Cornelius to be ready for Hogs’ season opener
By Nate Allen
It’s not the hamstring that caused senior receiver Jared Cornelius to miss the last week of spring practice but a sore back now plaguing the Razorbacks’ by far leading returning receiver.
As a precautionary measure, Cornelius will be limited the first 10 days of preseason drills, Coach Bret Bielema said Friday before the Razorbacks practiced.
Bielema seems convinced that Cornelius will be ready for the Aug. 31 season opener against Florida A&M in Little Rock.
“It’s a blessing in disguise because it lets us look at the other guys,” Bielema said.
The other guys need extensive evaluations since with 2016 senior receivers Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed and Keon Hatcher graduated, Cornelius has 32 of the 35 catches caught by returning Razorbacks wide receivers.
David Williams, the graduate transfer running back and former South Carolina Gamecock, isn’t immediately ousting sophomore returning leading rusher Devwah Whaley, 75 carries, 602 yards and three touchdowns.
But he is running co-first-team with Whaley during the mandatory two days of practice with no pads that completed Friday.
Bielema explained the pecking order of Whaley, the returning leading rusher upon Rawleigh Williams’ injury induced retirement, and David Williams sharing first-team practice snaps while true freshman Maleek Williams, a December high school graduate who practiced with the Razorbacks last spring, and true freshman Chase Hayden, practicing Thursday for the first time as a Razorback, shared second team snaps.
“What we did was kind of divided the script ones and twos,” Bielema said Thursday. “Because running back we ask him to finish 25 yards each play. We thought it would be good to stay with David and Devwah with the ones. A guy that knows exactly what he's doing and we could control the reps with David. Maleek and Chase. Maleek knew our entire offense from participating in the spring. We wanted to space him in there and Devwah. It's not that David is a one necessarily.”
Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, addressing media after Friday’s practice as did defensive co-captains/defensive backs Kevin Richardson and Santos Ramirez, said the mandatory helmets without pads practices proceeded well.
“Energetic, coachable at this point, which is things that you like as you start off,” Rhoads said. “
“Two days, helmets only I'm certainly pleased with how we've started.”
Being a captain demands leadership but common sense, too.
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Like cornerback/safety/nickel back Richardson, 5-11, 185, being the vocal but not physical captain when sophomore left tackle Colton Jackson of Conway, 6-5, 298, and sophomore defensive end McTelvin “Sosa” Agim, 6-3, 286, “skirmished,” Richardson during Friday’s practice.
“Those guys Sosa and Colton and them, it’s kind of hard with bodies that big,” Richardson said. “But I do what I can to motivate them to stop. I can’t physically do anything. It might require some different language but I do what I can to make them stop.”
Richardson of Jacksonville was asked if he would apply to the NCAA for a sixth year eligibility in 2018 having redshirted as a true freshman walk-on then playing only one-half of one game in 2016 tearing pectoral muscles during Arkansas’ season-opening victory over Louisiana Tech.
“If I got it, I’ll take it,” Richardson said. “That’s a year that passed me by that I would take back if I can. But I’m going to take advantage of what I have right now.”
Ramirez was elected captain as a fourth-year junior, the only underclassman captain since Richardson and offensive captains quarterback Austin Allen and center Frank Ragnow are seniors.
Rhoads said players elected Ramirez, who started last spring second team to 2016 starting free safety Josh Liddell, because of his “consistency.”
“ He earned the No. 1 spot by his level of play, by doing things right and being productive,” Rhoads said. “Everybody saw that. everybody saw a guy that had a great demeanor every day on the practice field. Everybody saw a guy that was chattering on the field, communication-wise and talking to his teammates in the locker room and in the meeting room.”
Rhoads also said that senior Liddell of Pine Bluff Dollarway continues battling for his free safety spot without pouting and additionally backing up Richardson at nickel.
“He’s responded like a senior,” Rhoads said. “Like a young man of high morals and high character, which he is. With Josh's intelligence, we're able to play him at both spots right now. There's not a bat of an eye of how he's reacted any way other than positive. “
While competing for second team berths respectively at safety and linebacker, Reid Miller and Greenwood’s Grant Morgan compete with each other to hold for place-kicks.
The Razorbacks don shoulder pads for practices today and Monday after Sunday’s mandated off day and commence full pads practice on Tuesday.