1. Flowers Speaks Out
Defensive end Trey Flowers said it isn’t in his nature to stand up in front of teammates and deliver a message. The junior admits he typically leaves his talking to the field, letting other veterans handle the speeches.
But Flowers couldn’t help it Tuesday night because something had been on his mind for awhile. He said it even kept him up at night. So he stood in front of the group and got a few things off his chest.
“I was just spreading the message about the winning attitude we’ve got to approach,” Flowers said. “It’s just about not letting anybody take food off our plate. Not letting heat take the food. Not letting being fatigued, being sore. It’s just a dog mentality. Stray dog out there that has to eat. That was pretty much the message. Embracing a winning attitude, having the will to win and refuse to lose.”
Arkansas’ coaches are looking for players to buy into their plans for the program as they work toward the Aug. 31 season opener and the third night of preseason camp made it clear Flowers is on board. The returning starter, who was second on the team with six sacks last season, admittedly stepped out of his comfort zone.
“He just brought us down to earth and got us pretty motivated,” Arkansas linebacker Austin Jones said. “I think that showed (during Wednesday’s) practice.”
When asked what prompted his speech, Flowers shrugged and indicated nothing in particular. He just wanted everyone to know where he stood entering the season.
“I mean, we’ve got a new facility, new coaches,” Flowers said. “We might as well embrace it and let them know about the new attitude.”
Flowers joked that he even asked one of the coaches to find him a microphone so he could address his teammates. But there wasn’t one so he just spoke up.
A few teammates said Tuesday the Huntsville, Ala., native’s message was heard.
“Big Trey just wanted to get everybody on the team to know that we belong in the SEC,” Arkansas linebacker Otha Peters said. “We’re bigger and stronger and we can fight against whoever is against us on that field.
“Trey is a very quiet person. He doesn’t really talk too much and he stays in the shadows. But (Tuesday) night when I saw him talk, I knew it meant a lot to him.”
Flowers will have a big say in making Arkansas successful this season. He and teammate Chris Smith are projected as one of the top returning defensive end tandems in the SEC after combining for 15 1/2 sacks last season.
Flowers said he’s motivated to live up to the expectations as the Arkansas defense tries to bounce back from last season’s disappointment.
He wanted everyone to know it as preseason camp continues.
“I don’t think I ever did that in high school,” Flowers said about his speech. “I’m more of a remind them during the battle we’ve got to make it happen. That’s not my real routine to speak before the season or after practice or nothing like that.
“I just felt like it had to be heard.”
2. Middle Linebacker Wide Open
Defensive coordinator Chris Ash said Braylon Mitchell and Jarrett Lake are comfortably ahead in the race for starting positions at the strongside and weakside linebacker positions, respectively. But it’s a different story at middle linebacker.
“Mike linebacker right now is a position that’s undecided,” Ash said. “They all are, but that’s probably the furthest away. We’ve probably got the most competition at that spot right now to try to determine who is going to be the guy.”
Daunte Carr emerged from the spring penciled into the first-team spot, but Jones said he worked more with the starters during Wednesday’s practice. Jones said everyone vying for the position is getting opportunities this preseason.
“We start off practice and get four to six practice all at once,” Jones said. “That kind of simulates a game series. As practice goes on, we’ll rotate. The first team goes for two plays, then the two’s come in for two plays, and then the three’s come in.”
3. Peters Healthy
A hip injury slowed linebacker Otha Peters throughout the spring, leaving the sophomore with the second-team on two-deep depth chart when it was released.
But Peters said he’s 100 percent for preseason camp and wants to make an impression on the coaching staff after a disappointing spring.
“It was very difficult being banged up with my hip and everything,” Peters said. “It was kind of hard to catch on and everything. …
“The coaches know what I can do from last year’s tape. They knew I was injured. So I was just out there doing what I do to get better and get this defense better.”
4. Slow Process
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said before preseason camp began newcomers Brooks Ellis and Martrell Spaight could factor into the depth chart immediately at linebacker. Ash indicated Spaight — a junior college transfer who is from Little Rock — has a long way to go after three practices.
“He’s a junior college kid who is on campus here running the defense for three days,” Ash said. “It’s hard to make an evaluation on him after three days when he’s just struggling how to line up. He’s struggling just to tie his shoes right right now, you know? That’s part of the process, especially with those junior college kids.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau