1. Wilson’s Return: Arkansas wide receiver Demetrius Wilson waited a long time to get back on the field after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last preseason.

1. Wilson’s Return: Arkansas wide receiver Demetrius Wilson waited a long time to get back on the field after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last preseason.


So the senior made the most of the season opener at Auburn last Saturday.


Wilson earned his first playing time since Nov. 2012 and caught four passes for 55 yards in Arkansas’ 45-21 loss. It wasn’t a perfect debut – Wilson lamented one third-down drop – but it was a successful end to his months of rehabilitation.


"It was amazing just to be able to play with my brothers again," Wilson said.


Wilson was expected to be one of Arkansas’ best receivers last season, but it changed the last day of two-a-day practices. He was running a post route, got pushed from behind and heard his knee pop. Wilson was done for the season.


To make matters worse, he watched Arkansas go 3-9 and lose nine straight.


"It was real tough because I couldn’t throw those pads on and be out there," Wilson said. "The only thing I could do was stand on the sideline and scream and try to help my team the best way I could. Even if I was on the scout team, that would have been amazing to me, just to be able to have the opportunity to help make the team just a little bit better each day. It was tough just watching."


But Wilson — who caught 9 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in 2011 — was back in a starting role last week. Three of his catches resulted in first downs on Arkansas’ two second-quarter touchdown drives. It included a 14-yard reception on a third-and-6 play that kept the game-tying drive alive.


His catches, yardage and longest reception (26 yards) were all career highs.


Arkansas receivers coach Michael Smith said Wilson was a little rusty Saturday, but hasn’t shown any hesitation since returning from the injury. So the Razorbacks are hoping he’ll continue to grow as they try to establish dependable receivers.


"I would like to see Demetrius go out and catch five or six balls a game and score a couple touchdowns every week and continue to make progress and give himself an opportunity to further his career," Smith said. "I know that’s something he wants."


Wilson said his goal, for now, is to build off his return to the field.


"Being back is just a blessing and you’ve got to take advantage of it," Wilson said.


2. Tackle, Then Strip: The Razorbacks emphasized on forcing turnovers during preseason practice. But after the 45-21 loss at Auburn, Arkansas’ coaches believe there were several instances when stripping the ball came before a player had been wrapped up.


It helped Auburn shed a handful of tackles during the win. So the Razorbacks have spent the week trying to stress to players the importance of making sure an opponent isn’t going anywhere before others swarm to try and rip the ball out.


"As the game went on, I think our guys tried to do a little bit more than what we asked of them," defensive coordinator Robb Smith said. "They played with great effort. They were trying to get the ball out. The first thing we’ve got to do is make sure the first guy secures the tackle. After that the second guy can go for the strip."


It did work once. Defensive end Tevin Beanum was able to pop the ball out of running back Cameron Artis-Payne’s hands in the third quarter. Linebacker Martrell Spaight recover the fumble, but Arkansas’ offense couldn’t turn it into points.


"I saw him wrapped up and I saw an opportunity so I just went for it," Beanum said.


3. Secondary Concerns: Arkansas’ defensive backfield could be missing another player Saturday.


Robb Smith said safety De’Andre Coley suffered a lower leg injury last week and is questionable for the Nicholls State game. He joins a growing list of defensive backs — Tevin Mitchel (hamstring), Sleepy McKinney (heel), Will Hines (redshirting) — who aren’t expected to play against the Colonels.


"Hoping to get him back soon," Smith said. "He’s a guy who certainly could help us and would love to get him back in the fold."


Coley’s injury will leave Arkansas leaning on safeties Alan Turner, Rohan Gaines and Josh Liddell for most of the game. Arkansas is expected to have Jared Collins, Carroll Washington, Henre’ Toliver, D.J. Dean and Cornelius Floyd available at cornerback.


4. Extra Points


• Robb Smith said his freshmen linebackers — Dwayne Eugene, Randy Ramsey and Khalia Hackett — spent time with the first- and second-team units during practice this week. He’s expecting all three to play against Nicholls State.


• Dean didn’t earn any snaps with the defense at Auburn. But position coach Clay Jennings said that will change against Nicholls State. "After watching him the first couple of days this week, we’ve got to be able to get him in the mix a lot more," Jennings said. "He had that look in his eye that he was ready to go out there and play. We’ve got to get involved a heck of a lot more."


• Arkansas’ wide receivers dropped a few costly passes at Auburn, but Michael Smith said there was another area they showed impressive growth: blocking. In fact, Smith said it was a "night and day" improvement: "I just think these guys had a different mentality Saturday. They wanted to go out and play physical football, and they did. Now it’s my job to keep them going. It can’t just be a one-game thing."


• Former Arkansas receiver Jerry Lamb will be the honorary captain for Saturday’s game. Lamb played at Arkansas from 1992-64 and was a member of the national championship team. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and the University of Arkansas’ Sports Hall of Honor in 2005.


— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau