Hogs QB situation up in the air
FAYETTEVILLE - Both on Wednesday morning’s SEC Coaches/media teleconference and his Wednesday afternoon pre-practice press conference, Arkansas Coach
Chad Morris didn’t reveal the Razorbacks’ starting quarterback for Saturday’s SEC West game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs but did say Ben Hicks is healthy to be back in the mix.
Graduate transfer Hicks missed last Saturday’s 48-7 SEC West loss at Alabama after injuring his left shoulder during the previous Saturday’s 51-10 SEC West loss to Auburn at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Hicks practiced Tuesday and was set again to practice Wednesday along with graduate transfer Nick Starkel, the other starting quarterback for the 2-6 Razorbacks, and redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and true freshman KJ Jefferson. The Razorbacks, 0-5 in the SEC, prep for Saturday’s 3 p.m. SEC Network televised game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium against Coach Joe Moorhead’s Bulldogs, 3-5, 1-4.
“They all got reps yesterday but Ben was definitely looked as healthy as I’ve seen him in quite some time,” Morris said Wednesday.
Jones’ practice increased this week after relieving Starkel against Alabama and quarterbacking Arkansas’ lone scoring drive completing a touchdown pass to tight end Cheyenne O’grady.
Jefferson has not played so far but could play in all four of Arkansas’ remaining games and retain a redshirt for freshman eligibility in 2020.
“We’ve rotated those guys around with John Stephen getting some time with the ones and KJ was in there getting some reps as he has for the last several weeks and doing a good job, a really good job,” Morris said just before Wednesday’s workout. “Just trying to make sure that we just keep him developing and on track for what we do.”
Moorhead on his portion of the SEC call was asked about Hicks, Starkel and
Jones, since all three have played.
“You get crossover film throughout the course of the season and certainly Starkel, Hicks and the young kid Jones came in and did a nice job at the end of the Alabama game and led a touchdown drive,” Moorhead said. “So it’s difficult to prepare for all three. I don’t know the system necessarily changes based on who is in the game, but you certainly have seen glimpses of production out of all three of those guys.”
Morris was asked about third-year sophomore Shane Clenin becoming Arkansas’ third different starting left guard in three weeks.
Senior Austin Capps, out since a concussion during the Auburn game, and third-year sophomore Kirby Adcock, starting against Alabama but concussed during the game, are doubtful against Mississippi
State. Neither has practiced this week.
“We’ve definitely had to have some rotation this year due to injuries,” Morris said. ”Especially as of late. And Shane did a good job when he stepped in there last Saturday. He did a good job at filling some voids and did some good things. He’ll continue to come along and get better. We have to make sure we have a plan if we have any more injuries. So Shane will be working some at center (behind junior starter Ty Clary) as well.”
Clenin also has worked at reserve tackle. A series of concussions, foot and back injuries compelling senior starting left tackle Colton Jackson of Conway this week to retire from football. So junior-college transfer Myron Cunningham starts again at left tackle.
True freshmen Beaux Limmer and Brady Latham become offensive line second-teamers, while true freshman Ricky Stromberg since early season has started at right guard.
“It’s a next-man-up mentality,”morris said. “So we try to do a good job of bringing some of these freshmen along - Beaux Limmer and Brady Latham and some of those guys. We know what Ricky’s done for us. When you have multiple injuries it forces you to try to find your next best five and that means just sliding guys around. It’s not the ideal thing, but it’s the thing you do.”
Junior Chase Hayden hasn’t played behind top Arkansas running backs Rakeem Boyd and Devwah Whaley since totaling 12 carries playing the first four games. Seems now Hayden won’t play another in 2019. Hayden is eligible under the four-game maximum rule to redshirt and be a junior in 2020 while unplayed true freshman A’montae Spivey could play in the final four games and still be a 2020 freshman.
“Right now where we’re at with our running back position, he’s already played his four games and our plans are trying to redshirt him if we can,” Morris said.
Morris was asked how sophomore starting cornerback Jarques Mcclellion responded to his coaches challenging him benching him in the second half against Alabama.
“I thought he had a good day (Tuesday),” Morris said Wednesday. “He’ll respond to the challenge. It’s just something that you just come back to work and put your head down and try to get better and that’s what he did.”
Morris went into Wednesday’s practice pleased with the Hogs’ Tuesday practice resolve.
“It was good both sides of the ball,” Morris said. “One of the better Tuesday practices that we’ve had. There’s still a lot left in this season and it starts this Saturday against Mississippi State.”
The Razorbacks play three of their last four games in Arkansas. After hosting Mississippi State Saturday, they host Western Kentucky Nov. 9 nonconference at 11 a.m. on the SEC Network at Reynolds Razorback Stadium and close the campaign Nov. 29 hosting Missouri in a 1:30 p.m. SEC game on CBS at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
For its last road 2019 trip Arkansas meets the nationally No. 1 LSU Tigers in a Nov. 23 SEC West game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Morris was asked about an internet outfit, HOTSEAT.COM, putting Moorhead No. 1 and Morris No. 2 on its coaches on the hot seat.
“Oh well, you can’t control what other people say and that’s the least of my worries,” Morris replied. “My worries are making sure that this football team continues to get better every day.”