Freshmen Thrown Into Mix On Depth Chart

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino met with his assistants on Sunday night and spent the next few hours hammering out the depth chart for Saturday's season opener.

And when everything was finalized, Petrino realized that he had a lineup filled with players who were still in high school this time a year ago.

Petrino has made no secret that a number of freshmen will have to contribute immediately, and that became apparent Monday when he released his first official depth chart of the fall.

Eighteen true freshmen were listed on Arkansas' 66-man offensive and defensive depth chart, including four newcomers who showed enough during fall camp to earn their first start against Western Illinois.

"There is a lot," Petrino said, cracking a smile Monday evening when asked about all the freshmen on the depth chart. "They've had a good three weeks of practice. Certainly, we'll have a lot to learn as far as understanding the speed of the game and how fast it's going to go."

But for now, several Arkansas freshmen — including wide receiver Jarius Wright and weakside linebacker Jelani Smith — must learn on the fly.

As expected, Wright was rewarded for his strong performance during the preseason by being named one of Arkansas' starting wide receivers. He also earned the job as the team's primary punt returner.

"It means a lot seeing that the coaches have that much confidence in me to put me at starting receiver and then starting punt returner," Wright said. "It's just a big deal."

Despite being undersized at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, Wright has impressed Arkansas' coaches with his consistency and ability to make plays in a variety of ways.

The Warren native is listed as the starting "Z" receiver, with fellow freshman Joe Adams penciled in as his backup. Juniors London Crawford and Lucas Miller were named the Razorbacks' other two starting receivers.

"I'm a little bit excited, a little nervous at the same time, because I haven't gone out there and played a college down yet," Wright said. "So until the first snap, I'm going to be a little bit nervous."

Along with Wright, Petrino named three other freshmen to his starting lineup for Saturday's 6 p.m. game against Western Illinois in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Elton Ford beat out junior Rashaad Johnson for the starting free safety job. Former tight end Mitchell Bailey got the nod as Arkansas' starting fullback.

And in what appeared to be a tight race, Jelani Smith edged fellow freshman Khiry Battle to be the starting weakside linebacker. Petrino said Smith's production in the team's final scrimmage last Friday was "off the charts," with him recording a number of tackles and assists.

"The kid likes to hit. He likes to run and hit. He plays real physical," Petrino said. "He's done a great job of learning the scheme and has a lot of natural instincts. He really understands blocking schemes — how to slip them, how to take them on."

Petrino has said repeatedly that no starting job is guaranteed and that the depth chart can change at any time. One positions where there could be some shuffling around is at quarterback, where the Razorbacks still aren't settled on a backup behind starter Casey Dick.

Redshirt freshman Nathan Dick, Casey's younger brother, is the next name listed at quarterback on the depth chart. But there is an "or" beside the name of freshman Tyler Wilson, meaning the Greenwood graduate could get the nod as the No. 2 passer.

For the most part, there weren't too many surprises on Petrino's first fall depth chart. But he did make a noticeable change at offensive guard and left another player off the lineup entirely.

Outside linebacker Elston Forte, who was voted a defensive captain by his teammates, wasn't included on the depth chart. He's expected to miss the season opener because of an undisclosed injury.

Meanwhile, sophomore Wade Grayson was penciled in as the starting left guard over senior Mitch Petrus, one of only three Arkansas players named to the coaches' All-SEC preseason team.

"(Grayson) has definitely earned the spot," Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs said. "And I think he's looking forward to Saturday."



ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS DEPTH CHART

Offense

WT 73 Ray Dominguez 6-4 315 So.

62 Michael Aguirre 6-6 315 Jr.

WG 71 Wade Grayson 6-4 292 So.

66 Mitch Petrus 6-4 305 Sr.

C 63 Jonathan Luigs 6-4 314 Sr.

60 Seth Oxner 6-4300 FR.

SG 65 DeMarcus Love 6-5 302 So.

72 Grant Cook 6-6 320 Fr.

ST 78 Jose Valdez 6-5 313 Sr.

79 Grant Freeman 6-7 277 Fr.

75 Matt Hall 6-9 300 Fr.

RB 21 Michael Smith 5-7 173 Jr.

33 Dennis Johnson 5-7 195 Fr.

6 Brandon Barnett 5-10 206 Jr.

23 De'Anthony Curtis 5-10 205 Fr.

42 Chip Gregory 6-3 218 So.

QB 11 Casey Dick 6-2 215 Sr.

10 Nathan Dick 6-4 217 Fr.

8 Tyler Wilson 6-2 180 Fr.

7 Alex Mortensen 6-2 220 Sr.

FB 30 Mitchell Bailey 6-1 220 Fr.

48 John Durmon 5-11 217 Jr.

W 88 Lucas Miller 6-3 201 Jr.

19 Carlton Salters 6-0 191 So.

80 Chris Gragg 6-3 210 Fr.

X 2 London Crawford 6-2 200 Jr.

85 Greg Childs 6-4 205 Fr.

1 Reggie Fish 5-7 160 Sr.

Y 45 D.J. Williams 6-2 250 So.

82 Andrew Davie 6-5 266 Jr.

86 Ben Cleveland 6-4 252 So.

83 Lance Thompson 6-4 227 Sr.

Z 4 Jarius Wright 5-10 170 Fr.

3 Joe Adams 6-0 175 Fr.

84 Crosby Tuck 6-1 188 Fr.



Defense

End 97 Antwain Robinson 6-2 258 Sr.

91 Jake Bequette 6-5 265 Fr.

Nose 90 Ernest Mitchell 6-2 305 Sr.

61 Zach Stadther 6-1 285 Fr.

98 Cord Gray 6-1 305 Sr.

Tackle 96 Malcolm Sheppard 6-3 277 Jr.

99 Lavunce Askew 6-2 290 Fr.

59 Van Stumon 6-2 277 So.

Rush 18 Adrian Davis 6-4 238 Jr.

58 Demario Ambrose 6-5 253 So.

52 Robert Salinas 6-1 239 Jr.

Jack 36 Walner Leandre 6-2 213 Sr.

31 Jerico Nelson 5-9 195 Fr.

32 Bret Harris 6-0 209 Fr.

Mike 34 Jerry Franklin 6-2 229 Fr.

37 Jermaine Love 5-11 226 So.

43 Tenarius Wright 6-2 230 Fr.

47 Wendel Davis 6-1 224 Jr.

Will 49 Jelani Smith 6-0 205 Fr.

25 Khiry Battle 5-11 215 Fr.

BC 29 Jamar Love 6-1 197 Sr.

26 Ramon Broadway 5-9 191 So.

17 Shedrick Johnson 5-10 188 Sr.

SS 39 Matt Harris 6-2 192 Jr.

20 Dallas Washington 6-0 210 Sr.

FS 9 Elton Ford 6-0 208 Fr.

35 Rashaad Johnson 6-1 191 Jr.

14 Hunter Miller 6-1 190 Fr.

FC 24 Isaac Madison 6-0 181 So.

5 Tremain Thomas 6-0 180 Fr.

28 Greg Gatson 5-11 167 So.



Special Teams

LS 51 Rhett Richardson 6-1 216 So.

67 Harrison Whightsil 6-2 225 Jr.

SS 51 Rhett Richardson 6-1 216 So.

67 Harrison Whightsil 6-2 225 Jr.

H 50 Jeremy Davis 5-9 206 Sr.

39 Matt Harris 6-2 192 Jr.

KR 9 Elton Ford 6-0 208 Fr.

4 Jarius Wright 5-10 170 Fr.

PR 4 Jarius Wright 5-10 170 Fr.

3 Joe Adams 6-0 175 Fr.

33 Dennis Johnson 5-7 195 Fr.

PK 7 Alex Tejada 6-1 207 So.

27 Shay Haddock 5-9 185 So.

P 50 Jeremy Davis 5-9 206 Sr.

49 Nick Grasshoff 5-11 190 Fr.

KO 50 Jeremy Davis 5-9 206 Sr.

7 Alex Tejada 6-1 207 So.

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