Senior linebacker Alonzo Highsmith – the team's leading tackler with 54 stops – tore a ligament in his foot in Saturday's 24-7 win at Auburn and is done for the season.
That was the word from Arkansas head coach John L. Smith at his Monday media gathering – although he did note that sophomore cornerback Tevin Mitchel will be returning this week as the Razorbacks host Kentucky.
"Alonzo is going to have to be operated on today," Smith said. "I think they do that this afternoon. And that is unfortunate. Again, we can't afford any injuries, but particularly at that spot and what has taken place.
"…To my knowledge, he is going to be out for the year," Smith added later.
That's because fellow senior linebacker Tenarius Wright – whose status will be determined later Monday - has been out the past two weeks.
"It's a big blow because, again, you're without your two middle linebackers that you were hoping to start the season with and continue with," Smith said. "It's just something that we have to do, and I think our football team realizes that. We've had to adjust for other guys missing time, and whoever is there has to step in and play and go make plays. That's what we try to tell them over and over again. Not only last week, but whoever is in this room can't make plays, or you wouldn't be sitting here. Go to the field and do it." That means junior Jarrett Lake, senior Matt Marshall and the two freshman linebackers – Otha Peters and A.J. Turner – will join Terrell Williams in manning the linebacker spots.
"It will probably be a little bit of, fill the void by committee," Smith said. "All of them are going to have to get ready to go and be ready to practice, and be ready to play hard."
Razorback defensive end Chris Smith said it was a big blow to a defense that nevertheless had eight sacks and five takeaways in the win over Auburn.
"It's tough to see one of our senior captains go out like that," Smith said. "But he came back on the sideline later in the third quarter. He's still being a vocal leader. It's tough to lose a guy like that… We do that other guys have to step up. I think Terrell Williams has done that."
Williams has certainly filled in admirably for Wright and had a team-high 12 tackles on Saturday.
"T-Will is good, and he's accepting that, and he's been placed in that role now of where he has to be the leader, the guy that everybody looks to," Smith said. "Like I was talking to him last night, you really have to start being more vocal, because you have all these young guys around you. So start being more vocal and get everybody lined up. That's part of your responsibility now. It's not just lining yourself up right. It's making sure you can everybody else lined up right as well.... Hopefully you're putting a little pressure on him in that regard and he'll respond."
The news was at least good on Mitchel, a starting cornerback who suffered a concussion and had to have his gallbladder taken out after a hit in the second week of the season.
"Tevin Mitchel informed the coaching staff and the team that he is going to be ready to go this week," Mitchel said. "That's his diagnosis. It will be great to get Tevin back."
Elsewhere on the injury front, starting tight end Chris Gragg resumed running on Sunday – albeit gingerly according to his head coach.
Cornerback Kaelon Kellybrew will return to action this week after being injured and not getting enough practice time to play on Saturday.
The Razorbacks started a pair of freshman cornerbacks – true frosh Will Hines and redshirt freshman Davyon McKinney – against the Tigers.
"Kelleybrew didn't play because he didn't practice a bunch," Smith said. "Actually the two young guys did a really good job for being young guys. I am talking Hines and Sleepy (McKinney). Both those guys were very active and did very well. Now Tevin coming back and Kelleybrew should be able to practice this week. So that will help."