Arkansas had to finish its 30-10 loss with center Travis Swanson watching from the sideline because of a knee injury. But Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is optimistic Swanson won’t be without the senior again when the Razorbacks (3-3, 0-2 in Southeastern Conference) play No. 14 South Carolina (4-1, 2-1) on Saturday.
Bielema said Swanson — who has started 44 straight games in his career — has shown progress in the 48 hours since suffering what the coach describe as a “tweaked” medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the third quarter.
“He was a little bit tender on Sunday, but was walking around pretty good by the end of the day,” Bielema said. “Saw him again (Monday). He’s made improvement.”
Bielema said Arkansas still might hold Swanson out of Tuesday’s practice to give him an extra day of recovery. If so, backup Luke Charpentier will work with the starters as Arkansas prepares for its third straight game against a ranked opponent.
“If all cleared, we should be good to go there,” Bielema said of Swanson’s status for the South Carolina game. “If he doesn’t, Charpentier did a nice job. Popped in there, actually, during the fall camp. Travis missed a couple days as well, which as retrospect now, glad he got those opportunities.”
Bielema also said cornerback Will Hines may not be done for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured arm last Saturday night.
Bielema said Hines — who tweeted his season was over Sunday — wasn’t exactly accurate about the timeline for his recovery. Hines had two plates inserted in his arm after the game and could be back in six weeks.
“He was informed (Monday) that there was a very good chance he could make it back for the last two regular season games, if all goes according to plan,” Bielema said. “I know the doctors were very excited, just the way the bone set and the way that it all kind of aligned. Hopefully he’ll come back sooner than later.”
Bielema said the injury is disappointing because Hines was “playing really good football.” He had started six games and was ranked seventh on the team in tackles. Hines has one interception and leads Arkansas with four pass breakups.
The Razorbacks will work Carroll Washington, Jared Collins and D.J. Dean in Hines’ place this week. Arkansas will choose a starter later in the week.
“Those three guys all kind of had their moments during the course of the season,” Bielema said. “D.J., we’ve been primarily repping him at the nickel position. So he’ll get an open shot there at corner.”
Found the trio
Arkansas has tried different combinations at linebacker since preseason camp. Six games into the season, Bielema thinks the Razorbacks have found the right trio.
Jarrett Lake (middle linebacker), Braylon Mitchell (weak side) and Martrell Spaight (strong side) started against the Gators. It was the first time the three worked together in a game and Bielema saw promise in the results.
“I think that’s our best three-linebacker combination for sure,” Bielema said. “We kind of dabbled around with different guys. … You want guys that can athletically compete. Those three probably give us the best chance athletically to be out there.”
Lake has started all five games he has played in this season, but last Saturday was his first start as Arkansas’ middle linebacker. Mitchell has started five of six games this season. Spaight earned the second start of his career in the loss.
“I would have never in a million years thought to put J. Lake in at Mike,” Bielema said. “But as the season has wore on, he’s definitely a guy that’s very active. You want your Mike linebacker to be able to run sideline to sideline. He can do that. Then you saw the athleticism of Martrell Spaight. That’s a guy that gets you excited.”
Feast or famine
Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel made three big plays at the line of scrimmage Saturday night, stuffing Florida for short gains or losses on quick passes. But his performance will be remembered for something else: Poor plays that led to Solomon Patton’s 51- and 38-yard touchdown catches that helped Florida pull away.
It left defensive coordinator Chris Ash searching for consistency from the junior.
“I’d rather have a guy not be mentioned in the game,” Ash said about Mitchel’s up-and-down nature so far this season. “That means he’s not making mistakes. As long as we’re doing the right thing consistently, we’ll make more plays than we give up.
“Tevin right now has been feast or famine and we’ve got to get that fixed.”
Mitchel is fifth on the team in tackles (30) and is tied for fourth in tackles for losses (three). He also returned an interception for a touchdown against Rutgers.
“I know Tevin had those two plays he wished he could take back as far as a tackle,” Bielema said. “But everything about him has become so much better during the course of the six weeks and are only going to get better from here forward.”
Quarterback Brandon Allen was roughed up Saturday, but Bielema said the sophomore “was as good as he’s been” from a health standpoint since suffering his shoulder injury last month. Allen had to leave the field for a few snaps after suffering a hand injury. … TE Hunter Henry reinjured the leg that had been giving him problems Saturday, but Bielema believes the freshman will be OK for Saturday’s game. Henry ranks second on the team in receptions with 14 catches for 276 yards with a touchdown. … Kickoff time for Arkansas’ game at Alabama on Oct. 19 has been set for 6 p.m. The game will be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2.