Four downs with the Razorbacks Thursday
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1. Wise Ready
Arkansas defensive end Deatrich Wise had an interesting way to describe his absence from preseason practices because of a sprained knee.
“I just drank a lot of milkshakes and took some time off,” Wise said.
Arkansas is glad the sophomore’s break is over, though. The defensive end returned to practice in a limited role late last week and has been full speed this week as Arkansas continued preparation for Saturday’s game at sixth-ranked Auburn.
Wise missed roughly two weeks of camp because of the injury, but Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said he has “looked really good” since returning.
Sophomore JaMichael Winston, who earned first-team work in Wise’s absence, is scheduled to earn his first start against the Tigers. But Wise will play at Auburn.
“Obviously, he’s a physically talented guy and a great leader for our defense,” Arkansas defensive line coach Rory Segrest said. “He steps up and he’s a vocal guy and gets our guys into it. So we’re excited about having him back for sure.”
Wise had 17 tackles, three for losses and two sacks in a reserve role last season, playing behind starters Chris Smith and Trey Flowers. He moved into a starting role last spring and was credited with five sacks in the Red-White Game.
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said his success also continued early in camp.
“I think he’s responded well to treatment and we’re looking forward,” Smith said. “I think he’s going to have a big game and help us out in a lot of ways on Saturday.”
Wise, who admitted he was a little nervous when he first suffered the injury, was equally confident when asked about “chasing” Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.
“Well, I probably won’t be chasing him down,” Wise said. “I’ll probably just be tackling him in the backfield, you know what I’m saying?
“But he’s a very fast guy. We’ve got to keep him contained. No missed assignments or gaps because he can bust it for a touchdown.”
2. Like McFadden, Jones, Hillis?
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn worked with former Arkansas running backs Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis when he was offensive coordinator in 2006.
So he knows a good trio of running backs when he sees them.
But Malzahn said he wasn’t ready to compare Arkansas’ current trio of Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall to the former Hogs. Not yet, anyway.
“You know, that’s hard to say,” Malzahn said. “I got a chance to coach those three, and I’ve just gotten a chance to watch these guys on film. But probably after we play, I could answer that question a little better.”
Malzahn said the three are “extremely talented” and called the Arkansas backfield one of the deepest in the conference. He recruited Marshall, who is from Osceola, when he was the head coach at Arkansas State in 2012.
“I got a chance to watch him in person on a Friday night, and you could really tell that he had a special-type talent,” said Malzahn, who watched Marshall return a kickoff 87 yards in Auburn’s 35-17 win last season. “He can really run.”
3. Rain, Rain …
There’s an 80 percent chance for rain and thunderstorms in Saturday’s forecast at Auburn, according to weather.com. Bielema said the Razorbacks have prepared for the possibility or wet weather with drills in camp.
“We had wet balls and we threw some of those into (Tuesday’s) practice, and we will again (Wednesday),” Bielema said. “Our players understand the concepts behind that. But whatever it is, we just want to be at our best on Saturday and give it an opportunity to showcase what we’ve grown.”
Malzahn said the Tigers have factored wet weather into their preparation as well.
“The big thing when it’s raining is to keep your hands as dry as you can, the balls dry,” Malzahn said. “We have worked wet balls in all phases and we’ll do the same thing this week.”
4. Extra Points
• Bielema said left guard Sebastian Tretola may be Arkansas’ best interior lineman right now. The guard has gone from 374 to 350 pounds in preseason camp. Luke Charpentier remains the starter at left guard, but Bielema said “it will be hard to keep (Tretola) off the field” because of his improvement.
• Bielema said cornerback Tevin Mitchel probably won’t play Saturday because of a hamstring injury that has slowed him in preseason practices. So the Razorbacks will lean on four cornerbacks — Carroll Washington, D.J. Dean, Jared Collins and Henre’ Toliver — in the opener. “It’s unfortunate that Tevin is going to have to be out,” Washington said. “I think he still is going to have a good season.”
• Bielema told the crowd at the NWA Touchdown Club he’s been impressed by freshmen linebackers Dwayne Eugene, Khalia Hackett and Randy Ramsey this preseason. He also told the crowd to keep an eye on the 6-foot-4, 222-pound Ramsey, who he described as a “freak of nature.”
• Charleston quarterback Ty Storey and Fayetteville High tight end C.J. O’Grady attended the NWA Touchdown Club meeting Wednesday. Storey signed a financial aid agreement with the Razorbacks earlier this month, while O’Grady has made a verbal commitment to Arkansas. They’re among the top in-state prospects for 2015.