Pettway re­sponds to pep talk

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL/NFL -

FAYET­TEVILLE — Ap­par­ently, Arkansas Ra­zor­backs foot­ball Coach Bret Bielema’s com­ments on Mon­day about how some of the fresh­man re­ceivers were threat­en­ing to sur­pass the vet­er­ans hit home with La’Michael Pettway.

Pettway, a red­shirt sopho­more, re­sponded with in­spired play the next two days and added two touch­down re­cep­tions in Thurs­day’s prac­tice.

“La’Michael Pettway, I’m telling you, the last three prac­tices he looks like a dif­fer­ent guy,” quar­ter­back Austin Allen said. “He’s go­ing out there mak­ing con­tested catches, run­ning great routes, get­ting open.

“His whole at­ti­tude has just been phe­nom­e­nal. I can’t say enough good things about how he’s play­ing. He just needs to keep com­ing along where he can be that guy. I have all the trust in the world in him.”

Fel­low sopho­more Deon Ste­wart, who has been tak­ing the lead­er­ship reins in the re­ceivers room with se­nior Jared Cor­nelius off the 105man ros­ter while rest­ing his back, has seen the change.

“He’s been step­ping up the past few days,” Ste­wart said. “He’s been like our go-to guy in the red zone. Austin’s been throw­ing it up to him and he’s been us­ing his size and his hands to come down with it.”

Ste­wart said Bielema’s re­marks weren’t ex­actly a

topic of con­ver­sa­tion in the re­ceivers’ meet­ings, but he heard about them.

“My coach from high school, he sent me that. My mom sent me that,” he said.

Talk­ing T.J.

Tail­back Devwah Wha­ley and re­ceiver Deon Ste­wart struck up­beat notes about re­ceiver T.J. Ham­monds’ prospects for re­cov­ery from a sec­ond surgery to re­pair the menis­cus in his knee. Ham­monds had a sim­i­lar in­jury last Au­gust and was ready for the sea­son opener.

“It hurts and it’s kind of sad at the same time, but T.J. is go­ing to get well pretty soon,” Wha­ley said. “He’s go­ing to have a speedy re­cov­ery, and he’ll be back be­fore you know it.”

Ste­wart said the team has missed his play­mak­ing abil­ity the past cou­ple of days.

“But this is just a chance for all the younger guys to step up and try to get in there and get some play­ing time,” he said. “If you don’t know what you’re do­ing, you’re not go­ing to be able to get in.

Say what?

Corner­back Ryan Pul­ley seemed skep­ti­cal when he was asked about fresh­man re­ceiver Jor­dan Jones catch­ing four touch­down passes in the first three prac­tices, as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dan Enos said last Satur­day.

“Nah. That was prob­a­bly against the 2s. I don’t re­call that on the first de­fense,” Pul­ley said, draw­ing laughs from re­porters. “I don’t re­call that.”

For kicks

Sopho­more re­ceiver Deon Ste­wart, fresh­man corner­back Chevin Cal­loway and fresh­man re­ceiver Jar­rod Barnes have been tak­ing the most reps as the deep men on kick­off re­turns. Sopho­more T.J. Ham­monds was also a deep man be­fore suf­fer­ing a knee in­jury ear­lier this week.

Se­nior corner­back Henre To­liver has emerged as the top re­turn man with Jared Cor­nelius out rest­ing a tight back. Ste­wart is run­ning on sec­ond team.

Martin’s ceil­ing

Quar­ter­back Austin Allen said he ex­pects ju­nior­col­lege trans­fer Bran­don Martin, slowed by what he said are “lin­ger­ing in­juries” that have kept him out of team pe­ri­ods, to come back strong, and soon.

“Once those in­juries go away and he gets in the play­book and knows what to do ev­ery play, he’s go­ing to be a force to be reck­oned with,” Allen said. “He’s 6-4, 230, can run, jump. Once ev­ery­thing clicks, he’s go­ing to help us out this year.

“It might not be right now where we’re in­stalling things be­cause he’s new and try­ing to learn the play­book, but once things click, he’s go­ing to be a re­ally good player for us.”

Fresh start

Grad­u­ate trans­fer David Wil­liams, a run­ning back who was at South Carolina, has drawn raves for the at­ti­tude he brought in to the locker room.

“I didn’t come with a cocky at­ti­tude, I came in want­ing to learn and was open to get­ting to know peo­ple and just build­ing re­la­tion­ships,” Wil­liams said. “It’s paid off a lot.”

Wil­liams vis­ited Wis­con­sin dur­ing Bret Bielema’s fi­nal sea­son with the Badgers be­fore sign­ing with the Game­cocks.

“We had a good re­la­tion­ship,” he said. “I think the only rea­son I didn’t go to Wis­con­sin was they were tak­ing one run­ning back. They were re­cruit­ing me hard and Corey Cle­ment real hard. Corey just hap­pened to com­mit be­fore I did.”

Wil­liams was on the brink of sign­ing with Con­necti­cut be­fore Bielema reached out to him.

“I just sat down with my fam­ily and I thought I would chal­lenge my­self,” he said. “I knew if I went to UConn I would start right away with no com­pe­ti­tion. I thought I would come out here and see where I stand with the best of the best.”

Block­ing backs

Left guard Hjalte Fro­holdt said he’s been im­pressed with how all of the run­ning backs have picked up pass pro­tec­tions.

“We get in the of­fen­sive line room and ex­plain it to­gether,” Fro­holdt said. “So we all get a full un­der­stand­ing of where we’re go­ing with it, who ev­ery­body’s got.”

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