QBS shine in 1st fall scrim­mage

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Nate Allen

FAYET­TEVILLE — From the all you’ve got is their word Arkansas Ra­zor­backs closed scrim­mage Satur­day, Arkansas quar­ter­backs

Ben Hicks, Nick Starkel, John Stephen Jones and KJ Jef­fer­son all fared well af­ter red­shirt fresh­man Jones jump-started the of­fense.

“John Stephen got in on the sec­ond se­ries and he led his team down, his group down and scored,” Arkansas Coach Chad Mor­ris said. “He showed just his abil­ity to make plays hap­pen when the pocket breaks down with his eyes down the field.”

Red­shirt fresh­man Jones in­evitably is per­ceived behind SMU grad­u­ate trans­fer Hicks and Texas A&M grad­u­ate trans­fer Starkel, but ap­par­ently flipped the ig­ni­tion switch Satur­day.

“I thought that John Stephen started it off for the most part,” Mor­ris said. “He led us down on about I be­lieve a seven- or eight­play drive with a touch­down pass. From there it just kind of caught fire with some guys mak­ing plays.”

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Joe Craddock re­called a Jones to Tyson Mor­ris deep pass ac­cel­er­at­ing mo­men­tum that all the quar­ter­backs con­tin­ued as the what Chad Mor­ris said was an es­ti­mated 175-play scrim­mage went on.

Fresh­man re­ceiver Trey Knox caught Jones’ touch­down pass.

Mor­ris said Hicks threw touch­downs to se­nior tight end Chase Har­rell and ju­nior wide re­ceiver Jor­dan Jones, and that Starkel throw touch­downs to sopho­more re­ceiver Mike Woods and fresh­man re­ceiver Shamar Nash.

Mor­ris said rush­ing touch­downs were achieved by run­ning backs Devwah Wha­ley and Chase Hay­den and Trelon Smith, com­pelled to red­shirt as an un­der­class­man trans­fer from Ari­zona State but al­ready im­press­ing the staff and team­mates for 2020.

“This kid’s got a chance to be re­ally spe­cial,” Mor­ris said. “He showed flashes to­day.”

Line­backer Hay­den

Henry was im­pressed, too.

“He’s like wa­ter,” Henry said. “He slips through the cracks ev­ery play. He’s a very dy­namic back. Too bad he has to sit out this year be­cause he could be a re­ally good player for us.”

Re­gard­ing the quarterbac­k bat­tle and who starts the Aug. 31 sea­son-opener against Port­land State, it seems bound to go at least an­other week through next Satur­day’s scrim­mage.

“I was pleased with all of them,” Mor­ris said. “Those guys are re­spond­ing. They’re chal­leng­ing each other.”

What ul­ti­mately will sep­a­rate them?

“I think con­sis­tency,” Mor­ris said. “Con­sis­tency and just the abil­ity to not just lead one group down the field, but how do you re­spond when you’re put in an ad­verse sit­u­a­tion? Maybe it’s a different group that you’re not used to lead­ing. Just con­sis­tency all across the board.”

Mor­ris also men­tioned true fresh­man quarterbac­k Jef­fer­son.

“KJ Jef­fer­son con­tin­ues to im­press us,” Mor­ris said. “He’s phys­i­cal and he’s big and re­ally good in his de­ci­sion-mak­ing. And he showed that to­day. I was pleased with where all four of them are right now. We’ve got a great com­pe­ti­tion go­ing.”

Mor­ris said both sides of the ball com­peted in the high heat and hu­mid­ity he had hoped for to test them.

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor John Chavis goes into ev­ery game and scrim­mage seek­ing at least three turnovers from his crew.

They net­ted two Satur­day. Mor­ris cited an in­ter­cep­tion by cor­ner­back Mon­taric “Buster” Brown and a fum­ble re­cov­ery by fresh­man de­fen­sive end Zach Wil­liams.

Third-year sopho­more Jar­ques Mc­clel­lion, a bat­tle­field pro­moted cor­ner last year through in­juries and de­par­tures, and Brown, a re­serve from Ash­down last year now first-team with Ryan Pul­ley turned pro, both im­pressed Mor­ris Satur­day.

“I thought Jar­ques con­tin­ues to get bet­ter,” Mor­ris said. “He made some great plays on the ball to­day. Buster’s the same way.”

The de­fense likely would have in­creased the pres­sure for turnovers had its se­nior stars, mid­dle line­backer Scoota Har­ris, the 2018 SEC lead­ing tack­ler, and de­fen­sive tackle Sosa Agim of Hope played more than a se­ries or two be­fore be­ing pulled rather than risk in­jury.

“When they were in there they were both very dis­rup­tive and ac­tive,” Mor­ris said. “We lim­ited them to­day. We know what they can do. Then they got an op­por­tu­nity to start coach­ing some of those young guys on the side­lines. That was good to see.”

Chavis cited backup mid­dle line­backer Grant Mor­gan of Green­wood, start­ing weak­side line­backer Bumper Pool and backup weak­side ‘backer Hay­den Henry for car­ry­ing on “with­out dropoff” when Har­ris took his rest.

Chavis did re­it­er­ate that “two turnovers weren’t enough,” for his de­fense to muster in 175 plays.

Se­nior first-team de­fen­sive tackle T.J. Smith, also cited by Mor­ris, is play­ing bet­ter as a lit­tler big man.

“I just got out of prac­tice and weighed 277,” Smith said. “Last year to­ward the end of the sea­son I was like 310. That was a fo­cus, just get­ting my body where I wanted it to be and where it needed to be to play fast. I’m mov­ing a lot bet­ter and a lot more agile and I’m able to last a lot longer.”

The Ra­zor­backs took Sun­day off and start to­day what Mor­ris calls a cru­cial week of prac­tice clos­ing with the last ma­jor Satur­day scrim­mage of the pre­sea­son.

“Ob­vi­ously next Satur­day I ex­pect it to be bet­ter than it was this Satur­day,” Mor­ris said.

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