FAYETTEVILLE -- Chad Morris and his assistants for the Arkansas Razorbacks talked prior to the openong of fall camp about giving looks to a lot of players in the early going.
That approach was in evidence Thursday as freshman Connor Noland was first up at quarterback during a live-tackling, move-the-ball session early in the sixth practice for the University of Arkansas.
In addition, redshirt freshman Kirby Adcock took snaps on the first unit at left guard. while senior Hjalte Froholdt made the move to center for the injured Dylan Hays.
On defense, Gabe Richardson and Michael Taylor were paired as ends on the first team as Randy Ramsey was held out for a minor hamstring issue and McTelvin "Sosa" Agim worked with the second team.
True freshman John Stephen Jones took the second rack at quarterback in the same period, while Daulton Hyatt worked the third sequence. Junior Ty Storey and sophomore Cole Kelley had taken the majority of reps with the first and second teams at quarterback to this point.
"We got a chance to open up practice with some good-on-good in a live situation there, moving some guys around," Morris said. "We put the freshmen in there at quarterback to see what they can do.
"Connor Noland was getting some reps with the ones and John Stephen getting reps with the twos, see if they can move the football and create a little bit of excitement on that sideline. I thought they both did a good job as Cole and Daulton and Ty have done to this point."
Junior running back Devwah Whaley stood out with a couple of strong runs during the opening period, while tight end Austin Cantrell had a catch in the flats for decent yardage.
The "W" drill, held during the early portion of practice Thursday while members of the media were in attendance, pits three sets of players in a confined space: an offensive lineman vs. a defensive lineman, a tight end vs. a linebacker, and a receiver vs. a defensive back. After a pause, a running back takes a handoff and tries to navigate through all three levels.
With two W drill set-ups on the field, the action is non-stop.
Among the "winners" in the drill Thursday: La'Michael Pettway won his block vs. Santos Ramirez, Armon Watts handled Johnny Gibson to make a stop at the line of scrimmage, Jordan Jones blocked Brenden Young, Hjalte Froholdt held off McTelvin Agim, Michael Taylor fought off Kirby Adcock for a stop at the line, Brian Wallace neutralized Gabe Richardson and Jamario Bell fought off Silas Robinson for a quick stop.
Coach Chad Morris said he loves the drill because in involves "all three levels of the game and it's realistic ... and it exposes guys.
"You might have had an execution at the first level and the second level, and all of a sudden you didn't get the execution at the third level like you want and a guy gets exposed.
"It was good. We did it in spring a couple of times, and to see these guys transition into it today I thought it was really good."
Great, better, best
Chad Morris opened his media comments Thursday with a reference to his preference for more hot days during camp.
"We had a little Day 1 mindset for the sixth time, which is great," Morris said. "Full pads for the second day, which was even better. Had a little heat, which made it the best. That was exactly what we needed today."
The temperature climbed from around 78 degrees to the high 80s by the end of the workout, and because the wind died and the humidity was up, the Razorbacks worked in their most uncomfortable weather yet.
"The breeze stopped and the heat kind of got on them a little bit and ... a little adversity hit us," he said. "I wanted to see how the guys responded, and they did a good job responding."
Morris added that the tempo tapered just after the halfway point, but the team responded and finished strong.
Froholdt at center
Hjalte Froholdt isn't just getting work at center, he's taken over the top job for now.
When the Razorbacks started practice Thursday morning, the senior and two-year starter at left guard was at center.
"He's looking good," Chad Morris said. 'I think today was better than yesterday. Obviously, with the transition there and getting the majority of the reps today, I think he's just a perfectionist. He studies the game. He wants to be the best.
"Moving him there is going to help us out right now and help this entire football team. I thought his footwork was better today, his snaps were a little more on time. Yesterday he was a little delayed on some of the snaps, but today was much better."
Dylan Hays, who opened fall camp as the No. 1 center, has been in a green no-contact jersey this week with a back injury.
Morris said he expects Hays to be able to practice soon and hopefully participate in Saturday's scrimmage. He also said Froholdt will continue to get snaps at guard.
Chad Morris said sophomore receiver Jordan Jones has hit his stride in the first full week of camp.
"He's having a really good camp right now," Morris said. "He's standing out.
"I've heard Jordan Jones talk more over the last three or four days than I've heard him talk since I've been here. He's got a lot of confidence. I think that has a lot to do with some strength that he gained during the summer."
Jones has sprinted past defensive backs during some of the observation periods open to the media, and he's been under thrown multiple times in recent days.
"He's making plays out on the field, and it's good to see that," Morris said.
Coach Chad Morris said several freshmen have flashed through two days of pads and have a chance to make an impact this fall.
Morris first mentioned Joe Foucha, who took reps at the nickel back position early in camp but has transitioned more into the safety depth in recent days.
"He's a guy, hands down, [who] has a chance to be special," Morris said.
Morris also mentioned cornerback LaDarrius Bishop and quarterbacks Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones, as well as offensive linemen Noah Gatlin and Silas Robinson.
"These guys are getting a ton of reps in that offensive line," he said. "Whatever the circumstance is, we have some guys out right now that's forcing these two freshmen, young guys, to get in there and get game-speed reps. They've done a really good job."
Defensive tackle Isaiah Nichols also drew his praise.
"He's got a lot of fight in him," Morris said. "I love it. He's a good one that will have a great career here in that defensive line."
Connor Limpert and Preston Stafford both converted 39-yard field goals to cap the first two sequences of a live-tackling period to open practice, but the kicks were hardly similar.
Limpert hit his field goal squarely with nice end-over-end rotation pretty well down the middle. Stafford hit a line-drive shot that squeaked just inside the left upright.
Two spots open
Arkansas has 83 players on scholarship, meaning Chad Morris could award two scholarships to walk-ons to reach the NCAA limit of 85.
"We'll get to 85," Morris said. "For sure we will. But that's where we're sitting right now."
Morris said he expects to sign 19 to 22 players in the 2019 recruiting class based on the formula he always expects to lose about six players -- besides those who complete their eligibility -- for various reasons.
"I think we've got 15 seniors and adding six to that gets you to 21," he said. "We've got some guys that if have a great season and have an opportunity to come out [for the NFL Draft], man, if it benefits them, then we're definitely going to give them the support and direction they need. That means a lot of good things are happening."
Sports on 08/10/2018
Print Headline: Youngsters get looks in top groups