2012 College Football: Razorbacks’ Smith Narrows Down Redshirt List


Fayetteville, Ark. – Thursday evening Arkansas Razorback head coach John L. Smith addressed the media about all things Hogs including which members of their 2012 recruiting class may play come Sept. 1 and beyond.

Throughout fall practice much has been made about the progression of several incoming freshmen including wide receiver Mekale McKay, running back Jonathan Williams, and linebackers Otha Peters and A.J. Turner.

Peters and Turner have received extra attention during fall practices due to the thin numbers already existing for the Razorbacks at linebacker plus the absence due to injury of projected starters Tank Wright and Alonzo Highsmith. Both players have responded well and are in line for game time during the season.

McKay came up big in Saturday’s scrimmage catching two passes for 76 yards with a touchdown. He has been lauded for his blocking on the edge in the running game as well. With his size, 6’6”, and speed, reported 4.4 forty-yard dash, McKay maybe too physically imposing to have on the sidelines during 2012.

With Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson, Arkansas’ top two running backs, missing Saturday’s scrimmage Jonathan Williams took the opportunity by the proverbial tusks. He rushed for 116 yards on 18 carries with one rushing touchdown and caught one pass for a 16-yard score.

Williams’ future with the Razorbacks appears bright with three running backs expected to depart at the end of 2012- Davis (early entry NFL), Johnson (graduation), and Ronnie Wingo (graduation). A year of playing time as a freshman in a limited capacity should pay dividends next season for Arkansas when the cupboard is bare.

During Thursday’s press conference few were surprised to hear Smith rattle off the names of Peters, Turner, McKay, and Williams as potential players this season. Among the others mentioned were:

RB Nathan Holmes

WR Keon Hatcher

TE Demetrius Dean

DE JaMichael Winston

DE Deatrich Wise

DE Brandon Lewis

FS Will Hines

Fall Camp Player Breakdown

Holmes has been used on special teams especially as a backup punt returner. Expect to see him on the field all year if he proves he can handle kicks in live action early. If not he could be redshirted after Arkansas’ game against Alabama.

Hatcher has been one of the best pass receivers in fall practices. His hands and steadiness in traffic could push him on the field if other upperclassmen drop too many passes early.

Dean too has soft hands and appears to be the next in line of a run of tremendous passing catching tight ends at Arkansas. The Razorbacks are deep at tight end with Austin Tate and Chris Gragg. Dean may only see action if an injury happens ahead of him.

Two of the three defensive ends mentioned more than likely will not redshirt. Which two play and which one stays is still up in the air. The Arkansas coaching staff has raved about the physical presence and mental approach each has given in two-a-day sessions.

Defensive end is another deep position on Arkansas’ roster. Last season both starting ends (Jake Bequette and Tank Wright) missed game time due to injuries. Having two additional players ready is a luxury defensive coordinator Paul Haynes has going into the season.

Safety Will Hines might be pushed into playing earlier than really ready to do. At 6’1”, 175 pounds, he is not physically ready to play week after week in the SEC. His football instincts and nose for the ball coupled with the Razorbacks thin depth at safety could put him as Arkansas’ last line of defense in big upcoming games. That’s a lot of pressure for an undersized true freshman at the safety position.

Smith was not certain if each incoming freshman would play immediately or if each would travel with the team as a precautionary measure in case of injury. Regardless all players mentioned will receive extra attention throughout the season, be exposed to the culture of the team on the road and in the locker room on game day, and learn what it takes to compete week in and week out in the SEC come 2013. This exposure will be invaluable for the future success of the program.

Smith did not expound upon his two junior college transfers in defensive end Austin Flynn and Demetrius Wilson during his press conference. Speculation is each will be counted on this season.

Flynn has been steady in camp coming up with a sack in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Wilson got early looks at punt returner but lost his position to Dennis Johnson and Nathan Holmes. His play at wide receiver has been up and down, as expected with new comers learning a new offense.

During last week’s scrimmage Wilson had his best day of camp catching five passes for 56 yards.

Tight end Jeremy Sprinkle is looking at a medical redshirt after injuring his hand/wrist at the start of fall camp. He is not expected to play this season.

Linebacker Vin Ascolese has not been cleared by the NCAA to participate to date. If Ascolese is cleared and comes to Arkansas he will be a gray-shirt enrollee for the spring semester.

Of the 25 players Arkansas signed a possible total of 13 could play during the 2012 season. Of the 13 listed five could be counted on a regular basis to start the season- Flynn, McKay, Holmes, Turner, and Peters. The numbers even out fairly well in the Razorback coaching staff’s favor as most teams would rather redshirt their incoming players if possible.

The future of this class looks very bright. There will be a lot of high expectations for this recruiting class over the next four years.

Arkansas Razorback Recruits 2012

OG Cordale Boyd, 3-star, 6’3”, 290 pounds, Memphis, TN

OG Jeremy Ward, 3-star, 6’4”, 275 pounds, Pottsville, AR

WR D’Arthur Cowan, 3-star, 6’1’, 175 pounds, Olive Branch, MS

WR Keon Hatcher, 4-star, 6’1”, 195 pounds, Owasso, OK

WR Eric Hawkins, 3-star, 6’5”, 220, Longview, TX

WR #Demetrius Wilson, 3-star, 6’2”, 170 pounds, Glendale, AZ

WR Mekale McKay, 3-star, 6’6”, 192 pounds, Louisville, KY

RB Nathan Holmes, 3-star, 6’1”, 180 pounds, Port Arthur, TX

RB Donovan Roberts, 3-star, 6’0”, 200 pounds, Norman, OK

RB Jonathan Williams, 4-star, 5’11”, 205 pounds, Allen, TX

TE/DE Jeremy Sprinkle, 3-star, 6’6”, 215, White Hall, AR

TE *Demetrius Dean, 3-star, 6’3”, 250 pounds, Fayetteville, AR

CB Ray Buchanan Jr., 3-star, 5’10”, 170 pounds, Suwanee, GA

CB Jared Collins, 3-star, 5’11”, 170 pounds, Tulsa, OK

FS Will Hines, 3-star, 6’1”, 175 pounds, Waco, TX

SS Defonta Lowe, 3-star, 6’2”, 180 pounds, Bearden, AR

LB A.J. Turner, 3-star, 6’3”, 200 pounds, Lepanto, AR

LB Vin Ascolese, 3-star, 6’2”, 215 pounds, New Bergen, NJ

LB Otha Peters, 4-star, 6’1”, 220 pounds, Covington, LA

DE Brandon Lewis, 3-star, 6’5”, 220 pounds, Memphis, TN

DE JaMichael Winston, 3-star, 6’6”, 230 pounds, Prichard, AL

DE Darius Philon, 3-star, 6’1”, 282 pounds, Prichard, AL

DE Deatrich Wise Jr., 4-star, 6’5”, 220 pounds, Carrolton, TX

DE Taiwan Johnson, 3-star, 6’3”, 240 pounds, Manvel, TX

DE *#Austin Flynn, 3-star, 6’4”, 250 pounds, Los Angeles Harbor CC

*Early enrollee at University of Arkansas

# Denotes junior college player

Position by position breakdown of Arkansas 2012 verbal commitments:

Offensive line: two

Running backs: three

Wide receivers: five

Quarterbacks: none

Tight ends: two

Defensive line: six

Linebackers: three

Safeties: two

Cornerbacks: two

Kickers: none