FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas got some good news on Wednesday when senior left guard Austin Capps returned to practice.
Since only the first four periods are open to the media it’s uncertain how much he actually did, but he was dressed and working some. He suffered an ankle injury in the Portland State game.
Senior defensive end Jamario Bell wasn’t spotted at Wednesday’s practice and it appears he will be replaced by a true freshman. Bell injured his knee in the season opener. If he can’t play that means Arkansas has gone from three senior defensive ends in the opener to one, Gabe Richardson, for this week. Dorian Gerald was lost for the season in the opener.
Chad Morris was asked if he anticipates Mataio Soli will start against Ole Miss?
“I do,” Morris said. “That could happen. Again we’ll see where we are with Jamario. Jamario will not practice today but again he’s kind of day to day right now. I’m sure Soli will get a lot of the reps.”
Soli suffered a fractured hand in the season opener, but is wearing a huge cast on it now. Will he have a smaller one for the game?
“I don’t know that,” Morris said. “I know that it’ll be a padded cast.”
Does starting a true freshman at that position worry you?
“Well I think he’s a player that came in last January and has done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Morris said. “He was definitely a difference-maker in the spring and added some weight and bulk during the summer and has really progressed through the fall camp. So him and Collin Clay and a bunch of those young guys, we anticipate they’ll be able to play.”
Junior linebacker D’Vone McClure was injured in the opener and had thumb surgery on Monday. However he practiced in green on Tuesday.
“He did but he was back – he had it Monday and he actually was back at practice yesterday and he’ll practice today,” Morris said. “He’ll play.”
While Ben Hicks played all the quarterback snaps except for two series against Portland State, Morris pointed out he and Nick Starkel are both getting equal reps.
“No just the way we do our practices we always get our 1s and 2s equal amount of reps for most part,” Morris said. “Not just at quarterback, but running back, linebacker and the way we do our five-minute periods we call racks of plays. They’re both getting substantial reps.”
The quarterback will have an additional target to throw to on Saturday with the return of tight end Cheyenne O’Grady who missed the season opener due knee surgery earlier in fall camp.
“I think we saw what C.J. was capable of doing a year ago,” Morris said. “Pretty much a playmaker at 255 pounds, runs extremely well, very athletic and a guy that can block. He can be a threat in the passing game. Just creates mismatches. We’re excited to have C.J. back and ready to go. He had a really good practice yesterday and anticipate that today.”
Arkansas’ wide receivers and tight ends suffered some dropped passes against the Vikings this past Saturday. Morris was asked if he has seen better execution this week?
“Yesterday we had a really good practice,” Morris said. “The guys were in tune. We’ve had a lot of good execution through fall camp with these guys. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are learning and they will continue to grow and get better everyday. Yesterday was one of those days that they got better. We anticipate that today.”
Morris talked about giving out the Dat Wood Award following Saturday’s game.
“Sosa (Agim) won that award,” Morris said. “It kind of exemplifies not just the player of the game, but it’s someone who gives that extra effort and goes a little bit further and a little bit harder than everyone else in critical situations and maybe creates a big play for us. It was Sosa. It was Sosa on a quarterback scramble, so that’s what that award will be given out each week. You’d like to give it to every phase of the (game) – offense, defense and special teams – but it just went to Sosa this past week.”
Morris said that will be something that is awarded each week. Arkansas will all-white uniforms on Saturday as well.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. in Oxford and televised on the SEC Network.