Needing to win three of its last four games to become bowl eligible, Arkansas heads into the final month of the regular season with two offensive weapons out indefinitely with injuries and another out indefinitely because of an “internal matter.”
Brandon Mitchell (17) will practice this week while Arkansas deals with an "internal matter" regarding his status.
Coach John L. Smith said Monday that junior wide receiver/quarterback Brandon Mitchell would continue practicing the team, but that his status for Saturday’s game against Tulsa was “up in the air.” Mitchell, who ranks third on the team in catches and receiving yards, did not play last week against Ole Miss because of a “violation of team rules.”
In addition, senior tight end Chris Gragg and junior running back Knile Davis – the Razorbacks’ second-leading pass catcher and second-leading rusher, respectively – are also out for the Tulsa game because of injuries.
Senior defensive tackle DeQuinta Jones is still dealing with leg issues. He hasn’t played in the past two games, and Smith said the Hogs were trying to get him to drop some weight – under 300 pounds is the goal – to make things easier on him.
All of this is just the latest bad news in a season full of terrible luck, which has included season-ending injuries to Arkansas’ top two middle linebackers and its top two fullbacks.
About the only good news on the injury front was that senior quarterback Tyler Wilson (hip pointer) ran last night and is fine to play next Saturday.
Smith said he did not have any news about Mitchell at this point, and the Razorbacks have not disclosed what rules violation he committed.
“When … I do know more, and how long it’s going to be and etc., I’ll let you know,” Smith said. “But right now it’s internal. I’d rather not talk about it. We’ll get it solved.”
Gragg missed more than a month after suffering a deep bruise to his knee and leg in the Rutgers game. But he returned to the field in Saturday’s 30-27 loss to Ole Miss, and had a 42-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter before getting hurt.
Smith said Gragg re-aggravated the injury vs. Ole Miss, and how long he’ll be out, “I don’t know.”
“We’ll have to wait and see. He won’t be with us this week,” Smith said.
When asked if the injuries have been an emotional roller coaster for Gragg, Smith said “very much so, and you really feel bad for him, while you feel bad for us as well as a team because we could certainly sue him and do need him.”
“But he’s not going to sit and cry over it, and we’re not either. We just have to move on. It’s one of those things. It’s part of football. Doggone it, you feel bad that that is the case and you want him to get back as quickly as he can. But he’s just going to be awhile.”
Davis, who did not play in 2011 because of a broken ankle, suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of the Ole Miss game. He did not return.
“Yeah, it’s a ham, so I would not expect him to be come back from that ham this week, at least that is our guesstimation as quickly as we can,” Smith said. “Of course, trainers do a tremendous job. They get them back on the field as quickly as we can, but we’re not planning on him being here with us.”
Arkansas appears to be in OK shape at running back, even with Davis out. Dennis Johnson has been the top tailback this year. In his first start of the season last week vs. Ole Miss, Johnson ran for a season-high 161 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. True freshman Jonathan Williams has also received increased playing time, while senior Ronnie Wingo has battled a shoulder injury lately.
But tight end, a position very important to Arkansas’ offense, is a different story. Junior Austin Tate has been dealing with an injury, too, meaning more responsibilities could be put on redshirt freshman walk-on Alex Voelzke. Voelzke caught a six-yard touchdown pass – his first career reception – Saturday.
“With Tate banged up a little bit, he and Voelzke kind of have to tag-team that thing, and you’ll probably see a lot more playing time out of him (Voelzke),” Smith said.
For more from Monday's press conference, follow the link below.