FAYETTEVILLE — A welcome break from rumors and repercussions, the Arkansas Red-White Game is occasion for a Razorbacks football column about Razorbacks football players.
The only reference to the Arkansas coaching search is that some sort of announcement is expected soon. The only mention of athletic directors Jeff Long is that his decision will be in the best interest of the football program, both immediately and down the line.
Off-field housekeeping complete, the talent gap between the first unit and second unit Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium was wider than anticipated. It was so apparent that it was a disappointment when the Red team had to punt once in the first half.
The only intrigue occurred on the first play of the game when running back Knile Davis, who has not been hit this spring, lined up to the left of quarterback Tyler Wilson. Davis ran an ignored pass route up the left sideline, then turned right and headed to the bench for the rest of the game.
When Ronnie Wingo scored from the 1 late in the first half, I had to check the scoreboard to confirm that the Red was in front 37-0. By that time, some of the record crowd of 45,250 had departed and the ones who were zeroed in on every snap were either coaches, or friends and family of the athletes.
It was pure entertainment, about on par with what will happen in the Sept. 1 season opener against Jacksonville State. The no-sweat nature of the game influenced some decisions, including the Red team going for fourth-and-11 from near midfield, throwing from its own 11 with 24 seconds to play, and calling time with five seconds left after Wilson to Marquel Wade was good for 48 yards.
Despite the advice to ignore Wilson and concentrate on others, the Red quarterback overshadowed the rest and he did it so easily that I was surprised when the first-quarter statistics were delivered. He was 13 of 16 for 182 yards. Even against air, those numbers are impressive.
During the proceedings, wide receivers Cobi Hamilton and Wade, plus tight end Chris Gragg, demonstrated enough speed and awareness to announce they will be solid targets in the fall. I’m not saying they will make fans forget Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs, only that they have some obvious skills.
Judging them against the White team secondary is unfair. Mismatches occurred up and down the line of scrimmage.
Senior Tenarius Wright didn‚Äôt have many chances at middle linebacker because the White team running backs were often overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage. The Red defensive backs were not challenged often because White team quarterbacks Brandon Mitchell and Brandon Allen were under pressure and the four or five threats at receiver were on the Red team.
Early on, Wilson threw short, often to a crossing receiver. He tried deep for Hamilton on the Reds’ first possession and the ball seemed to have more zip and less trajectory than some of the long balls he attempted in 2011.
Wilson and Gragg did hook up on a 60-yard TD pass, but Gragg was wide open and the ball only traveled 20-something yards. Wilson’s best throw, a combination of touch and zip, was to Wade for 34 yards.
Wilson did overthrow Julian Horton in the end zone in the second quarter and put too much zip on a short one to Gragg at the back of the end zone.
With the clock running nonstop, Mitchell and Allen replaced Wilson on the Red team for the final 20 minutes. By then, everybody had seen enough of Wilson.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media‚Äôs Arkansas News Bureau. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.