Razorbacks starters falling into place
FAYETTEVILLE - It’s not just quarterbacks capturing Arkansas Coach
Chad Morris’ attention as the Razorbacks went into Wednesday’s late afternoon into evening scrimmage.
The as of Tuesday still publicly announced as unresolved quarterback battle between graduate transfers Ben Hicks (Morris’ 2016 and 2017 starting quarterback at SMU) and Nick Starkel of Texas A&M has riveted the most media attention since Starkel’s June arrival after Hicks transferred in January and instantly became firstteam during spring ball.
But competition rages elsewhere, particularly at right offensive guard and wide receiver, and throughout the second units offensively and defensively and at punter.
Morris and offensive line coach Dustin Fry have tried a variety of right guard candidates starting with third-year sophomore Shane Clenin and including sophomore Kirby Adcock, true freshman Ricky Stromberg and junior-college transfer Myron Cunningham.
If senior incumbent left tackle Colton Jackson of Conway proves fit since this week’s return from a foot injury, then it seems likely Cunningham, also the backup left tackle, starts at right guard.
“Myron’s really athletic,” Morris said after Tuesday’s practice. “We’ve thought if something happens to Colton, he’s definitely your left tackle. But because he’s got a chance to be really special, he’s definitely in that rotation. So right now it’s Myron at right guard, Ty (Clary) at center and Colton at left tackle.”
Adcock has worked at left guard while senior first-team left guard Austin Capps mends from last week’s relatively minor arthroscopic knee surgery.
Morris asserts he expects senior first-team Mackey Award candidate tight end Cheyenne O’grady, also recent arthroscopic knee surgery, and Capps to be ready to game-week practice for the Aug. 31 seasonopener against Portland
State at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Junior Grayson Gunter and senior second-year transfer Chase Harrell have been lauded for their tight end reps in O’grady’s absence.
Injuries (season-ending) to senior Deon Stewart and likely out of the seasonopening game plan to junior Jordan Jones and third-year sophomore Koilan Jackson thin a receiver corps that did recruit well adding touted freshmen Trey Knox, Treylon Burks, and T.Q. Jackson to sophomore Mike Woods and junior De’vion Warren.
Scrimmaging top running backs Rakeem Boyd, Devwah Whaley and Chase Hayden enough to weather some needed contact but not overworked risking their health is always a Morris concern.
Morris went into Wednesday’s final scrimmage of the preseason similarly weighing work vs. health on a first defense that seems set with Gabe Richardson and Dorian Gerald on the ends, seniors Mctelvin “Sosa” Agim and T.J. Smith at tackles, senior De’jon “Scoota” Harris and sophomore Bumper Pool as the linebackers and a secondary of cornerbacks Jarques Mcclellion, Montaric “Buster” Brown, true freshman nickel back Greg Brooks and safeties Kamren Curl and Joe Foucha.
Keeping Preseason ALLSEC mainstays Harris and Agim healthy and providing ample opportunities for a mostly young second-team defense opportunities marked a Wednesday priority.
“We really have a really good idea of who our top guys are,” Morris said. “But you’re going to win in this league with guys behind them. So, developing those second guys be able to come into a major rotation is going to be critical for us.”
Last year’s punting nightmare has become this year’s dream.
After beating out since transferred scholarship punter Blake Johnson by punting superbly against Texas A&M last year, walk-on Reid Bauer so faltered through the late season into the spring that the Razorbacks leaped at the chance in the NCAA transfer portal to sign former Vanderbilt punter Sam Loy via the University of Colorado.
Loy has boomed them in practice but Bauer has rose to the challenge recapturing his form of that A&M game.
“Those guys have a great competition going” Morris said Tuesday.
“We’re going to put them in some situations tomorrow just to narrow that down.”
Senior Connor Limpert, a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year kicking 19 of 24 field goals, seals the placekicking post and also kicks off.