Now is not the time for Arkansas to receive any more bad news. Star defensive tackle Robert Thomas will miss the remainder of the season and likely his career after undergoing surgery on Sunday.
Robbie Neiswanger of the Arkansas News Bureau confirmed the injury:
Bielema said DT Robert Thomas did have surgery on Sunday evening. It's a 3 to 4 month recovery. So he is done playing football at Arkansas.— Robbie Neiswanger (@NWARobbie) October 14, 2013
"I know he’s going over for surgery now. So we won’t have him for a long time," Bielema said. "I’ll get the specifics of that and try to get that out as soon as possible. But too bad there, he’s a great kid. He’s been truly one of the biggest blessings for me as a head coach to have, to lean on him. He’s obviously a good player, but a really, really good leader. It sucks for him."
Arkansas has now lost four straight after beginning the season with three consecutive wins.
Can Arkansas continue to have success sacking the QB without Thomas?
To make matters worse, Thomas was one of the most effective players for the Razorbacks. The senior defensive tackle was having his best season yet; he is sixth on the team with 31 tackles.
However, he's a lot more than a run-stuffer and tackling machine. His six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks indicate that Thomas also does a nice job making plays in the backfield.
The Razorbacks' aggressive defense that leads the SEC with 20 sacks was one of the things they had going for them heading into the heart of the conference schedule.
Now, they'll have to move on without the senior leader in the middle of the line.
Sophomore DeMarcus Hodge will likely replace Thomas for the remainder of the season. He played in three games last year and has seen action in four this year. In limited action, he has eight tackles and one tackle for loss. However, he isn't nearly as dominant as Thomas, as Hodge is on the shorter side at 6'1" and isn't as athletic.
While this news isn't what anybody wanted to hear, the team must put it behind them with a trip to Alabama on deck.