Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and his coaching staff have a good feel for which players will start next Saturday’s season opener against Louisiana-Lafeyette.
There is one position undecided: Cornerback.
Bielema said Friday, after his team’s mock game in Razorback Stadium, sophomore Will Hines and redshirt freshman Jared Collins will carry the competition for a starting spot into game week. They’ve been fighting for the job since the spring.
“I’d say who practices better next week,” Bielema said. “I wouldn’t necessary name a guy right now. I think that both of them will play significant roles. I don’t know if either one of them have proven to me that they can play a four-quarter game.”
Either Hines or Collins will work with the first-team defense along with cornerback Tevin Mitchel, who is entering his second season as a starter. Hines started nine games as a true freshman in 2012, while Collins redshirted.
Arkansas hasn’t released a depth chart for its season opener, but Bielema said the Razorbacks have most of it sorted out.
“As coaches, we know who’s playing,” Bielema said. “Who is going to line up, I would think, on offense there isn’t anything other than a wide receiver: Who is healthy enough to get out there and get going?
“On defense, it’s probably at corner and maybe a little bit at the linebacker sub package. … But the safeties are solid, the corners are between three, four guys. The linebackers, it’s all about what package we have on the field and what we’re able to do. And then the kicking game is pretty solid as well.”
Wide Receiver Update
The Razorbacks are hoping to have six scholarship receivers available for practice when they step back on the field Sunday.
Sophomore Keon Hatcher has been limited for the past two weeks because of a hamstring injury he suffered early in camp. Bielema said Hatcher has practiced in some pass skeleton drills, but hasn’t been involved in live 11-on-11 work.
“That was my call,” Bielema said. “I just didn’t really feel the benefit of him getting involved (Friday) or the last two days. He knows the offense. He knows the things we’re asking him to do. He should be full-go on Sunday.”
Bielema also said senior Javontee Herndon, who missed some time in camp earlier in the week, has been full speed since Wednesday.
Arkansas will enter the season with Demetrius Wilson (season-ending knee injury) and D’Arthur Cowan (out 6 to 8 weeks with a foot injury) on the sideline.
Koehler To Redshirt
Bielema said offensive guard Reeve Koehler will redshirt after suffering a dislocated kneecap earlier in preseason camp. Bielema said it was an injury the Razorbacks didn’t immediately know about because Koehler tried to ignore it.
“He’s an extremely tough kid,” Bielema said. “He dislocated his kneecap and didn’t say a word to anybody. Just kind of said his knee hurt.
“All of a sudden it was swollen and they pulled out a lot of blood. They’re like, ‘Well, Reeve, you dislocated your kneecap.’ Something that a lot of kids roll around on the ground and scream about. But he didn’t miss a beat.”
Bielema said Koehler missed roughly a week and hasn’t practiced “full-go” since.
Arkansas’ mock game gave coaches a chance to take their game day places.
Bielema said offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. and defensive coordinator Chris Ash will be in the Arkansas coaches’ box for games.
The rest — defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson, linebackers coach Randy Shannon, receivers coach Michael Smith, running backs coach Joel Thomas and offensive line coach Sam Pittman — will work from the Arkansas sideline.
“Part of it is, Randy runs kick cover, Taver runs my punt return, Joel Thomas runs kickoff return, and Charlie runs punt,” Bielema said. “So those guys have to be on the field, I think, to do that. Chris has been the only coach on defense that’s been up ever since I’ve been there. I can kind of fill in when I need to and then obviously, the D-line, linebacker and DB coaches all can take care of their respective positions.”