Freshmen to get opportunities
FAYETTEVILLE - The abundance of redshirt freshmen and even true freshmen vying for spots on Arkansas’ defensive 2-deep manifested in questions peppered upon Razorbacks defensive assistant coaches Ron Cooper, Mark Smith, Steve Caldwell and Kenny Ingram during their Tuesday post practice media availability.
Defensive coordinator/ linebackers coach John Chavis met with media following last Saturday’s scrimmage.
So defensive backfield coaches Cooper and Smith, and defensive line coaches Caldwell (ends) and Ingram (tackles) took their turn Tuesday.
Before their session was through they were variously asked about true freshmen nickel back Greg Brooks, safety Jalen Catalon, cornerback Devin Bush, defensive ends Mataio Soli, Eric Gregory, Zach Williams and Collin Clay, and defensive tackles Enoch Jackson, Marcus Miller and Taurean Carter.
Redshirt freshmen drawing media inquiries included cornerback Ladarrius Bishop and defensive tackles Isaiah Nichols and Nick Fulwider.
Brooks, a 2018 December high school graduate able to impress the Razorbacks staff last spring and the only true freshman opening the
preseason on the first team, currently is sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
Freshman flash preseason interception leader Catalon seems a natural to join the throng at nickel that for some situations returns current weakside linebacker and 2018 nickel D’vone Mcclure to nickel.
Not yet, says Cooper. He doesn’t want to overload Catalon from what he’s learning at safety behind Kam Curl and Joe Foucha and top returning sophomore sub Myles Mason.
“Talented, still learning,” Cooper said. “You forget that everything is new to
him. The speed of the game is new. The heat is new. You are expecting more than you have ever had to do and it’s chaotic. When you have 80,000 people in the stands, it isn’t going to be like high school. And you still don’t take that step until you get thrown out there. Today I would say was his nicest practice here.”
Junior 2-year letterman safety Curl, generally deemed the quarterback of the defense, was in a green caution jersey limiting his practice Tuesday as a precautionary measure, Cooper said.
Curl’s presence helps even when not actively practicing, his coaches say.
“Kam actually anticipates and knows the different
checks that go with every single coverage call that we have,” Cooper said. “Even though he’s only a 20-yearold, he’s in his third year and the old one out on the field with the most playing experience on the back end and knows the correct alignments of everybody. He is communicating well and getting better every day.”
Bush impressed last spring, and Bishop last fall redshirting and again in the spring. Both rank behind first-team corners Jarques Mcclellion and Montaric “Buster” Brown, and impress this preseason, Smith said Tuesday.
Up front Gregory is out for a while with ankle surgery but sons of Razorbacks Soli (dad Junior Soli was
an Arkansas D-lineman in the 1990s for Danny
Ford) and Williams (dad Rickey Williams played linebacker in the 1980s for Ken Hatfield) already are impacting behind seniors Dorian Gerald, Gabe Richardson and Jamario Bell.
“Zach’s going to play a lot,” Caldwell said. “So will Soli. Don’t be surprised if you see Collin Clay.”
Ingram credits senior starting tackles Sosa Agim and T.J. Smith with “inspiring” Miller, Jackson and Carter through their true freshman ups and downs.
“All of them have shown some signs of some good things and all of them have shown they are freshmen,” Ingram said. “Marcus
Miller, he’s doing really
well right now and Enoch and Taurean, both of them are doing well. Taurean had a little shoulder injury but he’s come back fine.”
Fulwider returned Tuesday from recent injuries.
All four coaches expressed general, but certainly not total, satisfaction with last Saturday’s scrimmage and anticipate better for this Saturday’s scrimmage.
“Things we made mistakes last Saturday, let’s see how we can apply coaching and not make those same mistakes this Saturday,” Ingram said. “Let’s just see growth.”
Among those not practicing are receiver Daulton Hyatt (out indefinitely with
a pulled hamstring) running back T.J. Hammonds and tight end Hudson Henry (both in concussion protocol).
Junior running back and Houston native Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas’ leading rusher with 734 yards last year despite reporting from junior college with a chronically injured shoulder that required surgery last winter, has been named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Preseason Watch List.
Honoring Texas Longhorns College Hall of Fame and Houston Oilers NFL Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell of Tyler, Texas, the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award annually honors the best collegiate offensive player from Texas.