Morris: Hogs progress during spring drills, but long way to go

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2018
Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley runs during the Razorbacks' spring game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Little Rock.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley runs during the Razorbacks' spring game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Little Rock.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The perpetually upbeat Chad Morris said he was stoked about how much progress the Arkansas Razorbacks made during spring drills, but he gave the team a middle-of-the-road grade for where it stands heading into the summer.

"From where we started to where we ended, I would definitely believe we improved a lot, both sides of the football. If you want to give a grade, a B," Morris said about his team's spring progress after Wednesday's 15th and final practice.

"From where we are to where we need to be, we've got a long way to go," he said. "We're about at a C level right now. And we need to be at an A level."

From an injury standpoint, the Razorbacks avoided any major issues.

"We stayed healthy, and that's always a big plus," Morris said after Saturday's Red-White game in Little Rock. "We had some bumps and bruises that came out of it but for the most part, if you line them up at the end and they're all still walking, you've had a successful day."

Practice No. 15 was a chance for the leaders in each of the position groups to take the reins during the 12-period workout and lay out the plans for how summer workouts will be conducted, Morris said.

Next up for the Razorbacks will be exit meetings for the players with their position coaches, their coordinators and Morris, and the coaches will hit the road to make prospect evaluations.

"We'll go through exit meetings, kind of seeing where everybody fits," Morris said. "I'm sure there's going to be some attrition that usually happens with guys. Where do they fit within the system? So we'll go through that."

After that, recruiting will return to the front burner.

"We've been recruiting ... from the day we walked in the front door here," Morris said. "We'll recruit every day for team speed. I think that's probably one of the deficiencies that we've really got to address is overall team speed."

Both Morris and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said the quarterbacks must learn to play faster to better prepare for fall camp. They also said the competition for the starting quarterback job will stretch into fall camp, and freshmen Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones will get a crack at the position.

"You can do a thousand drills over the summer," Morris said. "They've got to be constantly throwing the deep ball, hitting their spot throws, worrying about their feet and their base. Those are things they've really got to work on.

"There is nobody set at a position. We're wide open. If it's a true freshman, it's a true freshman. Whichever one gives us the best chance to win. They all understand that."

Morris said he'd have to "wait and see" when asked whether he'd pursue any graduate transfers at the quarterback position.

Craddock spoke in generalities about the quarterback spot, but he said they've all done everything the coaches have asked of them.

"I feel like those guys have done a really good job," Craddock said. "Every single one of them. At times you have a guy do really, really well, have a really good day. And then at times that same guy won't have as good a day.

"The thing I'm really preaching to those guys right now is, who's going to be the most consistent? Who's going to go out there and do the things we're asking them to do day in, day out and give us the best chance to win?"

Craddock singled out the running back group as having a good spring.

Morris pointed out several defensive players who impressed, including end Randy Ramsey, linebackers Dre Greenlaw and De'Jon Harris, and cornerback Ryan Pulley.

Morris specifically praised the linebackers, adding that Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry also performed well.

Defensive coordinator John Chavis paid respects to the core of defensive veterans.

"We've got guys that have played football around here for a long time already, and to be quite honest with you, they're good players and they were well coached," Chavis said. "So they know how to play the game.

"And then you've got a bunch of young kids you're trying to bring along, and some of them are coming quicker than others. Today, it's hard to say how I feel. I feel like we've got to get better. There's no question about that, and we've got a lot of work to do. But at the same time, we've got quite a few kids that are being close to be ready to going out and playing in this arena."

Sports on 04/12/2018

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