Bielema Knows Arkansas Defense Must Improve against Ole Miss

Bret Bielema found plenty of positives after a blowout victory over Tennessee-Martin, but knows the Arkansas defense has to improve before Saturday's trip to Ole Miss.

Arkansas receiver Cody Hollister may return for the Razorbacks' game at No. 19 Ole Miss on Saturday.

Hollister, a junior, has not played since breaking his foot during a practice Sept. 15. He caught four passes for 65 yards through the Razorbacks' first three games of the season.

"He does not have a redshirt so whenever he's ready to go, he'll be in the mix," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said.

The Razorbacks are thin at receiver because of injuries and disciplinary issues. Senior Keon Hatcher broke his foot during a Sept. 12 game against Toledo and may not play this season.

"Keon has an option in front of him, depending on when he'd get cleared, as to whether he'd redshirt or continue to play," Bielema said last week.

However, Bielema later said Hatcher has been advised by NFL sources that he's better off returning for another try for his senior season. Bielema was discussing that option, noting he'll probably save a scholarship in this recruiting class for Hatcher.

Drew Morgan is OK after a shoulder injury forced him to miss most of the second half of Saturday's game against Tennessee-Martin. Jared Cornelius returned last weekend after missing time with a broken arm.

Bielema has also dismissed two receivers, Jojo Robinson and Kendrick Edwards, because of disciplinary issues. He said both players have been given the OK to explore transfer options. Bielema also indicated fullback Tyler Colquitt is no longer with the team.

Bielema said there was a belief that Tennessee Martin might have some offensive success based on personnel on the field against the Sky Hawks on Saturday. UT Martin rolled up 519 yards in total offense. Santos Ramirez missed the game for disciplinary reasons and D. J. Dean sat out with a turf toe injury. Both affected play in the secondary.

"We had Ryan Pulley (at corner) and Dre Greenlaw (at linebacker) on the same side, two freshmen," Bielema said. "Quite honestly, they attacked that side as you would expect. We probably could have played D.J. but we wanted to get that toe well for the last four games. He did not practice during the week. He won't practice tomorrow, but we expect him back the rest of the week. He wants the punt return job back so we told him he needs to get back out there."

Bielema also said there was a decision made in preparation for other games to move Henre' Toliver from the nickel to the boundary cornerback spot. He'd been playing the nickel.

"We worked Kevin Richardson at the nickel, and Henre' at corner," he said. "We knew that would effect our defense in this game, but we wanted to work on that for the future.

"We did what we wanted. We got some very good teaching for the future after this game and we were able to do that Sunday."

Defensively, Bielema said he's more concerned about giving up points than yards and the coverage has been designed to keep the ball from going over the top.

"We did give up some yards and some of those were in the fourth quarter against guys who hadn't played," he said. "But once we got a lead, we made the decision not to give up the big play. I do think the points were out of whack compared to last year because of the Tech game."

The problems in the secondary are important because of a fine Ole Miss group of wide receivers led by Lequon Treadwell.

"They are gifted at wide receiver," Bielema said. "It's not just Treadwell. Now, he's a big target, just outstanding. But they have three or four that the quarterback has confidence in.

"The other part that I see, the quarterback can run the ball, and not just on designed plays. He will make plays with his feet."

Defensive coordinator Robb Smith said Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly is "playing at a high level. They have an excellent perimeter game and an excellent running back. They will force us to be sound and we take it as a big challenge."

Smith was asked about the chunk yardage given up against UT Martin. He basically said next question, noting all the focus was on Ole Miss.

As far as UT Martin targeting Pulley and Greenlaw last week, Smith said both players had "their ups and downs. We are working them through the process. We know Dre has to be a big part of what we do this week against Ole Miss."

Bielema spoke on several topics that looked at next season. That's when Hatcher's future was a prime focus. Bielema indicated that Hatcher might be nearing a point where he could be used, but it seems that it's a better idea to protect a medical hardship. That would indicate the senior wide receiver would return for another season.

What about other juniors that might be looking at the NFL draft a year early? Bielema has said there could be as many as nine juniors that have the eye of the NFL scouts on a daily basis, but he said Monday that most of those are not draft ready and would return for their senior years.

"Keon, the information he's getting from the NFL, he'd be better served coming back for another year," Bielema said, who then talked about other players and the interest NFL teams hold.

"As far as juniors, you have the two offensive linemen (in Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper), the tight end (Hunter Henry), the running back (Alex Collins), Brooks Ellis, D. J. Dean, Jared Collins and now Jeremy Sprinkle has emerged. I think when you say Kody Walker has fallen back to a junior, then you have the number back to nine. You add in the two junior college transfers (in Dominque Reed and Jeremiah Ledbetter) and the number jumps to close to a dozen with a lot of hope.

"But I think there are really only a couple of juniors that you think about going out and that's Alex and Hunter. Those kids are handling it well."

Bielema said there was a "false" report a few weeks ago about Henry potentially meeting with an agent.

"That report was out and his dad, Mark, called me and said there was absolutely nothing to anyone meeting with them," Bielema said. "I talked to Hunter last summer and he said his focus was just trying to become great and maybe growing out his hair. You've seen that he's doing that."

Bielema said Hunter has seen intense focus from defenses, especially in the red zone.

"People are on him," Bielema said. "But we've made progress there with the emergence of others and the trust factor. You see that trust factor really develop with Drew Morgan. And, we like to use that big body, Kody Walker, down in the red zone. We've been better there. Dan Enos has asked that we change practice to do some red zone work on Tuesday.

"You get what you emphasize and Dan has seen that come true," Bielema said. "We've always done red zone work starting Wednesday but we began to do more and start on Tuesday a few weeks back."


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