Hogs put prac­tice be­hind, gear for opener

The Sentinel-Record - - SPORTS - NATE ALLEN

FAYET­TEVILLE — With Tues­day’s closed prac­tice, the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs ended their long­est pre­sea­son prac­tice prepa­ra­tions be­fore their sea­son opener.

New NCAA rules out­law­ing two-a-day prac­tices so ex­tended pre­sea­son drills that Bret Bielema’s Ra­zor­backs have prac­ticed since July 27 in Fayet­teville head­ing into Thurs­day night’s sea­son-opener against Florida A&M at Little Rock’s War Me­mo­rial Sta­dium. (Kick­off is 7 p.m. on the SEC Net­work.) It seems the Ra­zor­backs champ at the kick­off bit. “I think we all are,” tight-ends coach Barry Lun­ney said. “We’ve been see­ing each other kind of an ab­nor­mal num­ber of days. So I think we’re ready to go against some­body else. And then ob­vi­ously the last time we were on the field as a team (los­ing 3524 to Vir­ginia Tech af­ter lead­ing 24-0 at half­time) it was a very dis­ap­point­ing out­come. We’ve still got a bad taste in our mouth. So we’re look­ing for­ward to get­ting out for the first game of ‘17.”

Bus rides: They start their sea­son tak­ing the

200-mile bus ride from Fayet­teville to Little Rock but that beats the nearly 11 hours and 673 miles bus­ing Florida A&M from Tallahassee to Little Rock.

Florida A&M coach Alex Wood, a for­mer NFL of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, knows well the com­forts of first-class air travel for long trips in­clud­ing his

2006 and 2007 Arkansas sea­sons as­sist­ing for­mer Ra­zor­backs coach Houston Nutt. Now into his third year at Florida A&M, he’s ac­cus­tomed play­ing the hand dealt at the fi­nan­cially strapped lower-di­vi­sion (FCS) school.

“It is what it is,” Wood said. “Teams do it all the time. They get off that bus and get stretched and get ready to go. Whether you are fly­ing or driv­ing it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter. It’s a mat­ter of just go­ing on the road and hav­ing a chance to have a good per­for­mance, hope­fully a win­ning per­for­mance.”

Thurs­day crowd: The Rat­tlers of the Mid-Eastern Ath­letic Con­fer­ence routed Texas South­ern,

29-7 Satur­day in Tallahassee.

So they have mo­men­tum and maybe catch a break that the War Me­mo­rial Sta­dium crowd could di­min­ish kick­ing off Thurs­day night.

“I don’t know how much Thurs­day night is go­ing to af­fect it,” Wood said. “But still it will be a great at­mos­phere to play in. Gen­er­ally it’s al­ways been a good crowd in Little Rock and that’s what we an­tic­i­pate. Ob­vi­ously we face a very good team. I know they have yet to play this year but when you have good per­son­nel usu­ally you pro­duce a pretty good foot­ball team. Our guys won’t have any is­sues get­ting cranked up for the game, that’s for sure.”

In­juries: The Ra­zor­backs cer­tainly should be cranked although wide re­ceivers Jared Cor­nelius (back) and T.J. Ham­monds (knee) might not turn their game-day cranks un­til Arkansas’ next game, Sept. 9 against TCU at Reynolds Ra­zor­back Sta­dium in Fayet­teville.

Both were re­moved from the 105-man pre­sea­son ros­ter be­cause of their in­juries and didn’t re­sume drills on a lim­ited ba­sis un­til the ros­ter ex­pan­sion ac­com­pa­ny­ing the Aug. 21 start of UA fall se­mes­ter classes.

“I bet you it will go all the way un­til kick­off,” re­ceivers coach Michael Smith said of Cor­nelius and Ham­monds. “If they’re feel­ing good, we’re go­ing to let them go.”

For starters, Smith re­lies on three in­staters, third-year sopho­mores Deon Ste­wart of Hardy High­land and La’Michael Pettway of Nashville and red­shirt fresh­man Jor­dan Jones of Smack­over, with ju­nior-col­lege trans­fer Jonathan Nance also in the ro­ta­tion.

Catch­ing up: To red­shirt or not to red­shirt is the de­ci­sion that Bielema and Smith must make on promis­ing true fresh­men Koilan Jack­son of Joe T. Robin­son, Jar­rod Barnes of Cabot and De’Vion War­ren of Mon­roe, La.

Sav­ing a fifth-year of el­i­gi­bil­ity for one or more of the rook­ies could de­pend on Bran­don Martin, the most touted along with tight end Jeremy Pat­ton of Arkansas’ 2017 ju­nior-col­lege trans­fers but im­paired this pre­sea­son by a bad back.

“He looks like he’s run­ning a whole lot bet­ter,” Smith said. “I think his back is fi­nally start­ing to feel

up to par. He’s caught the ball well this week.”

Se­nior start­ing quar­ter­back Austin Allen con­curs.

“He may not be where he ex­pected to be yet but he’s go­ing to be there,” Allen said. ‘Might not be Week 1, might not be Week 2 but you can see that light turning on slowly. Once it gets re­ally turned on he’ll be a re­ally good player.”

Hur­ri­cane havoc: Be­cause rem­nants of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey could bring rain Thurs­day to Little Rock, the Ra­zor­backs worked wet ball drills Mon­day and Tues­day.

Allen said the Ra­zor­backs have com­mis­er­ated with run­ning back Devwah Wha­ley, Beau­mont, Texas, and de­fen­sive line­man Bran­don DePrato, Cy­press, Texas, as their fam­i­lies hun­kered down in the Houston area flooded by the hur­ri­cane.

“They are hang­ing in tough,” Allen said. “I’m sure they want to be back and help­ing them out but their fam­i­lies are keep­ing them fo­cused and telling them they are fine. Our prayers go out to the peo­ple in Houston.”

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