Hogs name Hicks as starter
FAYETTEVILLE — Time, experience and youth all sided with Ben Hicks to be the Arkansas Razorbacks’ starting quarterback in Saturday’s season-opener against the Portland State Vikings.
Arkansas Coach Chad Morris, presiding over a preseason quarterback battle between graduate transfer Hicks via SMU and graduate transfer Nick Starkel via Texas A&M on Monday announced Hicks starts Saturday’s 3 p.m. SEC Network televised game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Starkel, transferring with two years Razorbacks’ eligibility to Hicks’ one, has the stronger arm, Morris acknowledged, but didn’t arrive in Fayetteville until June.
Hicks has three years in former SMU Coach Morris’ offense, one as a redshirt and two years as Morris starting SMU quarterback. He transferred to the UA last January reigning the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback throughout spring practice for a young team become younger. For receivers, the Razorbacks start two true freshmen, Trey Knox and Treylon Burks, and a sophomore letterman Mike Woods with senior Deon Stewart out for the season with major knee surgery and junior Jordan Jones (high ankle sprain) sidelined indefinitely.
“Ben has earned the right to start,” Morris said. “Ben has been in this offense for three years and has an incredible command for everyone and where everyone should be. We’re going to play a lot of young guys. Ben’s been here since January. Nick has been in this offense for three weeks. To see the growth of what Nick has done for three weeks has been extremely
Morris reiterated “the main deciding factor is “Ben’s overall understanding of where everybody needed to be.”
Morris and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Joe Craddock, who coached for Morris at SMU, both said it’s their intention to work Starkel into Saturday’s game.
“We’ve definitely got to continue to get Nick’s experience up,” Morris said. “The game will dictate a lot. But I do anticipate having an opportunity to play additional quarterbacks.” Craddock plans on it. “We’ve got to get him (Starkel) ready,” Craddock said. “This is a long season in the SEC West. He’s got to be ready to go.”
But for starters, Craddock said, “We feel that Ben gives us the best chance to win right now because he can really get everybody going in the right way.”
After lower (FCS) division Portland State, the Razorbacks on Sept. 7 open their SEC season at SEC West rival Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi.
Knox is listed to start though he hasn’t practiced since the Aug. 17 scrimmage because of an undisclosed illness and won’t resume practice until Wednesday, Morris and Craddock said.
“If he would have just showed up in June I would be concerned about it,” Craddock said, noting December high school graduate Knox enrolled at the UA last January and excelled in spring practice. “But honestly I don’t have any concerns about Trey. He probably picked up our offense faster than any of the other freshmen that I’ve ever seen. He’ll be a little rusty and probably a little out of shape going into the first game, but it’s critical we can get him experience.”
Senior tight end Cheyenne O’grady out for two weeks since arthroscopic knee surgery, also will attempt to resume drills Wednesday.
Junior Grayson Gunter and senior Chase Harrell have posted impressive preseasons at tight end, Craddock said.
Senior starting left offensive tackle Colton Jackson of Conway, in and out of practice the last two weeks with a foot injury, practiced Sunday, Morris and Craddock said and should start freeing junior-college transfer Myron Cunningham from left tackle to start at right guard. The remaining starting line has senior Austin Capps of Star City, recovered from recent arthroscopic knee surgery, at left guard, junior Ty Clary of Fayetteville at center and third-year sophomore Dalton Wagner at right tackle.
Junior Rakeem Boyd and senior Devwah Whaley return as the top two running backs.
T.J. Hammonds, the fourth-year junior running back from Joe T. Robinson departed from the team last winter and returned to the squad in the summer, will not play in the season’s first four games, Morris said Monday.
Hammonds currently practices with the scout team.
Hammonds qualified to redshirt with the maximum four games in a season to redshirt rule last season. He netted 28 yards on 10 carries and caught four passes for 84 yards and a touchdown in four games last year under Morris.
Under former Coach Bret Bielema, Hammonds netted 88 yards with a touchdown on 15 carries in 2016 and for 2017 262, 119 against Coastal Carolina, on 32 carries with a touchdown and caught two passes with a touchdown for 64 yards.
Morris said he intends using both his punters, former Vanderbilt punter Sam Loy transferred from Colorado and sophomore Reid Bauer.
The first-team defense that defensive coordinator John Chavis had for the first preseason practice of Aug. 3 starts this season-opening game week intact.
“Some of the best teams I’ve been around are the ones who started almost every single week the same 11,” Chavis said.
Chavis has coordinated defenses on some great teams including the Tennessee Volunteers 1998 national champions plus
SEC defenses at LSU and Texas A&M.
The current starting defense includes senior ends Dorian Gerald and Gabe Richardson, senior tackles Sosa Agim and T.J. Smith, linebackers Scoota Harris and Bumper Pool, freshman nickel back
Greg Brooks or strongside linebacker Hayden Henry, depending on the alignment, and the secondary of sophomore cornerbacks Jarques Mcclellion and Buster Brown, and safeties Kamren Curl and Joe Foucha.
Arkansas, Cincinnati agree to nonconference matchup
Arkansas and Cincinnati have agreed to a one-game nonconference matchup slated for 2022 in Fayetteville.
The Razorbacks will host the Bearkats on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Razorbacks are 121-54-8 all-time against current members of the American conference, recently taking on Tulsa in a 23-0 victory last season on homecoming.
Arkansas is set to open the second year under head coach Chad Morris and the 2019 season at home against Portland State on Aug. 31 inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Singlegame tickets are on sale for Saturday’s game and the entire 2019 home schedule and can be purchased by calling 479.575.5151 or visiting arkansasrazorbacks.com.
Razorback senior quarterback Ben Hicks throws a pass during the Razorbacks’ Beanie Bowl Saturday afternoon at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Arkansas Coach Chad Morris named Hicks the Hogs’ starting quarterback for Saturday’s season-opener against Portland State.