True freshmen who could play in 2017

By: Jimmy Carter
Published: Thursday, August 10, 2017
Arkansas running back Chase Hayden goes through practice Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas running back Chase Hayden goes through practice Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— In week 3 of fall camp, Arkansas coaches are beginning to get a better grasp on the roster and an idea of which true freshmen could contribute.

These are players who might have a role this fall, where they fit in on the depth chart and what coach Bret Bielema and his staff have said about them.

RB Chase Hayden (5-10, 191)

Where he figures in: He arrived on campus later than fellow true freshman Maleek Williams, but quickly jumped his classmate and laid claim to the third-string running back role. He was the star of the first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday, unofficially running for 118 yards on 15 carries, including an impressive 74-yard touchdown run against the starting defense. His speed, quickness and elusiveness make him a unique compliment to the Razorbacks’ other backs.

Bielema: “The best new news would be Chase’s (performance). I’m sure a lot of you saw the (touchdown) run. To me, the definition of a good running back is when you can make something out of nothing, them and a quarterback. When it breaks down, what are they going to do. Chase has the ability to make something out of nothing in a hurry.

“He’s got great acceleration. He’s a tough kid. He’s not real big, which behind big linemen is more advantageous. They can’t really see where he’s coming out and he comes out in a hurry. … I’ve been very impressed with his toughness and strength. He’s one of those guys I think who doesn’t want to be labeled as a small back, a bouncer or outside runner. He’s been very productive between the tackles, as well.”

RB coach Reggie Mitchell: "That's good for Chase that he had to go against the one defense, you earn your stripes that way. I told him he's kind of high-risk, high-reward right now, because some of the plays, some of the things he does, he's going to get a big hit and then some of them he takes a chance and he may get a loss. The thing we need him to do is just be consistent and know the down and distance, know when you can take a chance and know when you can't. ... It's a thin line, because you don't want to take away his natural ability and say, 'Hey, you need to run this way,' because we recruited him for the way he runs. To his credit, he's adapted some things to the way we run the ball.

"... The one thing Chase has that the other guys may not have as much, Chase has the ability to when it's broken make it right. ... He's been making guys miss throughout camp."

WR Koilan Jackson (6-2, 214)

Where he figures in: Like Hayden, Jackson is likely one of Arkansas’ top five receivers at the moment, in the rotation along with Deon Stewart, Jordan Jones, La’Michael Pettway and Jonathan Nance. Even when Jared Cornelius and T.J. Hammonds return, he’s had a good enough camp to be in the mix. He produced one of the highlight plays of Saturday’s scrimmage, beating junior Ryan Pulley, likely the best cornerback on the team, over the top for a 45-yard touchdown pass. Jackson showcased his speed, hands and ability to use his size to shield off a defender on the score, providing a glimpse of the ability which has impressed teammates and coaches alike during camp.

Bielema: “Koilan’s made several plays like that during camp. He’s a freshman. He’s big. He’s athletic. Obviously mom and dad raised a great kid. He’s eager to please. I think Mike (Smith) is just very excited, as well as coach (Dan) Enos, about what he can bring.”

WR coach Michael Smith: “I think Koilan coming in had a good camp. He needs to continue to learn it and become more consistent, but he’s definitely put himself in position to play this year.”

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos: “That guy, he gets better every time he goes out there.”

K Blake Mazza (5-8, 173)

Where he figures in: The walk-on made all five field goals Saturday during the first scrimmage of fall practice, showcasing a strong leg by making relatively short field goals with ease. He hadn’t missed a kick during fall camp through Saturday and has put himself in a position to compete with Cole Hedlund, who has struggled with inconsistency during his career and been hampered by a groin injury in camp. He also has a chance to win the kickoff job, an area the Razorbacks struggled in last year.

Bielema: “A kid that’s kind of exciting. We’ve put a lot of pressure on him and he’s handled it well. … Blake Mazza’s had a nice camp, so I’d say he and Cole (Hedlund) are battling it out for the field job and Connor Limpert and Mazza are battling it out for the kickoff job.”

CBs Kamren Curl (6-1, 193) and Chevin Calloway (5-10, 188), LB Hayden Henry (6-1, 209)

Where they figure in: Corner is a position of relative strength for the defense, but Curl and Calloway worked with the second-team defense at the field corner position behind Ryan Pulley. Both were up-and-down against the starting receivers, but should compete with a healthy Britto Tutt for the fourth cornerback spot. They could also potentially help on special teams, which is where Henry, a walk-on who worked with the backups at the Razor position, may have a chance to contribute early on.

Bielema: “Some raw guys like a Hayden Henry, Kamren Curl (might play).”

WR De’Vion Warren (5-10, 181)

Where he figures in: Speed is Warren’s calling card and could be what allows him to contribute in his first fall in Fayetteville. Early in fall camp, Bielema called him one fastest players on the team. He and fellow freshman Jarrod Barnes worked with the developmental group during Saturday’s scrimmage and Bielema mentioned both as candidates to play this fall, but Warren’s versatility should help him.

Bielema: “De’Vion’s probably the one if we continue to adapt him and see exactly (what he can do), because he can bring us a little bit more in the return game.”

Enos: “De’Vion Warren had some wild plays (Tuesday). A couple of them, he didn’t get the ball, but just watching the routes on tape after, the quarterbacks were even pointing him out like, ‘Look at him.’”

Other potential candidates

RB Maleek Williams (5-11, 218) - Surpassed on the depth chart by Hayden in camp, but could get work in blowouts and will figure into the rotation if there's an injury ahead of him.

RT Dalton Wagoner (6-9, 311) - May not make the travel squad, but working with the second-team offensive line.

WR Jarrod Barnes (5-11, 172) - Mentioned by Bielema as a candidate to play, but appears low in the receiver pecking order.

LB Kyrei Fisher (6-1, 234) - Also mentioned by Bielema as someone who could play, he was an early enrollee, but linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves indicated he may not be in the rotation.

OL Shane Clenin (6-6, 300) - Versatile and has worked some with the second-team offensive line.

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