sunday's practice, "We actually repped him quite a bit last week. He really looks to be full-go, which is going to help us out a lot at the wide receiver position. We haven't had him full force since the middle of the Auburn game. Drew Morgan looked great yesterday. He didn't practice at all last week but he practiced all day yesterday and looked really fresh. Sometimes the byproduct of having a guy out for a little bit is they have really fresh legs and that's exactly what he showed."
Alabama, falling from third to seventh nationally after losing to Ole Miss 23-17, has dropped consecutive SEC games once under Coach Nick Saban during his first Alabama season of 2007.
"I think Alabama is a tough football team coming off a win or a loss," Bielema said.