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Greenlaw making steady progress

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By Nate Allen

Special to the News-Times

FAYETTEVILLE - You can tell how Dre Greenlaw is recovering from past injuries by looking at his coach.

Vernon Hargreaves coaches the Arkansas' inside linebackers. They include Greenlaw, a junior who is a two-year starting weakside Will ‘backer.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and Hargreaves have said that this week is the most extensive Greenlaw has practiced since he broke his foot during last December’s Belk Bowl after breaking it the first time during last season’s Alabama game. Greenlaw missed the next five games before the bowl game.

“You see me smile?" Hargreaves said, smiling. “He's showing me what he can do. He's that guy at that position that can run and go make tackles. I feel really good about him.”

It’s still not announced if Greenlaw will scrimmage Saturday, but Bielema and Hargreaves seem increasingly optimistic that Greenlaw will play in the Aug. 31 season-opener against Florida A&M in Little Rock, and certainly by their Sept. 9 game in Fayetteville against TCU, Arkansas’ most highly regarded non-conference opponent for 2017.

With Greenlaw, who also injured a thigh during the early portion of preseason drills that began July 27 mostly limited until this week, walk-on sophomore Grant Morgan of Greenwood has practiced plenty at first-team weakside linebacker.

Morgan also practiced at first-team middle Mike linebacker since sophomore De’Jon “Scoota” Harris was injured during last Saturday’s scrimmage.

Even if Greenlaw and Harris both scrimmage, Morgan should get plenty of time in Saturday’s second scrimmage of the preseason after eight tackles, including three for lost yardage, in last Saturday’s scrimmage.

Redshirt freshman reserve weakside linebacker Giovanni La France also made eight tackles, including three behind the line, last Saturday.

“Obviously Grant Morgan has done an outstanding job,” Hargreaves said. “I like where he is. Some guys have a really good knack. The difference between a guy like and Gio (La France) and Grant is that Grant is a little more consistent than Gio is.”

Hargreaves did say La France progresses and he also touted redshirt freshman Dee Walker.

“Dee and Gio have stepped up,” Hargreaves said. “Dee is doing a really nice job.”

Josh Harris, the junior starting special-teamer and reserve sophomore reserve middle linebacker, will miss “extensive” time with an injury during last weekend, Bielema said Thursday and Hargreaves confirmed.

“He's gonna be out a little while,” Hargreaves said. “He's on the road to trying to get back here (actively practicing) as soon as possible."

Harris, a walk-on who lettered last season figured in eight tackles on special teams while causing a Mississippi State fumble recovered by Arkansas during the Razorbacks’ SEC triumph over the Rebels.

On offense, it seems that sophomore Devwah Whaley had been tabbed as Arkansas’ No. 1 running back since Rawleigh Williams, a 1,360-yard rusher last season, suffered a career-ending neck injury last spring.

Whaley still assertively looks No. 1, but David Williams, the graduate student transfer from the University of South Carolina, and true freshman Aaron Hayden, are giving Whaley a little run for first-team status that obviously got his attention.

“I think the applied pressure of David Williams and Chase and Maleek (Williams, also a true freshman) has made him realize, 'Hey, I'm not the man all by myself. If I want carries, I've got to earn them,'" Bielema said.

"So he's been really, really good and has been locked in. Been phenomenal since fall camp started.”

All the running backs help each other, Bielema and running backs coach Reggie Mitchell say, in part because they need each other to share and weather the season’s physical grind.

Place-kicker Cole Hedlund isn’t kicking again just to prove he’s over a nagging groin injury, but because freshman walk-on Blake Mazza, 5-for-5 on medium range field goals last Saturday, challenges for the place-kicking role.

“Blake Mazza has had a nice camp,” Bielema said. “So I'd say him and Cole are battling it out for the field goal job. Mazza’s consistency day to day has been very good. And then Connor Limpert (the kickoff man incumbent) and Mazza are battling it out for the kickoff job.”

Arkansas’ Thursday closed to the media practice and today’s closed practice were set to be lighter than Wednesday’s hard practice as Bielema and his offensive and defensive staffs say they want their players fresh for evaluation in Saturday’s scrimmage.

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