Arkansas looks to keep pressure off QB Wilson

Arkansas looks to keep pressure off QB Wilson

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) At times this season, Tyler Wilson has looked anything but comfortable in the pocket.

The Arkansas quarterback admitted as much following a win over Tulsa last week, a game in which Wilson endured a series of crushing hits from the Golden Hurricane defense. Some were to his chest, others at his legs and hip - leaving Wilson limping several times afterward and his head shaking.

Defenses have declared open season this year on Wilson, who has grown accustomed to taking shots during his second year as the starter. They've been the product of a patchwork offensive line and an injury-riddled offensive unit that's learned pass protection through on-the-job training.

It's a test that becomes even more difficult this weekend when the Razorbacks (4-5, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) travel to face a South Carolina team that leads the SEC in sacks. Led by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 12 Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2) have 30 sacks this season - a fact Arkansas interim coach John L. Smith is well aware of.

``We have to protect him,'' Smith said. ``And he has to do a better job, or I'll have to do a better job of getting him protected.

``These guys this week, it's not like they're a blitz-a-mania team, but they're awful good up front. They can get after you. We have to really stress making sure that we get those guys blocked.''

Enduring a season's worth of punishment is nothing new for Wilson, whose first season as a starter last year was marred by a number of big hits. The senior missed the second half of a game last season with concussion-like symptoms, and he missed a game and a half earlier this season with a concussion.

Against Tulsa, Wilson once again absorbed more than his fair share of punishment when he took a helmet to the chest from Tulsa defensive end Jared St. John and was driven backward into the ground.

And that was just the first play of the game.

Wilson slowly stood up from the hit, which resulted in a 19-yard completion to Cobi Hamilton, and led the Razorbacks to a 19-15 win by throwing for 272 yards on 21-of-31 passing. It was the first of several clean hits suffered by Wilson throughout the game - leaving fans in Razorback Stadium gasping after each one.

``Through my entire career here there's been a number of times where I've taken some licks,'' Wilson said. ``That's the way it's going to be. I know that.''

The senior, last season's first-team All-SEC quarterback, leads the conference this season with an average of 315.8 yards passing - but the hits have taken their toll. He threw a wobbly interception against Tulsa in the first half after not setting his feet before a throw, and he's already thrown more interceptions this season (8) than he did all of last year (6).

``I've got to have faith in my guys and stand up there and battle with them, fight them,'' Wilson said. ``I've got to stand in and do my job.

``A lot of what I do is not worrying about what they're doing up front. I've got to have faith and trust that my guys are going to battle. I know they will, because we have pride. That's the way I look at it, and I'm going to find a way to get it in my guys' hands.''

Wilson could have a difficult time standing his ground Saturday against South Carolina, which had a season-high eight sacks in a win over Kentucky on Sept. 29. Clowney leads the Gamecocks with 8.5 sacks, but 11 others have also joined in the sack parade.

The Gamecocks struggled to stop the pass in their last game, a 38-35 win over Tennessee two weeks ago. They allowed 381 yards passing and had just one sack, and coach Steve Spurrier expects a similar test from Wilson and the Razorbacks.

``We obviously have worked on it for a couple of weeks now, and we'll find out if we've made any progress,'' Spurrier said. ``Because Arkansas, they're the best passing team in the conference right now.''

Smith said the breakdowns in the Razorbacks' offensive line have been both mental and physical, but ``the mental ones are the ones we can't live with.'' Arkansas has started two former walk-ons, David Hurd and Tyler Deacon, on the line throughout the season, but guard Alvin Bailey isn't accepting any excuses.

The Razorbacks allowed only one sack last week against Tulsa, which entered the game leading the country in the category, but it was the other hits that left Arkansas concerned.

``Whether it's a sack, a late hit or just a hurry, we want to keep people off our quarterback,'' Bailey said. ``One sack is too many, but having six or seven hits on (Wilson), we have to eliminate those.''

AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.

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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.


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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

Bradley Beal, his agent Mark Bartlestein told Bleacher Report, would like to stay in Washington - even as he's a hot topic among front offices as the trade deadline approaches.

From Bleacher Report:

His agent, Mark Bartelstein, is not looking for a trade. "Brad wants to win, Bartelstein told B/R. "He wants to win at the highest level, and he wants to compete for championships. I think he's seeing progress, and he's going to do everything he can to lead this team. They got themselves into a huge hole, and he's going to do his best to get them out of it.

The Wizards are facing tough decisions when it comes to the future of the franchise as this season's trade deadline approaches. Beal, as NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig detailed this week, is among the most tradable assets they have, especially when it comes to their three major contracts. But owner Ted Leonsis took a firm stance against tanking while speaking to reporters in London, and Beal is integral to their playoff hopes with John Wall sidelined. 

This isn't the first time this season that Beal has denied wanting to be anywhere but DC. When drama swirled around the team earlier this season, Beal denied a report that he had requested a trade.

"That's nonsense," he said at the time. "I heard it earlier before the game and I was like, 'If it didn't come from the horse's mouth, it wasn't me.' I got this Washington jersey on and I come here and work everyday, you know, until otherwise. This is where I wanna be."

Earlier this season, it was reported that the Raptors were interested in Beal but couldn't afford what the Wizards were asking for him. According to the latest report on Beal from Bleacher Report, there are a number of teams who may still be interested. 

Again, from Bleacher Report:

There are so many teams in the mix trying to make that extra push that want Beal," a Western Conference executive told B/R.

But even if some fans are clamoring for a big trade at the deadline, the price tag for Beal - who had 26 points in the Wizards' comeback win over the Knicks this week - only seems to be rising.