Thursday Grid Update, 9/26

While quarterback Brandon Allen is not expected to play until at least next week against Florida, Arkansas (3-1) will benefit from the improved health of several impact players when the Razorbacks host Texas A&M on Saturday night.

Unless the hand of God reaches down and magically heals his shoulder, Brandon Allen wn't be taking the field for Arkansas when it hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.

After taking limited snaps in Tuesday and Wednesday's practice, Allen – who missed last week's 28-24 loss – did not practice at all on Thursday.

That means that junior walk on A.J. Derby will once against start and have true freshman Austin Allen as his back-up for the Razorbacks (3-1) when they host the No. 10 Aggies (3-1) at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

"Nothing has changed really at the QB," Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said. "BA was out there on Tuesday and Wednesday, but we gave him the day off today. He didn't do all of practice. He was limited in the run game and we were just trying to get his timing back.

"If something changes between now and Saturday and doctors could sign off at 100 percent, I would (play him), but right now we will stay with AJ as our quarterback and Austin behind him."

Bielema did say he was expecting to have Brandon Allen – who has tossed an air ball that is lighter than a regular football around a little to trainers this week - back for next week's game at Florida.

"I would say he would be back based on where he was last week to where he was today and where he would be next week," Bielema said. "Obviously the only concern that I really have is that I think he (Allen) is going to tell you that he can go a lot earlier than the doctors think he can go.

"They (the doctors) are just worried if there is anything that could become problematic if he took a hit or anything like that," Bielema continued. "I was holding out hope last week. I think everybody was, but when this thing that said it was going to be a three to four week deal.

"To think he was going to come back in two was probably a bit unrealistic," Bielema continued, "but I know he wants to be out there and the fact of the matter is can he do all the things that we ask a quarterback to do and that involves throwing the football and be productive in the passing game."

Derby will be getting his second Division I collegiate start after playing three games as a reserve quarterback at Iowa and 10 games as a junior college starter.

"I think he has a lot better week of preparation as far as getting not just the game plan, but all the dynamics of where to go with the ball, where to check to with certain looks," Bielema said.

"Texas A&M does give a variety of different looks so Rutgers – while I wouldn't say they were simplistic – there were less numbers of schemes and pressures and stuff like that," Bielema added. "A&M does a little bit of everything, but I think he has better players around him this week with a certain group of wide receivers and tight ends back.

"In addition to that – I think it was on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week – we were pretty sure we were going to have (freshman tailback) Alex (Collins), but it was a little bit sick as we had a little bit of a flu bug running through our guys last week," Bielema continued. "Everybody has been healthy this week so the practices have been a lot better."

The better players reference was about sophomore wide receivers Keon Hatcher – who will start this week - and D'Arthur Cowan as well as senior tight end Austin Tate – all healed up from injuries.

"At wide receiver Keon Hatcher has really been impressive during the course of the week," Bielema said. "He is full go 100 percent and is heavily involved in the game plan as is tight end Austin Tate, a senior tight end who gives us lot of options there at the tight end position with (true freshman) Hunter Henry.

"D'Arthur Cowan has been with us all week," Bielema added. "Tuesday he was limited a little bit, but Wednesday and Thursday he was full go 100 percent. So that gives us two other receivers that we haven't had in our bag."

Bielema also had good news to announce when it comes to returning safety starter Rohan Gaines, who had missed the first three games and returned to action last week with just seven snaps against the Scarlet Knights.

"Defensively there shouldn't be any issues with anybody," Bielema said. "Rohan Gaines will start the game. Rohan's back and is a 100 percent and we are excited to get him back in the lineup. He has been moving extremely well going back last Saturday to where we are now."

The defense will also likely get a boost from extended playing time for middle linebacker Otha Peters, who missed the first two games, was limited third and played most of the second half against Rugters.

"He (Peters) may not start, but I think he will a lot more than he did last week," Bielema said. "He played the second half last week while getting a feel for it. He was another one of those guys last week that was just getting in the swing of things and cleared to be back out there and did a really good job of taking advantage of it."

The forecast for Saturday calls for rain during the game so the Razorbacks have been preparing accordingly.

"Rain, rain, rain," Bielema said. "Obviously you have got to play the elements for whatever they are. Going back to fall camp there was moisture so it allowed us to play with moisture.

"Last week same thing as we were getting ready for Rutgers, on Tuesday it looked like rain so we had almost half of our periods be wet ball (ones)," Bielema added. "Obviously it was dry and sunny and all that goes into it on Saturday (at Rutgers).

"This week – because of the projections - yesterday we went almost the same number of periods with a wet ball and we will do it again tomorrow with our specialists and prepare that way," Bielema continued. "But it is what it is with the environment and what Mother Nature whips up for us.

"If you are asking for my preference, I would probably offer a little moisture," Bielema said.

Bielema also wanted to make it clear that he was not adverse to taking the redshirt off of Austin Allen.

"I am not afraid to pull off Austin's redshirt," Bielema said. "I would love to play the guy that gives us the best chance to win – which is what our decision was last week, which is what our decision is this week. It is what we best think can help us win the football game and we'll do that.

"Austin understands that," Bielema added. "Even before BA was hurt, we told him going into game one – as I sit him down and talked to his parents – I said ‘our plan and intention is to possibly redshirt you and we'll see how the plan works out. But if it is the 10th or the 11th or up to the 12th game of the season, if we need you to go in there, then you are going in.' "He said ‘Absolutely, Coach," Bielema related.

Bielema talked about what kind of crowd he expects for what is sold out game.

"We should be as loud, as energetic and hostile as we can," Bielema said. "Obviously they are an offense that does a lot of things at the line of scrimmage communication-wise so the louder we can be, the better we can be.

"I know we have got students that are starting camping out tonight, which is absolutely awesome," Bielema added. "We are going to send them some pizza here in a little bit.

"I really like the fan base and our students in particular getting excited for this game," Bielema continued. "Bottom line is that we would like to be the top 10 team in the stadium, but until we get to that point we have to ride the coat tails of the team coming in that has got a Heisman Trophy winner and good players that they can excite themselves."

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