BELLA VISTA – Arkansas wide receiver/return man Marquel Wade and two teammates are not in the Razorbacks’ media guide and remain suspended from the team. But Coach John L. Smith expects all three to have their legal issues resolved before the Hogs begin training camp Aug. 2.
Arkansas Coach John L. Smith says he expects Marquel Wade, Maudrecus Humphrey and Andrew Peterson to have their legal problems resolved before fall camp starts Aug. 2.
Smith spoke on the matter Friday when addressing the media before a Northwest Arkansas Razorback Club golf tournament in Bella Vista.
“What you would like to do is give every kid an opportunity to correct the problem,” Smith said, referring to felony theft and burglary charges that Wade, wide receiver Maudrecus Humphrey and tight end Andrew Peterson are facing. “That’s what we’ve tried to do is allow them to correct the problem.”
Smith said correcting the problem includes things the players need to do legally as well as with the team, but he did not want to address their situations individually.
“But that will be solved,” Smith said. “And it will either be solved one way or the other by them prior to camp. So the only thing I can say in that regard is right now they are not in the press guide.”
The players are scheduled to appear in Fayetteville Circuit Court on Aug. 27, but Smith said “it probably will be resolved before we start camp” on Aug. 2.
Based on Smith’s comments, the players, who pleaded innocent to the charges in June, could be working on plea deals.
Wade, a sophomore, had been expected to contribute significantly as a receiver and return man in the fall, while the other players would likely be backups at their positions. Wade led the Razorbacks in receptions during spring practices, and last season, he showed flashes of being a player who could be one of the more explosive kickoff and punt returners in the SEC in 2012.
Wade was set to be the successor to All-American Joe Adams as the Hogs’ punt returner. Adams was a senior last season and was a fourth-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in April. If Wade is not allowed back on the team, who would return punts, and who would join Dennis Johnson as a deep man on kickoffs?
Speedy freshman Nathan Holmes could see action this fall as a return man.
Smith said true freshman Nathan Holes has “put in a lot of time into that,” and junior college transfer Demetrius Wilson has been working at punt return even though he couldn’t report until earlier this month. Other receivers, defensive backs and running backs will be given a shot, too.
“There’s two or three guys back there,” special teams coordinator Steve Caldwell said. “I’m not going to tell them exactly who they are now because we’re not sure ourselves. But you can look at some of the freshmen coming in. Everybody will have an opportunity to get back, catch some punts, catch some kickoffs. Dennis obviously will be back on kickoff return. So we’ve got a chance to still really be good there.”
Smith said he still expects the Razorbacks to be “very, very strong” on special teams this season.
“And again, you look at special teams and you look at a Joe Adams. Yes, we lose the best kid in the country,” Smith said. “But we have a lot of guys coming back. And my belief about special teams has always been it’s not just the guy returning it. It’s those 10 other guys. If they’re better athletes and were able to get better people out there in all of those spots, then we’ll be better in the special teams as well. It just doesn’t come down to the return guy. And I expect us to be better athletically at all the other spots.”
Mitchell moving around
There have been message board posts claiming junior backup quarterback Brandon Mitchell has been getting some action this summer at receiver in voluntary workouts. Smith said Friday he knew nothing about that – wink, wink.
“It’s a total shocker to me,” Smith said before laughing. “Naw, we would like to get Brandon on the field. and he wants to get on the field. … And he’s a good enough athlete that he certainly should be out there. So yeah, it would not just be a shocker if you saw him out playing some wide receiver/tight end look. All of the above.”
Smith said Mitchell would work at both quarterback and receiver/tight end in practices.
There's a chance Vin Ascolese might greyshirt at Arkansas.
What’s the word on Vin?
Outside linebacker Vin Ascolese is the only 2012 signee who has yet to report, and he has said via Twitter that his arrival to Arkansas has been delayed.
We asked Smith on Friday about Ascolese’s status, and Smith said it is a “wait-and-see on that one.”
“But that would be the one that we’re still waiting on, and we’ll just have to wait and see,” he added. “It might be a situation where he ends up greyshirting, coming in in the winter.”
The look at linebacker
Many have speculated that true freshman Otha Peters could see a lot of action at outside linebacker in the fall, and Smith addressed that Friday.
“I think we’re going to be real good up front. Linebacker still becomes a question mark to us,” Smith said. “Once we get into camp, I think some of those questions will be answered. And again, you’re looking at a guy like Otha, might have to step up and play as a freshman. So we’re going to have to rely on some young guys.”
Senior Tenarius Wright is still listed as a defensive end on the roster, but he’s expected to be the starting middle linebacker after working at that position in the spring. And Smith side weakside linebacker Alonzo Highsmith is “looking strong and fit and his arm’s good” after missing spring drills because of a torn pectoral tendon.
Caldwell, who coaches the defensive ends, said there’s also a chance that Wright could still see some action at defensive end on run downs.
“We’re speaking next Wednesday down in Louisiana, and I’m speaking on pass rushing,” Caldwell said. “And I was looking, and a lot of those sacks come from Tank (Wright). I thought, ‘Ooh, this is going to hurt a little bit.’ But we’re going to be good there, I think.”
“Ross is a good football player. He had a good spring, and he’s going to continue,” Smith said. “Ross has been behind Jerico (Nelson) for a number of years. So we’re going to be fine there. We’re going to be fine at safety. Ross is going to be a good football player. And hopefully we can recruit some safeties coming up as well, but we’re going to be OK. I like the way we are right now at safety.”
John L. on JoePa
Smith was asked to weigh in on a report that former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno might have known more about the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal than Paterno admitted.
When Smith was head coach at Michigan State, he coached against Paterno, and he said he always viewed Paterno “as an idol in the profession because I really believe that he cared about his kids.”
“He was good for his kids, his players,” Smitih said. “They graduated. All of those things. And I still believe that. I’m very … if he knew about some of the things, I would be very shocked and disappointed that being the case. Because that’s something that’s just inexcusable, unallowable in anything you do in society, period. But I always loved Joe and thought he was an idol. That’s about all I can say. And you just hope in your heart that maybe those accusations and his knowing about it is not true.”