Suspended Arkansas sophomore tailback/kick returner Korliss Marshall was back at practice on Tuesday and appears full go for the Razorbacks' home game with LSU (7-2, 3-2) on Nov. 15.
The speedster will get plenty of reps during this bye week and knows he is on his last chance with the team per Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, who held him out of practice as he missed the last three games.
“I just kind of made the decision since he was going to be removed from the games that I was going to remove him from practice and let him know where he's at,” Bielema said. “The good understanding is that during that time away he has done extremely well in the classroom. All the things that we have put in front of him and he needed to do he did very, very well.
“He is on that last straw,” Bielema added. “And anything he does moving forward he has got to make great decisions to make sure he has the ability to stay here and play the game that he loves to play at the University of Arkansas.”
Bielema noted that Marshall did look fresh at practice as he got reps that normally Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins would get if not a bye week for Arkansas (4-5, 0-5).
“Korliss Marshall returned and he's got fresh legs, looked really nice out there today,” Bielema said. “It felt good to have him out there back with us. Obviously not just from a running back standpoint but from a return game standpoint.”
In fact, Bielema noted that he was going to get Marshall (24 carries, 116 yards) – who returned a kickoff 97 yards this season for a score against Northern Illinois - involved in several special teams.
“He’ll work the return game and the kickoff return game tomorrow,” Bielema said. “But I’m going to get him involved in all four phases of the kicking game just because he’s got that unique speed. Hopefully we’ll expand his role in not just the return game, but also on some coverage units because he can fly.
“I think the fact that he popped in there today, you can kind of just see that his legs are a little different, freshness than the other guys,” Bielema added. “He’s just got some bounce to him that was very, very clear from the first time he touched the ball.”
But he will not be in the mix to return punts – a job won by freshman wide receiver Jared Cornelius.
“He’s a good kick returner, but punt return is a different animal, as you can probably tell,” Bielema said. “Sometimes my best kick returners of all time couldn’t field a punt. That might be something we’d explore in the offseason. I know we looked at it, but he’s a very good return man when he can get it and go straight ahead. A lot of times, those punt returners have to make a guy miss right at their face, so he’ll stay away from that. I was very happy with Jared in that regard last week.”
Collins had 16 carries for 93 yards rushing against Mississippi State – his most since 131 in the Texas A&M game – and now has 840 on the season while Williams has gained 877.
“It definitely was his best game in awhile,” Bielema said. “It was good to see him come back and respond the way we needed him to. I think J-Will got a little dinged up on him when we ran the ball on one of our very few explosive plays. He made a nice cut.
“I think he would be the first to tell you that there were a couple in the first half where he got a little ancy and jumped on the backside where if he had stayed on the front side there were huge hits,” Bielema added.
“Alex is a very unique kid and has a lot of talent,” Bielema said. “He still has a lot of growth to do. We still continue to work with him and try to help him. The good news is that he has got really good grades across the board for the first time that I have been around him. They are very, very, very good so that's encouraging and hopefully it is baby steps with him, man. It's like (the movie) What About Bob? It's baby steps every day and hopefully some day he will be able to walk on his own.”
Bielema noted that Williams (bruised knee), offensive linemen Dan Skipper (ankle) and Cameron Jefferson (knee), cornerback Henre' Toliver and safety Rohan Gaines should all be ready to play against LSU, who plays Alabama this weekend.
Toliver's absence has been key according to Bielema, who believes his team is making strides even as it is 0-5 in SEC play.
"I think offensively, some guys continue to get better," Bielema said. "I would say, I wish we had a little more offensive line depth to get done what we need to get done. Probably some more depth at the receiver position. To not have Henre' Toliver, when he's playing he's our best corner.
"I was flying with a couple of my coaches to Houston Sunday night late, and we kind of all just made the comment, if Henre' had played the A&M game and possibly in that Mississippi State game, there's a good chance I think things would have happened differently," Bielema added.
Arkansas will practice again Wednesday and Thursday before its coaches hit the road recruiting as they did earlier this week. The Razorback added an 18th pledge in its 2015 class on Tuesday morning when Wachula, Fla., linebacker Derrick Graham (6-4, 225) chose Arkansas over Mississippi State and Florida.
"The good news is, we are recruiting a lot of really good players," Bielema said. "We've got a lot of guys on our commitment list right now. The way we develop players and the way Ben Herbert works, there's some guys … Santos Ramirez. I would love to let you guys come and watch a practice, because he is incredibly talented. He's just not going to play for us this year."
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