Thursday Grid Update, 11/14

The competition for playing time at cornerback was one of the topics for Bret Bielema as Arkansas finished the work week during an open date.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema likes the development he sees at cornerback from some young players, but he said Thursday that junior Tevin Mitchel had "his best week of practice" as the Hogs head into an open week.

The 3-7 Razorbacks have lost a school record seven straight games, but get the weekend off before playing Mississippi State and LSU to end the season.

Mitchel has started every week at cornerback, but has given up some big plays this season. Coaches said his spot would be contested this week during the open week with Will Hines returning from the injured list.

Bielema was asked about Mitchel's spot on Thursday after the final work day of the week for the Hogs.

"Tevin has had his best week," Bielema said. "He's really been challenged this week. I think Coach (Taver) Johnson has done a nice job with him."

The rotations at the two cornerback spots have been "equal" between D. J. Dean, Carroll Washington, Hines and Mitchel, according to Bielema.

Hines had surgery to repair a fractured fore arm after the Florida game. Hines returned to practice three weeks ago and was given clearance to play this week.

"I'm intrigued with the competition there," Bielema said. "A lot of times when someone comes back from a bone fracture, they are timid. He hasn't been afraid to stick his arm in there."

Bielema said the approach this week during the open week has been "a mirror" of the way things were handled with an earlier open week between the Alabama and Auburn games.

"We wanted to get as much developmental practices as possible," Bielema said."So we had developmental periods for pass skeleton, inside run and team. When we got to team today, we had a full contact scrimmage."

One thing that interested Bielema was the focus on some of the big hits by youngsters by veterans. He said it emphasized one of the reasons he wants to recruit players that "love football." He said it's a key in what he's looking for moving forward.

"I want guys who love football," Bielema said, "guys who are engaged, get pissed, are happy and they do something about it. They aren't robots.

"In the developmental scrimmage, when there was a bit hit, everyone was happy. I wanted them to know that the reason the big hits happen was because there was leverage on the football, the things we are emphasizing."

Bielema said several young players continue to shine, including redshirt fullback Chris Jones.

"We almost played him halfway through the year," Bielema said. "He continues to do good things. I think our freshmen quarterbacks, Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell, continue to grow as football players."

Bielema also praised freshman safety De'Andre Coley.

"Coley made a couple of nice plays today," Bielema said. "Tevin Beanum and some of the others in our defensive front like JaMichael Winston, Brandon Lewis and DeMarcus Hodge continue to make plays."

Bielema was asked where Korliss Marshall practiced during the week.

"It was split up a little at safety and a little at running back," Bielema said, who noted that Marshall is rehabbing from a shoulder injury sustained against Ole Miss. He wore a green jersey for no contact.

Many of the varsity players had shortened weeks. Bielema said that didn't mean this week is any less important.

"Every week is critical," he said. "We are trying to do everything in our power to give the proper preparation to our players to get a win. The approach doesn't change. It's a must win every week."

Bielema and coaches hit the road to complete evaluations in recruiting. He said when the weekend is done, that 41 of the available 42 evaluations would be used for the season.

"We are going to save one for next week for an Arkansas playoff game," he said.

Bielema was asked about the potential for the coming class. How would it rank with his first class at Arkansas last winter?

"Next year's has to be better," Bielema said. "We want to take a step forward, not a step back.

"For example, we want to add another tight end just like Hunter Henry. That way, teams can't key on Hunter. We want to continue to get guys that like football, that can throw and catch."

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