Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel has missed four straight games because of the head injury against Louisiana-Monroe and surgery to remove his gall bladder. But Mitchel should be back on the field – and in the starting lineup – Saturday.
Arkansas coach John L. Smith said the sophomore finished his first full week of practice and expected to return to his starting spot against Kentucky. Mitchel, whose father Eric quarterbacked at Pine Bluff High School and Oklahoma, had started eight straight dating back to last season before the head injury on Sept. 8.
“If our defense can play real well you could give him the whole game but that’s probably not going to happen,” Smith said. “Probably 30 or 40 plays, which would be half a game. If things are going good, he might take more than that.”
Mitchel will start opposite freshman Will Hines, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the Auburn win. It gives the cornerback position more depth after leaning on Hines and freshman Davyon McKinney last week.
It also allows cornerback Kaelon Kelleybrew to earn work at the star position to help the Razorbacks after Jarrett Lake was moved to the weakside linebacker spot because of injuries. Smith said Arkansas will have to “wait and see” how much Mitchel can handle after being sidelined for a month.
“He’s a thoroughbred,” Smith said. “He can run all day. More of the problem would be just getting in there and getting some hits. That’s what I worry about more than his game shape. He can do that. We got him in as much contact as we do at this point and he is showing a willingness to want to hit.”
Better week for Davis
Smith said running back Knile Davis put together a better week of practice and the Razorbacks are hopeful it will pay off against Kentucky.
Davis had minus-4 rushing yards on three carries in the Auburn win. It was the second-lowest total of his career, next to his performance at Georgia in 2010 (three rushes, minus-7 yards). Davis spent most of the game on the sideline while senior Dennis Johnson rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said earlier this week the Razorbacks will continue to go with whichever running back has the hot hand Saturday.
“Whoever is playing the best, we’re going to give them the ball the most,” Petrino said. “A lot of that will be by how they practice this week and then by who is playing the best in the game. That’s who is going to get it the most.”
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips confirmed three safeties — Martavius Neloms, Mikie Benton and Ashley Lowery — will be sidelined by injuries for Saturday’s game.
It means the Wildcats will start freshmen Daron Blaylock and Zack Blaylock, who are twins, at safety. Another true freshman – Cody Quinn – will start at cornerback along with senior Cartier Rice.
“We’ll let them go play against the No. 2 throwing team in this league,” Phillips said Thursday, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Excited about it. One of the things you get excited (about) is to watch these guys and how they prepare and the excitement level those guys have. All of them are so shy and so calm, it’s hard to get any type of read on those guys. Hopefully, they’ll be fine.”
Smith is scheduled to meet with creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court today. The coach filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in early September. He has listed $40.7 million in liabilities and $1.3 million in assets. … Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson was named one of 15 finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award on Thursday. Wilson has thrown for 1,585 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions this season. … Running back Ronnie Wingo will be in uniform Saturday and Smith said the senior could play despite being limited by a shoulder injury this week. Wingo has rushed for 53 yards and has 46 more in receiving this season.