Hurt knee sidelines RB/WR
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas Razorbacks sophomore receiver T.J. Hammonds suffered a knee injury Tuesday and is expected to miss the rest of training camp, a source with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday.
Hammonds, who has been running with the first team at slot receiver and doing spot duty in the tailback rotation, suffered an injury similar to the torn meniscus he had last summer that required surgery. He is expected to miss about four weeks, the source said.
That time frame could have Hammonds back close to the season opener against Florida A&M on Aug. 31.
A 5-10, 195-pounder from Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, Hammonds was off to a good start in camp, according to offensive coordinator Dan Enos and position coaches Michael Smith and Reggie Mitchell.
“T.J.’s done some really good things,” Smith said Tuesday prior to practice. “You know we’re using him at both positions, but he’s mostly with me and he’s doing some really, really good things.”
Hammonds earned spot duty as a true freshman in 2016, with 15 carries for 88 yards and 1 touchdown behind Rawleigh Williams, Devwah Whaley and Kody Walker in the tailback rotation. He moved to receiver in the spring, but Williams’ retirement from football with a neck injury got him back in the tailback conversation.
Sophomore linebacker Gabe Richardson had fun in his first meeting with the media Wednesday evening.
Richardson, a transfer who played in a 3-4 defensive scheme at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, sounded confident he could help quickly this season.
“Immediately, immediately,” Richardson said when asked how soon he could contribute to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
“I’m coming with my hat. I’m bringing it. All year long.”
Richardson drew laughs from reporters when he talked about the outside linebacker position group eating out Tuesday with position coach Chad Walker at Shogun. Richardson noted that Walker was keeping a close eye on what the players ate.
“But I said, ‘Coach, I’m going to chow down today,’” Richardson said. “If we’re going to eat on the field, we’re going to have to eat in Shogun too.”
Asked if the team at Hutchinson was taken to fancy restaurants, Richardson said, “Not really. You’d be eating the burger somebody else didn’t eat two days later and you wouldn’t even know.”
Richardson, who is running second team at the “Hog” position, was adamant the Razorbacks would turn around their porous run defense from 2016.
“Everyone is buying in,” he said. “We’ve been in meetings and going hard.
“With this 3-4 defense, we’re going to make a lot of plays. We’re going to make sure we stuff the run and we’re going to play sound with the pass.”
Junior outside linebacker Randy Ramsey said Richardson would be great when he got the technique down.
“Since the first day in pads he’s been real physical,” Ramsey said.
Defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson said his 330 pounds feel better on him now than ever before.
“This is the best I’ve ever felt for the first few days of practice,” Jackson said. “I’ve been flying around. My condition is getting better every day. I feel good about where I am.”
Jackson and fellow senior Frank Ragnow, a preseason first-team All SEC pick, lock up in practice on a daily basis.
“It’s intense,” Jackson said. “I really love going against Frank. It’s tough, but it’s really going to pay off for me in the end.
“I think Frank is one of the reasons that I’ve made so much progress.”
Receivers coach Michael Smith said he’d like to see junior college transfer Brandon Martin drop some weight to prepare for the season.
“I’ve got to keep bringing Brandon along,” Smith said on Tuesday. “I don’t think he’s where he needs to be yet, but it’s only his 18th practice. I’m not making excuses for him. I just have some high expectations for him, and I know he’ll come around and get it done for me.
Martin, rated the No. 1 junior college wide receiver prospect in the country by ESPN, acknowledged this summer that he had to stay on top of his weight after getting up to 228 pounds during the winter. The 6-4 standout was down to 219 pounds midway through summer and would like to play at around 215.
“I’d like to see him be in better shape,” Smith said. “I had a concern with his weight over the summer. But you know he’s working on that, trying to get that down. I also want him to know the playbook. He had a whole summer, and I don’t feel he’s where he needs to be. But again, that’s my job to get him ready.”
Junior college tight end Jeremy Patton stayed down on the grass for a few seconds on the first play of a team period during development work late in practice.
Patton was able to return to the practice a few snaps later but walked gingerly off the field toward the end of the workout.
“It’s just a hip flexor,” Patton said. “Nothing too major. I’ll get it rehabbed and be back on it tomorrow.”
Sophomore defensive end T.J. Smith, who is working as a starter, said he’s at 298 pounds after being 283 in the spring.
Smith said most of the weight he added was strength in his legs.
Steele on Hogs
Phil Steele, who for the 23rd consecutive year has published a comprehensive college football preseason magazine, said Wednesday that he expects Arkansas to finish in the middle of the SEC West and play in a bowl game in Bret Bielema’s fifth year.
“I think they’re an under-the-radar team,” Steele said after speaking at a Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club event in Fayetteville. “I like their size up front on defense. I love the offensive line. I personally am forecasting a six or seven-win season, but Coach Bielema usually gets a game or two that I’m not expecting him to.”
Arkansas plays TCU on Sept. 9 in Fayetteville.
“I’m rating that game a toss-up because Arkansas gets the game at home,” Steele said. “I like TCU a lot this year.”
Steele said he believes TCU senior quarterback Kenny Hill will be much improved and the Horned Frogs will be strong on defense.
“Very dangerous game for Arkansas because TCU is the more veteran team early in the season,” Steele said.
Arkansas has lost five consecutive games to Texas A&M.
“It better be,” Steele said with a laugh when asked if this is the season the Razorbacks beat the Aggies. “I think if they’re going to get them, they’re going to get them this year.”
Steele said his four picks to make the College Football Playoff are Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Southern California.
The USA Today coaches preseason poll will be released at 11 a.m. today.
Bret Bielema is one of 65 coaches who vote in the poll. Other SEC coaches who vote are Alabama’s Nick Saban, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Missouri’s Barry Odom and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.
Florida International Coach Butch Davis, a Springdale native and former Arkansas player, also votes.
Arkansas sophomore T.J. Hammonds is expected to miss the remainder of fall camp after suffering a knee injury Tuesday. Hammonds was off to a good start in camp, according to offensive coordinator Dan Enos and position coaches Michael Smith and Reggie Mitchell.