Nothing tells the tale of the Arkansas’ season defensively like the depth chart announced Monday ahead of the Razorbacks’ game against Florida this weekend.
Deatrich Wise Jr. picked by some as a first-team All-SEC member before the season and the man with second-most sacks in conference play last year, isn’t even guaranteed to start Saturday against the Gators. Listed on top of the depth chart at defensive end is JaMichael Winston. Wise is behind him on the list, with a giant “OR” between their two names. That’s the same Winston who has made 5 tackles in eight games this year.
Wise hasn’t been bad. He’s fourth on the team in tackles and second in sacks. But he’s fallen off the edge with his most notable trait — getting to the quarterback. Wise has exactly zero sacks in four SEC games. What was supposed to be an improved pass rush keyed by the senior has struggled against everyone except Ole Miss.
Some of it is on his own play. Some of it is the fact he’s been dealing with bumps and bruises most of the year. A pretty rough hand injury beset him in the first game of the season, though he’s played through it. Ancillary stuff, or as coach Bret Bielema said, “some other issues” have hampered him, too. And it’s a tough catch.
That is, are the injuries a reason or an excuse?
This isn’t meant to throw any shade at Wise. For my money, he’s been the most consistent player in the front seven, or six in Arkansas’ case, all season long. And he isn’t the only one. One has to wonder how much a difference Dre Greenlaw would have made if he were healthy. Or if DJ Dean were healthy/out of the doghouse. Or a Britto Tutt. Maybe some. Maybe none whatsoever. It’s hard to say. Even Austin Allen, on the other side of the ball, had an injury scare. Never mind Kody Walker being out for the year at running back.
A game without Wise — his participation this weekend is still up in the air — could hurt. And in a make-or-break game like the Florida one, Arkansas needs all the help it can get.
I’ll take ‘Things That Make No Sense’ for $200, Alex
Not a surprise: Arkansas not being in the Associated Press’ Top 25 Poll.
Kind of a surprise: Arkansas not receiving a single vote for it whatsoever.
Huge surprise: Teams such as Mississippi State, Monmouth and Princeton pulled votes. Multiple votes.
Solace can be taken in that preseason polls are bunk. In basketball, especially, they’re totally pointless. Throughout the year they don’t really matter. Teams are seeded in the NCAA Tournament by a committee; ranking has practically zero bearing on where a team is slotted for the tournament.
But a team laden with upperclassmen with talent, and the SEC Player of the Year, Moses Kingsley, getting nothing while teams from not-even-mid-major conferences receiving some love bewilders me.
Guess people aren’t buying Mike Anderson and the bunch. And I’m not saying mortgage your house to bet on them as locks. But, cross my heart, this is going to be a top-50 team in the country.
Kudos, University of Arkansas
Razorbacks athletics, along with other campus organizations, are bringing the “It’s On Us” program to the school.
“It’s On Us” is a sexual assault awareness and prevention campaign that focuses on consent, bystander awareness and survivor support. Arkansas put out a short two-minute video with some of its student and adult leaders to bring attention to the program.
It's on us to be a part of the solution
— Arkansas Razorbacks (@ArkRazorbacks) October 31, 2016
It’s but a small step but an excellent one. Big shoutout to the school and the participants this week. Find out more information about the program and what Arkansas is doing with it here.
Arkansas spent a good chunk of its bye week focusing on youth while its first- and second-teamers got healthy. The Razorbacks had a couple developmental days exclusively and Bielema, offensive coordinator Dan Enos and defensive coordinator Robb Smith all pointed to some standouts.
Cole Kelley, quarterback
He’s the QB of the future, what with Ty Storey looking mostly unfit for the gig in limited play this year. Doesn’t mean Storey won’t get the job when Austin Allen leaves or is hurt, but Kelley is clearly the coaches’ favorite.
La’Michael Pettway and Deon Stewart, wide receivers
Both have played a little this season, but as redshirt freshmen behind four seniors and a junior, it’s been sparingly. Considering those four seniors will be gone next year, though, it’s up to these two to step in and have big roles next year.
Cheyenne O’Grady, tight end
No young player has been on Bielema’s ornery side more, it seems. O’Grady is dripping with potential and could be a pass-catching fiend. He’s made some bonehead mistakes both on and off the field, though, but it looks like he’s coming around, according to Bielema and Co.
Briston Guidry and Jonathan Marshall, defensive linemen
Guidry is an interior player and was a 4-star recruit. I sort of thought he might get some run this year, but it’s probably wise he’s getting the redshirt. Marshall is older and on the outside. He could make a quick impact next year, even though he probably isn’t a star.
Alexy Jean-Baptiste and Dee Walker, linebackers
Walker was up for consideration in not redshirting this year. Kind of a last-minute decision not to. Jean-Baptiste is the athletic type, more an outside linebacker. This position is sorely needed for not just bodies but some talent. They could lend a hand.
Micahh Smith and DeDe Edwards, safeties
Like linebacker, Arkansas needs safeties in both body and talent. They were both 3-star recruits but figure they’ll get every chance at reps next year.
I found it notable Giovanni LaFrance (linebacker) and not a single offensive lineman were mentioned. Bielema has been known to forget to mention guys names, so odds are it was just that. But still. I took some heat when I reported LaFrance didn’t make the team’s initial fall 105-man roster because of “skill.” Turned out he had a hand injury. I hold on to that initial reporting, though. It’s what I was told and nothing so far has led me to believe otherwise. The line is more telling. They need someone, anyone, to make a step upward.
- Bielema is something of a ‘meh’ baseball fan, but he said Monday one of his most fond non-football sports memories was singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ at a Cubs game in 2007. Our Trent Shadid digs into it a bit.
- Arkansas-LSU next week still doesn’t have a kickoff time. CBS is exercising it’s wait-and-see option (that’s just what I’m calling it). WholeHogSports here.
- Florida isn’t going to cruise into Fayetteville. Gators say they feel disrespected.
- Knile Davis didn’t last long in Green Bay. He’s apparently been cut by the Packers just a couple weeks after the team picked him up. This from NBC Sports.
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
I’m not a big proponent of taking things into your own hands, but I’m not against it, either, when someone is messing with you.
Take for instance, this guy in (shocker) Little Rock. He was pumping gas around midnight when another man just hopped in his vehicle, started it and took off. The owner of vehicle then chased the guy down, opened the driver’s door and started “tussling” with him. Eventually the car pulled over and the two had a fistfight outside the car.
All this per the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.