Hogs have full prac­tice

The Saline Courier - - FRONT PAGE - NATE ALLEN Ra­zor­back Re­port

Arkansas Coach Chad Mor­ris’ goal for a player-led Ra­zor­backs foot­ball team even in­cluded Satur­day’s an­nual pre­sea­son me­dia day.

Play­ers only were made me­dia avail­able Satur­day af­ter­noon, hours af­ter com­plet­ing their sec­ond NCAA man­dated hel­mets and shorts prac­tice Satur­day morn­ing.

Mor­ris did his talk­ing with me­dia Fri­day night af­ter the Ra­zor­backs prac­ticed for the first time this Au­gust pre­sea­son.

His assistants met with me­dia the previous Mon­day.

Sec­ond-year coach Mor­ris gave high marks to Fri­day’s prac­tice over this time pre­ced­ing last year’s 2-10 sea­son.

“We have been to­gether now for 18 months,” Mor­ris said. “They know ex­actly what we ex­pect. There is no doubt in my mind that this foot­ball team is ob­vi­ously more full ca­pac­ity than we were a year ago.”

Red­shirt fresh­man of­fen­sive tackle Noah Gatlin of

Jones­boro did not ap­pear at prac­tice Satur­day morn­ing off in­jur­ing a knee dur­ing Fri­day night’s non­con­tact prac­tice, as he tore an ACL and will be out for the year.

Red­shirt fresh­man Ryan Winkel moved over from his sec­ond-team right guard be­hind Shane Clenin to work in Gatlin’s sec­ond-team right tackle spot be­hind third-year sopho­more Dal­ton Wagner.

A lengthy Gatlin ab­sence is a set­back. Mor­ris and of­fen­sive line coach Dustin Fry rel­ished Gatlin play­ing the max­i­mum four games, in­clud­ing one start, in 2018, that un­der last year’s new and still in ef­fect rule, granted a red­shirt to re­tain that year’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for the fol­low­ing sea­son.

Red­shirt fresh­man Austin Nix took Winkel’s place for Satur­day’s prac­tice at No. 2 right guard.

Ju­nior re­ceiver Jor­dan Jones of Smack­over was ex­cused Satur­day to at­tend a fam­ily mem­ber’s fu­neral. BEN AND NICK Satur­day marked the first oc­ca­sion for me­dia on the same oc­ca­sion in­ter­view­ing grad­u­ate trans­fer quar­ter­backs Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel.

Hicks ar­rived last Jan­uary from SMU where he had been signed and red­shirted in 2015 by Mor­ris and now sec­ond-year Arkansas of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor/quar­ter­backs coach Joe Crad­dock, and their start­ing quar­ter­back in 2016 and 2017, and Arkansas first-teamer off spring ball.

Starkel, ar­riv­ing with a big­ger arm and two years re­main­ing el­i­gi­bil­ity to Hicks’ one, trans­ferred last June as an SEC let­ter­man at Texas A&M.

Hicks’ UA ties are ob­vi­ous via Mor­ris and four UA assistants ac­com­pa­ny­ing him from SMU are ob­vi­ous.

But Starkel, a 2016 prep hot com­mod­ity in Ar­gyle, Texas, while Mor­ris and crew were at SMU, has prior ties, too, in­clud­ing de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor John Chavis and de­fen­sive back­field coach Ron Cooper.

Both last year came from Texas A&M to Arkansas.

“First off Coach Mor­ris and Coach Crad­dock and the re­la­tion­ship we had in high school,” Starkel said of what Arkansas en­ticed him. “And in col­lege I got to play with Coach Chavis and Coach Cooper. I love them and love work­ing with them, huge fans of both of those guys and I know they are a fan of me. It means a lot they would want me on two sep­a­rate teams. And I came to visit and fell in love with the place.”

Ob­vi­ously it didn’t deter Starkel with Mor­ris’ old SMU start­ing quar­ter­back spring prac­tice en­trenched

“That wasn’t really a fac­tor for me,” Starkel said. “I’m not scared of any­thing like that. There’s always go­ing to be com­pe­ti­tion wher­ever you go.”

Hicks knows the job the team ac­knowl­edged he won last spring isn’t won now.

“I think the guys un­der­stand that this is a busi­ness and com­pe­ti­tion is part of it,” Hicks said. “I think it’s good for me, pushes me to have to be at my best every single day.”

It did at SMU, Crad­dock has said

“Ben thrives with com­pe­ti­tion,” Crad­dock said. “He got him­self bet­ter when we brought in other guys try­ing to beat him out.”

Hicks re­called the chal­lengers.

“We had an Arkansas quar­ter­back, Rafe Peavy, trans­fer to SMU af­ter my sec­ond year,” Hicks said. “And we had an­other guy, (former Wis­con­sin quar­ter­back) D.J. Gillins come in. So this isn’t a new sit­u­a­tion for me.”

Both say the ul­ti­mate goal is win­ning games and that they have been sup­port­ive of each other and also sup­port­ive of and re­ceived sup­port from red­shirt quar­ter­back John Stephen Jones and sum­mer ar­rived fresh­man quar­ter­back KJ Jef­fer­son and let­ter­man holder Jack Lind­sey.

“The whole quar­ter­back room has been really great help­ing out each other out,” Starkel said.

But Starkel also has as­serted bluntly: “Quar­ter­backs in a quar­ter­back room can never really be best friends.”

At other po­si­tions play­ers may al­ter­nate fre­quently.

Other than the rare twoquar­ter­back sys­tem, quar­ter­backs sel­dom in­ter­change other than via in­jury, in­ef­fec­tive­ness or lop­sided score.

“Every quar­ter­back in the coun­try knows only one quar­ter­back can play at a time,” Starkel said. “That’s just part of foot­ball from the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots down to a Pe­wee foot­ball team. Every quar­ter­back knows that from when they were a lit­tle kid.”

Hicks’ quotes read sim­i­larly.

“We push each other and are en­cour­ag­ing, but at the end of the day one of us wants to be the quar­ter­back,” Hicks said. “At times it’s not always a com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion be­cause there’s only one quar­ter­back.”

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