Bret Bielema Says Hogs Will be at Full Strength for Liberty Bowl

Arkansas will be at full strength when it plays Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl.

Arkansas will be at full strength when it takes on Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl.

Coach Bret Bielema announced Tuesday that enough grades had been entered to know that every player passed the necessary classes to remain eligible.

“In today’s world, you see guys left and right suspended for the bowl game,” Bielema said. “Our guys took advantage of the last couple of weeks. I’m very happy about that.

He also said wide receivers Drew Morgan and Dominique Reed – who had been held out of earlier bowl practices – were back and healthy.

“They were both out there running around full-throttle today,” Bielema said. “Everybody else is in shape and ready to rock and roll.”

The team will practice Wednesday and Thursday morning before getting a few days off. They won’t practice again until Sunday evening, then will head to Memphis Monday.

While most of the development-only practices are behind them, Bielema said there would still be segments of practice next Tuesday and Wednesday in Memphis devoted to young players.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a few players have some important decisions on the horizon.

Tight end Hunter Henry, running back Alex Collins and offensive lineman Denver Kirkland – all of whom are juniors – have received draft grades from the NFL.

Bielema said he couldn’t go into specifics, but Henry’s grade is much higher than Collins and Kirkland.

“The biggest thing with guys that are jumping into the NFL – Hunter has a very high grade, so that’s a little different deal, but for (Collins) and Denver – grades aren’t locks,” Bielema said. “If you start dropping in the fifth, sixth, seventh round, half of those guys don’t make an NFL roster.”

While he has met with those players periodically since the spring, Bielema said he is going to give Collins and Kirkland time to talk to their families before flying to Florida game to meet with them personally the Wednesday and Thursday after the bowl.

An extra year in Fayetteville, especially for Collins, could translate to a higher draft spot in Bielema’s eyes. He would have an opportunity to become the first player in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons.

“Alex is in the middle rounds and he’s got a decision to make because he can make a lot of money by coming back,” Bielema said. “If he does it again, now he’s becoming an elite back.”

One player that will for sure not be back in 2016 is linebacker Randy Ramsey.

Bielema said Saturday that the two had been in touch and Ramsey wanted to rejoin the team after being academically ineligible this semester.

Although the coach left the door open for a possible return on Saturday, he squashed those thoughts Tuesday.

“I did talk to Randy last night,” Bielema said. “Everything still isn’t officially through, but I basically informed him that from my standpoint, I wasn’t going to have anything (for him) moving forward, a scholarship or anything like that.”

Ramsey could remain in Fayetteville on his own dime, but he would not be allowed back on the team, even as a walk-on. Instead, it is likely that he’ll go the junior college route or transfer to another school.

Despite the potential distractions of players entering the NFL draft or rejoining the team, Bielema said the team has been focused on the task at hand.

“I’ve always thought bowl games are determined in the two weeks to (the game),” Bielema said. “The day of the game is very important, but how the guys practice, lock in and approach the game is very important.

“I think our guys have had the right mental attitude.”


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