Arkansas will be even more short-handed Saturday against Texas A&M, but at least the Hogs like the mud.
Arkansas Coach John L. Smith's Razorbacks will be without one of the best tight ends in the SEC and without a starting safety an starting cornerback when they take on the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday.
Gragg (knee or leg) and Bennett (undisclosed injury) were called “day-to-day” by the coaching staff this week, but head coach John L. Smith said Thursday that they would not play in the game. Starting sophomore cornerback Tevin Mitchel (gall bladder surgery) remains out as well.
Senior running back Dennis Johnson is expected to play after missing Wednesday’s practice.
Smith downplayed the loss of two more starters.
“We’ll be fine. Those guys (the backups) have been practicing all week, and they’ll be ready to go,” he said.
“But that’s where we are. We’re going to go to the field and we’re going to play, and we’re going to play hard. And we’re excited about it. And they’ve had a good week, so let’s go down and do it.”
The Razorbacks, who are 13 ½-point underdogs, could very well be playing in wet weather. The Weather Channel is calling for thunderstorms during the day in College Station, with a 90 percent chance of rain. Kickoff for the Arkansas-Texas A&M game is 11:21 a.m. Central.
Smith said the Hogs were “looking forward” to playing in the rain, and when asked about the grass playing surface at Kyle Field, he said “the muddier the better.”
In other words, the Razorbacks (1-3, 0-1 SEC) might try to pound the ball, despite struggling to get yards on the ground this season.
Texas A&M (2-1, 0-1) runs a Spread offense.
“Yep, I think that suits us,” Smith said of the rain. “Yep.
“We would like to be able to keep our hands on the football. The more we have it, of course, the less chance they have to score. Hopefully, that will be the case, that we can be able to run it and maintain ball possession. … Maybe the rain would lean to that type of game.”
Arkansas practiced on natural grass once this week, Smith said, but then went inside to try to simulate the noise they’ll experience at Kyle Field.
“We tried to simulate as much noise as we could (Thursday), much better than yesterday,” Smith said. “They were much better as far as working through the noise and trying to communicate with one another.”
Smith said he’s also seen some improvement from his defense, which ranks 99th in the conference in total defense and 111th against the pass.
“I really have. I don’t want to shoot us in the foot, but I think we’ve had a real good week of practice, and our coverage has been tighter,” he said. “We’ve got our hands on more balls than we have any week prior to this. We’re knocking on wood that that will be the case. Again, we all know that their threat is that quarterback (redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel), and he’s special. So him running the ball is the definite threat.”