Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema released the depth chart for the season opener against Texas-El Paso. There were few surprises, other than some reshuffling on defense.
The linebacker depth has a different look. Josh Williams is the starter at mike. Josh Harris is the backup. Khalia Hackett is the starter at strong linebacker, with Dwayne Eugene as his backup. Brooks Ellis is at will, as expected. Dre Greenlaw is his backup.
Bielema went over the depth chart at Monday's media briefing, noting that Williams flashed in camp with better athleticism making it easy to move him back to middle linebacker his position last year as a junior college transfer.
"There probably are not a lot of surprises with our depth chart," Bielema said. "The exception might be linebacker. The last week and a half we have moved Hacktt to Sam and he was just more comfortable outside. And, we moved Josh Williams to Mike and he's shown to be more athletic than when he first got here and had added pounds.
"There was a play in a scrimmage on the goal line and he made the play outside, just showing how athletic he can be. He opened some eyes with his athletic ability."
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith admitted that it was a big moment, making the staff realize that Williams was just what was needed at Mike linebacker.
"The biggest thing, this week against UTEP, we are going to see a lot of two backs and that fits what Josh Williams can do at middle linebacker. It's a personnel matchup. Khalia fits better outside this week.
"I will say that with three and four wide teams, we'll still have some juggling. We could even move Brooks Ellis to Mike against some looks or some teams.
"The play on the goal line with Josh Williams is something we go back to and saw him do a great job of reading his keys and broke out like he was shot out of a cannon. He opened some eyes and showed us he's become a better athlete and it just took off from there in training camp."
Bielema said, "Khalia is a different player outside. He was a free safety in high school. We liked Josh at the Sam and after moving him around, we talked to Brooks Ellis and he was just more comfortable with Josh at the Mike."
Bielema revealed one possible position change that did not appear on the depth chart. With depth short at the fullback position, true freshman Kenderick Jackson will get a hard look this week. Jackson played quarterback, middle linebacker, point guard in basketball and shortstop in baseball in high school. He was ticketed to redshirt this season, but asked for a shot at fullback over the weekend.
"He'd rather play fullback than redshirt at middle linebacker," Bielema said. "He's always been at the point of attack in everything he's done. We'll look at that."
The depth at the defensive line continues to amaze. Bielema has 11 players in the depth chart. Along with the top eight as previously expected, Karl Roesler has joined the mix at end, Armon Watts is listed at nose tackle to give the Hogs three deep at three of the front four spots.
"That's one of the things that excites me," Bielema said. "It's as good as I've ever had it.
"We are in a different place in the defensive line than we were last year. I leave substitutions up to the position coach, but we are going to play a lot of guys there."
Smith said he can't recall being around a defense with almost one dozen key parts to the defensive line.
"No, I can't," he said. "We are going to play a lot of defensive linemen on Saturday."
Smith said that development of the defensive line "speaks volumes about what Coach B has done here to develop the roster. I know when he came one of the priorities was the defensive line."
Defensive end JaMichael Winston continues to lead the group, and not just the line. He's capable of speaking to the defense in the same manner as Trey Flowers last year.
"We have a lot of guys, but JaMichael can be that mouth piece like Trey," Smith said. "If we need someone to talk to the group, JaMichael can. And, so can Brooks Ellis. They can make sure things get done."
There are several freshmen still in what Bielema calls "a holding pattern" as far as redshirting. Austin Cantrell is listed as the backup at fullback, but still might redshirt.
"He could help us at tight end or fullback, but when you are the fifth tight end, you might be better served to redshirt and have that fifth year down the line," Bielema said of Cantrell.
Cole Hedlund is listed as the starting placekicker, winning a battle with Lane Saling and Adam McFain.
On offense, there were few surprises. Newcomer Dominique Reed is listed as co-backup with Cody Hollister at one of the three wideout spots. Walkon Luke Rossi made the depth chart as the backup behind Drew Morgan at the wideout three spot. JoJo Robinson would be in the depth at wide receiver, but is suspended for the first game for not meeting summer conditions put down by Bielema.
Alex Collins is not listed at kickoff return. It's Eric Hawkins and Jared Cornelius. The backup kickoff return men are Rawleigh Williams and Damon Mitchell.
Cole Hedlund is listed at the first team placekicker. Lane Saling is second. Toby Baker is the punter, Matt Emrich second.
Bielema remains pleased with the condition of the squad as far as injuries. He said there is only one player on the injury list for the opener, running back Jonathan Williams. He said the numbers of "soft tissue" injuries in this camp has gone to nothing because of detail to hydration and ice baths.
"We've done a great job there," Bielema said, comparing the current injury list to a long one from his first two seasons at Arkansas.
Reed was the subject of discussion when offensive coordinator Dan Enos came to the interview room. He was asked about the development of the juco widereceiver. Have quarterbacks adjusted to his speed on the deep routes and how many repetitions in practice does starting quarterback Brandon Allen get with Reed, a backup.
"He's had a lot of reps with Brandon," Enos said. "We get different reps with the quarterbacks and wide receivers all the time because you don't know who is going to be playing with who as the season goes along.
"Dominique and Brandon work well together. Dominique hasn't been here long, but we've been deligent and making sure they are together.
"I tease the quarterbacks that I had a below average arm (as a college quarterback at Michigan State), and I had Andre Rison and Mark Ingram Sr. to throw to. I tried to get back and set as quick as possible and throw it the furtherest I could and I still under throw them.
"With Dominique, there are times that I don't think he's going that fast and I wish he'd run harder. He makes it look so easy. And then you watch tape and he's separating. I tell them to get back and get the ball off."
WR1 - Keon Hatcher, Damon Mitchell.
WR2 - Jared Cornelius, Cody Hollister or Dominique Reed.
WR3 - Drew Morgan, Luke Rossi.
TE1 - Hunter Henry, Alex Voelzke.
TE 2 - Jeremy Sprinkle, Jack Kraus.
LT - Denver Kirkland, Johnny Gibson.
LG - Sebastian Tretola, Josh Allen.
C - Mitch Smothers, Zach Rogers.
RG - Frank Ragnow, Marcus Danenhauer.
RT - Dan Skipper, Brian Wallace.
QB - Brandon Allen, Austin Allen.
RB - Alex Collins, Kody Walker or Rawleigh Williams.
FB - Kody Walker, Austin Cantrell.
DE - JaMichael Winston, Deatrich Wise.
DT - DeMarcus Hodge, Hjalte Froholdt or Armon Watts.
DT - Taiwan Johnson, Bijhon Jackson or Mitchell Loewen.
DE - Tevin Beanum or Jeremiah Ledbetter, Karl Roesler.
SLB - Khalia Hackett, Dwayne Eugene.
MLB - Josh Williams, Josh Harris.
WLB - Brooks Ellis, Dre Greenlaw.
CB - Jared Collins, Henre' Toliver.
FS - Josh Liddell, Kevin Richardson.
SS - Rohan Gaines, Santos Ramirez.
CB - D.J. Dean, Cornelius Floyd.
K - Cole Hedlund, Lane Saling.
P - Toby Baker, Matt Emrich.
KO - Adam McFain, Lane Saling.
SNP - Drew Gorton, Matt Emrich.
H - Matt Emrich, Toby Baker.
KOR1 - Eric Hawkins, Damon Mitchell.
KOR2 - Jared Cornelius, Rawleigh Williams.
PR - Jared Cornelius, D.J. Dean, Damon Mitchell, Luke Rossi.