Arkansas linebacker Jarrett Lake didn’t travel with the team to Little Rock last week while serving a one-game suspension for an unspecified reason.
But it hasn’t clouded Arkansas coach Bret Bielema’s respect for the senior.
Bielema — who complimented Lake’s attitude, demeanor and leadership several times since preseason camp — said the suspension came because of “things that were in place before I got here.” Bielema was impressed with how Lake handled it.
“I probably got an even more sincere feeling for what he is and what he’s all about,” Bielema said. “He broke down the team last week - I believe it was Wednesday afternoon - and kind of shared with them some thoughts about what he was going through that week knowing that he couldn’t play.”
Arkansas declined an interview request for Lake after Wednesday’s practice.
Lake started the opener at weak side linebacker and finished with seven tackles, which equaled cornerback Tevin Mitchel for game-high honors. Braylon Mitchell — who moved from the strong side to the weak side — replaced Lake last week.
Bielema said the linebacker has been plugged back into his first-team spot, seeing no reason to make him work to reclaim the position because “the message had been delivered 100 times over by him sitting out last week.” Bielema said the one-game suspension has not changed his excitement for having Lake in the program.
“He’s a kid that’s battled through a lot in his life,” Bielema said. “He’s been through some things that a lot of people don’t normally have to go through and he’s championed that moment to get to where he is today.
“If there’s a kid that I think will give us leadership this year and hopefully play a lot of football beyond the season that’s in front of us, it’s going to be Jarrett lake.”
2. Forget the Injury
Defensive end Trey Flowers said he’ll be ready for Saturday’s game against Southern Miss after missing the Samford win because of a knee injury. And the junior believes he has to make up for his absence after collecting xx sacks in the season opener.
“I’ve got some catching up to do,” Flowers said. “So I’m going to go out there and play hard and continue to do what I’m doing.”
Flowers said he tweaked the knee during stretching drills before Arkansas’ season opener. It didn’t keep limit his performance in that game, but became a hindrance last week. He tried to give it a go during warmups, but couldn’t play.
Flowers said the biggest challenge has been getting over the “mental” hurdle
“If you have any injury or any tweak, you’re going to, you know, think about it,” Flowers said. “But I’ve just got to get back out there and just feel like nothing happened and not skip a beat and just keep on rolling.”
3. Peters: ‘I’m Back’
Arkansas linebacker Otha Peters is back on the practice field this week and could make his season debut Tuesday. The sophomore has missed the first two games after suffering a broken arm during preseason camp.
“Otha practiced (Tuesday),” Bielema said. “He took the green jersey off, which was no contact he had the week before, and was fully engaged. He’ll be with us. Don’t know what capacity it will play on Saturday. … We practice pretty heavily (Tuesday) afternoon, and he had no problem, no issues (Wednesday).”
Peters even more optimistic on his Twitter page a little later: “Uh oh IM BACK!!!!”
The news isn’t as certain for safety Rohan Gaines and tight end Austin Tate.
Bielema said Tate is “probably another week away” as he works his way back from a preseason shoulder injury. Bielema also indicated Gaines — who missed the Samford game with a knee injury — is still on the “road to recovery” as well.
Defensive coordinator Chris Ash said it’s not clear if Gaines will play Saturday.
“He’s still a ways away. He’s getting better,” Ash said. “It’s still day by day.
“What is he going to do Saturday? I still don’t know.”
4. Respect USM
Defensive end Chris Smith said the Razorbacks have a good idea of what Southern Miss is going through. While Arkansas hasn’t lost 14 straight, last season’s 4-8 finish was just as disappointing for a program that ranked in the top 10 in preseason polls.
So Smith said the Razorbacks also understand what Southern Miss is feeling as they prepare for Saturday’s game at Arkansas.
“I know one thing they’re going to be hungry for: A win,” Smith said. “That’s one thing, we can’t take them lightly. They’ve got good players. They’ve got guys that can play in the SEC I feel like. We’ve got to come out focused and be ready to play.”