FAYETTEVILLE – Senior tight end A.J. Derby has undergone recent surgery but could still play in a bowl game, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Wednesday on an Arkansas media teleconference while he was on the road recruiting.
Bielema also said sophomore running back Korliss Marshall, junior defensive tackle Grady Ollison and junior cornerback Will Hines are leaving the UA at semester, and the Hogs will commence bowl practices Sunday.
The Razorbacks, finishing a bowl eligible 6-6, will learn their bowl assignment, filtered down once the top four teams playing for the national championship in Division I’s first playoff are established after Saturday’s SEC, ACC, Pac 12 and Big Ten championship games.
Derby (22 catches for 303 yards) did not travel to Columbia, Mo., for Arkansas’ SEC 21-14 SEC loss last Friday at Missouri and had a medical procedure performed on his knee, Bielema confirmed.
“He had a pretty routine, very minimal surgery … some stuff taken out,” Bielema said. “He’s going to hopefully be back with us here in the next two weeks to be a part of what we’re doing. But with AJ and his future too, I’m not going to push that thing at all. So if it’s something that it doesn’t look like he’s going to be there, we’ll definitely take our time with it.”
Derby’s one year at tight end, moving from quarterback, has netted NFL scouts’ attention and landed him an invite to the East-West Shrine game Jan. 17 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and, Bielema said, has him on the waiting list for the Senior Bowl Jan. 24 in Mobile, Ala., the most prestigious of the senior postseason all-star games.
The Senior Bowl has invited Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers and linebacker Martrell Spaight.
Suspended multiple times this season, including a season-ending suspension, sophomore running back Marshall of Osceola will take his breakaway speed elsewhere, while Ollison, a fourth-year junior and former starting offensive guard from Malvern, and Hines, a junior former starting cornerback, but ordained by Bielema to redshirt in 2014 before the season began, are transferring as well and won’t participate in the bowl practices.
“I am having discussions with them and schools that might have interest in them as well,” Bielema said. “I love those kids. I want to see them have success and have the best possible scenario they can for their future. The NCAA rules allow them to have five more visits.”
Bielema was asked Wednesday about junior running back Jonathan Williams closing his touchdown run against Missouri appearing to have the hands-up, please-don’t-shoot pose that some St. Louis Rams took during in their NFL victory Sunday over the Oakland Raiders as symbolic protest of the shooting that triggered recent rioting in Ferguson, Mo.
Williams’ brief, hands-up had gone unnoticed by Bielema and the coaching staff, Bielema said, and was unnoticed by media covering the game, but was detected and commented upon by some media and bloggers watching the game on TV.
“I spoke to Jonathan about it,” Bielema said. “That was an individual act. I think the big thing with our program, we’re not looking for individuals. We’re looking for team members. I know Jonathan (an Allen, Texas, native but recruited by Missouri before signing in February 2012 with the Bobby Petrino-coached Razorbacks) has a lot of history with Missouri, obviously being recruited there and flipping his decision to come here.
“There was more of that, I think of that being drawn into it than anything else. But when you’re on the football field and you do anything more than celebrate with your teammates, it’s never a good thing. So, we’ll take this opportunity and move forward.”
Bielema was asked if he felt Williams understood his coach’s point.
“Absolutely,” Bielema said. “I think Jonathan felt great remorse. I knew he was going to get Twitter reaction and stuff like that, but to us it’s one moment and we’ve dealt with it and moved ourselves forward. The whole team will learn from the experience.”
While he and his coaches recruit, Bielema said the Razorbacks have three conditioning workouts scheduled this week before starting bowl practices that will include developmental scrimmage time for the redshirts and currently seldom-used reserves that Bielema might be looking to contribute significantly in 2015.
As for 2014 seniors increasing their NFL prospects in all-star games postseason, Bielema said offensive tackles Brey Cook and Cameron Jefferson, receiver Demetrius Wilson and defensive back Tevin Mitchel have been invited to play in the Medal of Honor game, Jan. 10 in Charleston, S.C.