Arkansas receiver Brandon Mitchell will practice with the Razorbacks this week, but coach John L. Smith said his availability for Saturday’s game against Tulsa remains “up in the air” because of an “internal deal.”
Smith and the Razorback remained quiet on the exact reason behind Mitchell’s absence from last Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss. A two-paragraph press release before the game said Mitchell was held out because of a “violation of team rules.”
When asked later if there was an NCAA eligibility issue or compliance question with Mitchell, Smith maintained it was “at this point a violation of team rules.”
He didn’t provide many other details when asked about Mitchell’s status Monday.
“That’s an internal deal,” Smith said. “I don’t have any really news for you at this point. But when I do know more, how long it’s going to be or etc., then I’ll let you know. But right now it’s internal and I’d rather not talk about it. We’ll get it solved.”
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long declined comment when approached during last Saturday’s game. Requests for comment from both Long and senior associate athletic director Jon Fagg, who is in charge of compliance, were turned down Monday. Arkansas associate athletic director Kevin Trainor said in an email he didn’t “anticipate either of those being appropriate on the matter at this point.”
Mitchell’s status emerged the same week Arkansas celebrated an important date in regard to NCAA compliance. The athletic department emerged from its 15-year window of being under an NCAA cloud when its repeat violator status expired.
Long said the program was proud of its work in compliance after its “reputation with the NCAA was not good” before his arrival. He also cautioned the expiration of the repeat violator window didn’t mean the Razorbacks would relax in terms of NCAA compliance, referencing a recent message to chancellor David Gearhart.
“In the message that I shared with the chancellor, we’re proud to have reached this benchmark and have come out of this period, this repeat violator status,” Long said in an interview last week. “But I wanted to assure him our resolve is still here and we’ll continue to work to guard against them. But also share that should we find a major infraction, we will not turn our backs, we will not turn our heads, we will investigate it and carry it through to the full extent of the NCAA rules.”
Arkansas will be without tight end Chris Gragg (leg, knee injury) and running back Knile Davis (hamstring) during Saturday’s game against Tulsa. Both players left the field in the first half of the 30-27 loss to Ole Miss and didn’t return.
It’s the second time Gragg will miss action this season. He was injured during the first half of the Rutgers game and sidelined for three straight games. Gragg returned and caught a 42-yard touchdown pass against Ole Miss, but left in the first half.
“Kind of a re-aggravated, the knee, the leg, and so he’ll be out,” Smith said. “How long? I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see. He won’t be with us this week.”
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson suffered a hip injury during the first half of the Ole Miss loss, but the senior said it won’t slow him in preparation for Tulsa.
“It’s just like every week you go into a game knowing you’re going to battle,” Wilson said Monday. “That’s a part of the game. You can get dinged up a little bit. You’ve got seven days to recover. So, I’m good. I feel good right now.”
Smith said Wilson ran with the team during Sunday’s workout and should be fine.
“It’s just a bruise, slight hip pointer,” Smith said. “It’s bump and bruises, and we all play with bumps and bruises. If you can with them, you play with them, and that’s what he does. He’s a tough guy.”
Early Kick For S.C.
Arkansas will have another early kickoff when it plays at South Carolina on Nov. 10.
The SEC’s television schedule for that week’s games were announced Monday. It was selected by CBS with kickoff set for 11 a.m. CBS will host a doubleheader that day, but the second game has not been set. The network elected to use its six-day option and will choose between Mississippi State-LSU and Texas A&M-Alabama.
It will be the fifth time an Arkansas game has kicked off before noon this season, joining Texas A&M, Auburn, Ole Miss and Saturday’s game against Tulsa.