Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema met with the media for the last time before Saturday's season opener against the University of Louisiana.
Javontee Herndon has returned to practice this week and is ready for action on Saturday.
The kickoff on Saturday afternoon is at 3 and with the extreme heat in the area Bielema obviously felt it was good to get through the week with nothing new to report on injuries.
“(Keon) Hatcher actually practiced the last two days so he has been back fully engaged with us,” Bielema said. “(Javontee) Herndon too. There was some questions about those two guys at the wide receiver position at the start [of the week].
“Defensively, everybody should be with us. No problems there.”
Chris Ash, Arkansas' defensive coordinator, was very pleased with Wednesday's practice and Bielema echoed that on Thursday.
“I like the tempo that they had yesterday,” Bielema said. “Today, we kind of backed off and went into a game rehearse situation on offense, defense and special teams. Yesterday was a full-pad practice and was one of our best of the entire year.”
“I would think Brey Cook from day one guard looked like a natural position for him,” Bielema said. “He has really performed well. Our second scrimmage, he missed a little time earlier in the week and then performed on Saturday the best performance of our time being with him. I think he's just more comfortable.
“Grady probably has his best back-to-back practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. I really like the awakening he had. He's very gifted athletically, has a lot of talent and I think at times it has just dawned on him how good he can be. I think No. 55 (Denver Kirkland) made him get a lot better in a hurry. He realized there's a good young player who is getting better everyday.”
Otha Peters could return to action sooner than originally thought according to Bret Bielema.
The high in Fayetteville on Saturday is expected to be around 97 degrees and that could cause both teams to have to adjust some things.
“I don't know if it will cause us to play more players,” Bielema said. “It will definitely force us to play more players early. We met yesterday and kind of put the process in motion of who we want to rotate in on maybe our second series. Depending on how the first one goes, offense, defense and special team's wise. You've got some guys that maybe you thought they could handle starting on offense or defense and maybe playing one or two groups on special teams. Maybe that's not going to be the case.”
Bielema has referred to the linebackers as the “Bad News Bears” in reference to an older movie.
“I just mean that because I don't think there's a lot of name guys there,” Bielema said. “Those guys are too young to probably even know who the Bad News Bears are. I think they have really molded.
“I see Otha (Peters) out there and hopefully he's going to be back in a couple of weeks. It's a group that has kind of triumphed since last spring. Guys that have gone to work each day. I'm excited to see them actually get in game action.”
Peters broke his arm in preseason and was believed to be out six to eight weeks. If he is back in two weeks that would be a positive for him.
“Maybe I'm being an optimistic head coach,” Bielema said. “I just see him out there running around. They've got this new air cast on him and I saw him in the stadium Saturday. He has made such a change in his body. He looks like a true middle linebacker. I will be excited to get him back out there. I know he's itching to get back out there too.”
The running game will be important to Arkansas' offense. Bielema has said Jonathan Williams will be the go-to guy. However, who gets the most carries on Saturday will be determined by flow of the game.
“You would think at the end of the day Jonathan Williams gets the most carries and maybe highest yardage,” Bielema said. “But I look at our first scrimmage Jonathan had a good work day, but Alex (Collins) had a couple of big hits so he had more yards than Jonathan, but Jonathan had a more efficient day.
“Who knows Kiero Small might be the guy with the most carries? He's a very gifted guy with the ball in his hands and you've got to lean on your great players or the ones who you feel can make you great. Kiero is definitely one of those guys.”
It appeared early that true freshman Korliss Marshall would redshirt, but Bielema said Thursday he could play this season. Marshall is at safety and was a standout two-way performer at Osceola.
“There's a chance he could play,” Bielema said. “There isn't a plan for him right now on Saturday's other than special teams, but what he has shown to us is he is very strong and an SEC athlete kind of guy you would love to see on the field in some capacity.”