FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Game week has arrived for the Arkansas football team.
It is a bit different, though. With the Razorbacks kicking off Thursday night instead of the usual Saturday, everything has been moved up a bit. For example, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema held his game-week press conference on Friday instead of the usual Monday.
Later that day, Arkansas released its first depth chart in months, and there were few surprises on it. The players expected to start were listed as starters. About the only surprise — and it was but a modest surprise — was Dwayne Eugene winning one of the outside linebacker spots over Karl Roesler.
Bielema and defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads praised Eugene’s ability on Friday. Even when Eugene was playing regular snaps last year, those type of compliments didn’t come.
“I think it’s exciting what he’s doing at outside linebacker. He’s more natural outside than inside,” Rhoads said.
The depth chart also, unsurprisingly, included lots of “OR” marks. Even at back-up quarterback, where Bielema said redshirt freshman Cole Kelley had been named the No. 2, the spot was marked Kelley “OR” sophomore Ty Storey. Storey served as backup to starter Austin Allen last year.
Some of the “ORs” are ceremonial. At best, they’re temporary, lingering spots simply because this week’s opponent, Florida A&M, doesn’t pose much of a challenge. Almost no one believes transfer David Williams will be a first-teamer for most of the year alongside Devwah Whaley at running back. Williams, or freshmen Chase Hayden and Maleek Williams, could, however, get more carries than Whaley if the Razorbacks build a large lead against the FCS Rattlers.
Likewise, such a discrepancy in the score would mean Arkansas is playing many reserves on both sides of the ball more than usual, largely rendering the depth chart moot.
The same can be said for Jared Cornelius at wide receiver. He has 73 of the team’s career 76 catches at wide receiver. Cornelius is a clear-cut No. 1. A back injury kept him out of a lot of fall, though. It’s unlikely, unless his back is completely recovered, that he will get much time against Florida A&M. It’s likely Arkansas errs on the side of caution with Cornelius. Accordingly, La’Michael Pettway has the “OR” next to Cornelius.
Throw in the fact that Bielema is taking more players than usual for a travel game, and starters will likely see fewer snaps. They’ll also likely be pulled at various points, sometimes shaking up what the average viewer has in mind for what a particular unit may look like.
Whatever happens, count on the depth chart for the Week 2 game against Texas Christian in Fayetteville to hold a bit more sway. Don’t discount this week’s, though. It isn’t unheard of for coaches to use such things as motivators.
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