It looks like Arkansas will take a restocked secondary Saturday to a place where the home team likes to put the ball into the air.
Razorback head coach Bret Bielema said Wednesday on the SEC Teleconference that he was “guardedly optimistic” that senior cornerback Tevin Mitchel would play at Texas Tech on Saturday.
He also noted that safeties De'Andre Coley and Davyon McKinney and defensive end Deatrich Wise are set to return after missing last week’s 73-7 thrashing of Nicholls.
“Actually, Tevin practiced yesterday and we're involving him in the game plan this week,” Bielema said. “He was significantly better than last week. We put him in and did some testing things with him over the weekend, and he practiced yesterday. He started off the day down on the scouts, and performed very well, got involved in some 1-on-1s and finished in the team period with our 2s.
“So Tevin may get involved with us depending on how he holds up after today's practice,” Bielema added. “But I'm very, very optimistic about that.
“On defense, Deatrich Wise was back with us yesterday giving us depth on the D-line,” Bielema continued. “It was great to see him out there and involved. In addition on the back De'Andre Coley and Davyon McKinney both, who have not played yet … they practiced full go yesterday and will be involved as well.
“And then on the offensive side of the ball, everybody that didn't play last week should be involved in everything moving forward,” Bielema said. “There isn't anybody that's going to be held out that's on the one or two deep.”
Since Tech puts the ball in the air a lot, it would be good to have Mitchel’s experience on the field in some role according to Bielema.
Red Raiders quarterback Davis Webb is 56-of-83 for 730 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions in the first two games.
“I'm guardedly optimistic,” Bielema said of Mitchel’s opportunity to play. “Because of what he's gone through in the past with the leg injuries, I know he was really down, and a lot times those things are just as much mental recovery as they are physical recovery. But he was very upbeat.
“He texted me last night,” Bielema added. “We were going back and forth until about 11, 11:30. Then he shot me a text a little before 6 this morning. So I get the idea the guy's excited to get out there. Especially playing a team like Texas Tech, a team that throws the ball around. As a DB, you want to play in these games.
“I'm excited,” Bielema said. “The thing he brings, to be overly simplistic, is he brings a lot of value and experience. Experience that he's had playing the game of college football and also letting those other guys know how things need to be done.”
Bielema is not sure if freshman wide receiver JoJo Robinson – who missed the first two games - will be ready to play this weekend or not.
If he doesn’t, a redshirt is not out of the question.
“Jojo did practice yesterday and was a little bit hobbled yet,” Bielema said. “Today is a heavy emphasis for us on third down and some packages that he could be involved with. Really, the proof is in the pudding today as far as how we move forward.
“By NCAA rules after your third game you begin to affect your freshman eligibility and your chances of redshirting a great amount by the rules as they're designed,” Bielema added. “If you haven't played by this weekend as a true freshman, for the most part it's probably conducive for you to be able to redshirt this season.”
Texas Tech downed visiting UCA 42-35 in week one and won at UTEP 30-26 last Saturday night in a game that kicked off at 10 p.m.
“I'm very excited to get a win here at home over the past weekend, but even more excited to go on the road for the second time this year against a great opponent,” Bielema said. “A 2-0 football team that has done some really, really good things.
“Texas Tech obviously is a difficult place to play.” Bielema added. “I believe they're 59-6 against un-ranked teams since 2000, which we fall into that category... It's a great opportunity to play on the road in a Big 12 environment. Having a chance to impact the world of college football on a big stage is going to be fun to be a part of.”
Arkansas’ staff reached out to UCA and some of last season’s Texas Tech foes to get video of the Red Raiders.
“I think for us, on the offensive side of the ball, we're pretty unique in what we're doing and how we go about it,” Bielema said. “One of the advantages that we have, we feel, is that someone doesn't get many opportunities to play against the type of offense we bring to the table.
“There's different clips not only from this year, but from a year ago, I think in particular our defensive guys can take things from both the UTEP game and Central Arkansas, some of which will apply to us and some that don't,” Bielema added. “Usually that's the case for film early in the season.”
Bielema believes both teams are generally excited about the first Arkansas-Texas Tech game since 1991, when the Razorbacks left the Southwest Conference.
“To me, this is a great opportunity for us,” Bielema said. “I think our kids are excited. You could even feel it in the locker room, literally one minute after we got in there this past Saturday, Just like I've red different comments from Texas Tech, they've made it a big game.
“Obviously, they're doing their throwback uniforms and all their shoes and all the things they want to be a part of, and made it a big game and a festive environment,” Bielema added. “So it's going to be fun for our personality to come in and meet theirs.”
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