Fayetteville, Ark. – At the conclusion of two-a-day practices with Saturday’s scrimmage the Arkansas Razorback coaching staff now has less than two weeks to begin preparation for their first game against Jacksonville State on Sept. 1. Among the areas to get the most attention before game one is the return of the walking wounded and getting the freshmen up to speed.
Tuesday the Arkansas coaching staff was able to speak about Saturday’s scrimmage after reviewing the tape adding insight for Razorback Nation.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises to the 2012 Arkansas Razorback football team has been the quick progression true freshman Mekale McKay has made from a late signing 2012 recruit to a first-team wide receiver.
McKay had two catches for 76 yards with a touchdown during Saturday’s scrimmage but equally as importantly blocked well on the edges in the running game. For the time being McKay has been getting first team reps thus could be one of the Hogs’ starting wide receivers opposite Cobi Hamilton on Sept. 1.
Juco transfer receiver Demetrius Wilson’s transition to the Razorbacks has been a rollercoaster of sorts on the field. He was expected to provide game experience and upperclassman leadership on a team that lost three wide outs to the NFL draft.
Wilson showed early promise fielding punts but soon lost his job to senior tailback Dennis Johnson. Running pass routes Wilson was lost in the shuffle after strong camp performances from McKay, Brandon Mitchell, and true freshman Keon Hatcher among others.
Saturday Wilson showed his two-time first-team All-ACCAC selection experience on the field catching four passes for approximately 55 yards. His performance prompted offensive coordinator Paul Petrino to say, “I thought Demetrius Wilson had his best day Saturday, by far. Just knowing what he’s doing, playing hard, playing with great effort, catching the ball, running with it after the catch.”
One good performance by Wilson may have been overshadowed by two bad performances by Brandon Mitchell and true freshman Keon Hatcher. Both Hatcher and Mitchell had one catch each in the Hogs final scrimmage, Hatcher for seven yards and Mitchell for five. Petrino said of Mitchell, “That was his worst day of fall camp. He didn’t come up there with the right mindset, he didn’t have the right bounce in his step and energy, and that equaled getting one catch. He’s come out and practiced a lot better the last two days.”
Hatcher had proven to be one of the more sure handed receivers throughout camp. Mitchell’s leadership and mental approach to the game during fall practices has been a well covered source of good news for the Hogs. Both are expected to be major contributors during the season. Look for each to bounce back from their bad Saturday performances.
Mitchell had nine catches for 74 yards during Arkansas’ first scrimmage with two scores.
Four starters were back at practice on Tuesday, some after missing the majority of fall camp.
Starting linebackers Alonzo Highsmith (hamstring) and Tenarius Wright (concussion) were on the field as was starting safety Eric Bennett (hamstring). Wide receiver Keante Minor (shoulder) was on the field but wore a yellow “no-contact” jersey throughout practice.
One of the more important pieces to the Razorbacks’ 2012 team returned to practice on Monday. Dennis Johnson missed parts of last week including the team’s final scrimmage due to his grandmother’s passing.
Johnson is the team’s backup running back, punt returner, and kickoff returner. In 2010 he was an All-American as a kickoff returner.
Johnson’s importance on the team cannot be under sold especially with the graduation of All-American punt returner Joe Adams.
The Razorbacks practice on Wednesday is a closed practice.