Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema met with the media on Monday and delivered some good news for Razorback fans as far as injuries.
Sophomore cornerback Will Hines broke his arm on Saturday night, but may return before the season ends.
Will Hines Back Soon?
Sophomore cornerback Will Hines broke his arm on Saturday night against Florida. Hines tweeted out on Sunday that his season was over. However, on Monday Bielema said that may not be the case.
“They set the arm fracture there in Florida on Saturday,” Bielema said. “He came back here Saturday night and had surgery on Sunday. They had to put two plates in there. They are saying the short end and long end he will be out six weeks.
“Will's a tremendous tweeter and said his season was done. He was informed today there's a very good chance he could be back for the last two regular season games if all goes well. I know the doctors are very excited the way the bone is set and it's all just aligned. He was playing really good football. He has made good growth all year long.”
Bielema said three players have a chance to replace him. Junior Carroll Washington, redshirt freshman Jared Collins and true freshman D.J. Dean. He also said that Washington came in at 168-pounds and is now at 184.
“Those three guys have kind of had their moments all through out of the season,” Bielema said. “D.J., we have been repping him at the nickel position so he will get an open shot there at corner.”
Bielema said everybody else is expected back including center Travis Swanson, who tweaked his knee on Saturday night.
“I know he was trying to get back in the game on Saturday,” Bielema said. “He came back, was a little tender on Sunday, but was walking around pretty good by the end of the day. I saw him again today and he has made improvement.
Bielema said one of the goals this week is to protect Brandon Allen better.
“I don't know if we will have him tomorrow, but get to Wednesday and he would be ready to go on Saturday. If he doesn't, (Luke) Charpentier did a nice job. He popped in there.”
Bielema said Jonathan Williams, Hunter Henry and Brandon Allen all were able to go as well and won't miss any time due to injuries.
Protection for Allen
Bielema one thing that is a must is the team has to protect Allen better at quarterback.
“He got banged around really well on Saturday,” Bielema said. “We've got to protect him. We've got to do things better in the front to make sure he doesn't take any hits.
“In addition to the previous injury to the shoulder he had, he got his hand stepped on which caused him a little bit of a setback on Saturday. That was the main reason he wasn't in there for that series.”
Eight Games in Row
Arkansas will play its third straight nationally-ranked team on Saturday when South Carolina comes to town. The Razorbacks will then play at Alabama before getting its first bye of the season.
Jarrett Lake has been moved to the starter at Mike linebacker the past two games.
“We have played six complete ball games,” Bielema said. “It's not like we were taking our gas off the pedal in the games we won and on the flip side we were trying to get back in the game these last three games we dropped.
“So the kids have been involved in six games of high intensity. They're competing to the end. So I have to be very careful about how much time we have. I don't think we can really add a lot, but we can definitely choose our points of emphasis.”
What are some of those points of emphasis?
“On offense, catching the football isn't something you're going to learn overnight,” Bielema said. “The emphasis needs to be there. We need to A, have better protection, B, have better throws and C, have great catches.
“On the flip side defensively, we need to get ourselves lined up, we need to react to our keys and we have to tackle with a little more efficiency.”
Arkansas was penalized eight times in the game including one on a muffed punt return. Bielema agreed the officials made the correct call, but added a thought to it. He said the new rule where once the return man makes a fair catch he has the right to the ball until it hits the ground got put in place when the halo rule was changed.
“I knew right away it was a fair catch,” Bielema said. “I knew after the ball bounced off his shoulders until the ball hits the ground and has a chance to recover it.
Randy Shannon found a niche in Florida's return team that led Arkansas to try an onside kickoff.
“J-Lake (Jarrett Lake) was standing right there, you're human being, you want the ball. It's a bam-bam play. It's one of those situations we have talked about in fall camp. Some of our players on the sideline knew right away it wasn't going to be our football. It's just one of those unfortunate things. I said it, on the flip side if it happens to us we would hope we get the same call.”
Bielema said the four procedure penalties on Saturday were directly related to crowd noise.
“I was disappointed in the personal foul on J-Will,” Bielema said. “He's a kid who just loves to compete and we always talk the second guy is who gets called.”
Bielema said the Razorbacks are at 29 penalties on the season and least penalized team in the SEC has 23 penalties called against them.
“It's just something we've got to clean up,” Bielema said. “They had eight penalties too.”
When Arkansas scored to pull within 24-10, they tried an onside kick that completely caught Florida off guard, but Javontee Herndon was called for being offside on the play. Bielema talked about that play on Monday.
“That was a huge play,” Bielema said. “That's something I take responsibility for. Coach (Randy) Shannon saw a niche there in their alignments and we practiced it all week. It was obviously an excellent kick by [Zach Hocker]. A technical point of that is he accelerates at the last moment and their player knows he's getting an explosion kick right at him.
“The sad thing is Herndon didn't need to be offside to make that play. He had to stutter a few steps to catch that ball. If we time it up and it's perfectly executed play you see their sideline. They were kind of standing around in disbelief. We talked in the huddle be onside three times Coach Shannon said. We've got to get the point across yes the play is going to be there, we've got it drawn up and got to execute, but we just have to make sure we execute it by NCAA rules. It's a process that will hopefully come through soon.”
Bielema continues to praise freshman tight end Hunter Henry who had two catches on Saturday.
Trio of Linebackers, Youngsters
“I think that's our best combination,” Bielema said. “We had kind of dabbled around with different guys. We knew Florida was going to line up in two backs so you want guys who can athletically compete.
“Those three guys probably give us the best chance athletically to be out there. I would have never in a million years thought to put J-Lake in at Mike linebacker, but as the season has worn on he's a guy that's definitely very active. You want your Mike linebacker to run sideline to sideline and you saw the athleticism of Spaight. That's a guy that gets you excited.”
Some younger players that Bielema said are really shining this season are Spaight, redshirt freshman defensive end Brandon Lewis, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Darius Philon and then the four true freshmen who are playing on offense. Bielema was talking about running back Alex Collins, tight end Hunter Henry and offensive guard's Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland.
“Those guys are going to be as good as anyone in the conference in a couple of years I believe that,” Bielema said. “Those are things that get you excited.”
Spaight will just have one year after this season, but the others still have three years remaining.