The Hogs are relieved to get back sophomore middle linebacker Otha Peters into the punch for Southern Miss Saturday. Peters will see very minimal playing time with a cast still on his broken arm, but will give the linebackers an added bonus to a much more youthful position group. Peters suffered the injury in early fall camp and it was suppose to have him out 6-8 weeks, with the Rutgers game being the earliest date back for him. Peters is nowhere close to appearing against a very speedy uptempo offense this week, so Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash will give him just a few snaps to integrate him back into the scheme of things and he should play a little on special teams during the game as well.
The Hogs get back two defensive starters, but will probably sit out another one again this week. Outside linebacker Jarrett Lake and defensive end Trey Flowers will be active, and safety Rohan Gaines is considered doubtful, according to Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema.
Redshirt junior Braylon Mitchell switched from his Sam position to Will backer last week because of Lake’s suspension for disciplinary reasons. Junior college transfer Martrell Spaight has entered the discussion as a possible starting linebacker after starting last weekend, collecting seven tackles against Samford. Arkansas’ strong depth at linebacker this season should give the Razorbacks a very stout group in 2014. The addition of Peters might have pushed the envelope for freshman Brooks Ellis to redshirt this season after he hasn’t appeared in a game through two contests.
Peters and fellow sophomore linebacker A.J. Turner were thrust into duty in the most competitive part of Arkansas’ schedule as freshmen in 2012. Turner’s broken wrist will make him redshirt this season, Arkansas lost linebackers Tenarius “Tank” Wright and Alonzo Highsmith for a huge part of their senior years in 2012. Peters was deemed an All-SEC Freshman after eight tackles in the South Carolina and Mississippi State games.
Flowers, missed last week with a knee sprain sustained in week one, but Gaines hurt one of his knees against Louisiana a little bit worse. Alan Turner will start again for Gaines at strong safety in his fourth-career start. As a side note, Turner lost his father, Paul, last Friday due to a long fight with cancer and still started the next night for Arkansas.
Senior tight end Austin Tate practiced this week, but won’t play Saturday, it’s inevitable that the redshirt senior will be back for the Rutgers game. Tate had surgery to repair his right shoulder for a second time last month. The Hogs started their first game against Louisiana-Lafayette with no career starts at the tight end position. Meanwhile, second-team receiver Keon Hatcher was left out of last week’s game at Little Rock with a hamstring injury. Bielema said Thursday that Hatcher will give it a go in warm ups and his status is a game-time decision come Saturday.
An injury-riddled 2012 season cost this Arkansas program quite a few games; hopefully now with integral parts back healthy, all that hurts this team is its five-game roller coaster starting next week.