Noland looks ahead to football future at Arkansas

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2018
Greenwood quarterback Connor Noland looks to throw during a game against Benton on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Benton.
Photo by Jimmy Jones
Greenwood quarterback Connor Noland looks to throw during a game against Benton on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Benton.

— Greenwood two-sport star and Arkansas quarterback signee Connor Noland is smart enough to know that he may never be more popular than he is right now.

Noland (6-3, 210 pounds), who will also pitch for the Razorbacks, joins Dallas Highland Park signal caller John Stephen Jones as the two 2018 quarterback signees for new head coach Chad Morris.

Many fans are already calling for the two youngsters - who have never gone through a single college practice - to be the Arkansas starter when it opens against visiting Eastern Illinois on Sept. 1 in Fayetteville.

“It’s a competition and the fans all have their feelings and it’s flattering, but you don’t want to listen too much to the outside and what people are saying - whether it is good or bad - and just try and concentrate on the things you can control yourself,” Noland said.

“I’ll just get up there and try to be the best quarterback that I can be whether it is the starter, second string, third string, fourth string or the back of the line and be ready and prepared when my number is called.”

Those two freshmen will get the chance to battle holdovers Cole Kelley, Ty Story, Daulton Hyatt, Jack Lindsey, Carson Proctor and newcomer Austin Aune, a former New York Yankees baseball minor leaguer who enrolled in January. Those six went through spring practice. Noland and Jones did not.

Morris has made it clear that the starting quarterback job is wide open. That is music to the ears of Noland, who threw for almost 3,000 yards with 34 touchdowns and rushed for 275 yards while leading his 13-0 team to the Class 6A state title.

“I loved hearing that and it is a big deal for me,” Noland said. “I want to be ready to step on the field that first game. But I also know that if I am not ready to be the guy that defenses will be like sharks, since you are not ready and seize on that - especially SEC defenses, who will show no mercy.

“I realize how big a jump it is from high school to college. It’s not as easy as some (fans) might think. If I am not ready mentally or physically to go in there with the sharks, whether it’s the first game or the third game or whenever, I will keep working and pushing until I am ready.”

Noland, who does not have an Arkansas playbook yet as that is not allowed by the NCAA, will arrive on campus on May 27 ready to compete.

“I’m going to get up there and hop in the playbook as soon as I get it,” Noland said. “That’s my number one priority. I’m just going to go in with the mindset of competing. I’m ready to be thrown in with the sharks.

“There are some good quarterbacks up there already and they want to play as much as I do and the fact there is so much talent and we will all be competing so hard is going to help us all and thus the team get better.

“I did try to get up there and watch (spring) practice as much as possible to try and get ahead.”

Noland sized up what he thinks will be the biggest adjustments from high school to college.

“I think the mental part of the game is going to be the biggest adjustment,” Noland said. “The physicality is going to be as big as well, the bigger guys, faster guys. But you just have to be tough, have the right mindset just like Austin Allen did.

“Austin was as tough as they come and took some shots that were just unreal, but he would just get right back up and move on to the next play. That is a mindset that I will have to take as well.”

Noland has had the opportunity to watch some film and while his high school system is similar to the one Morris ran as a offensive coordinator at Clemson and as SMU’s head coach, there are differences.

“There are a lot of similarities, but it is more in depth and there are two to three more reads than I am used to and it is more complex,” Noland said. “The terminology is different, but there are a lot of similar reads in RPOs (run-pass options).

“It has been a lot of fun getting to know both of the staffs. I was sad to see Coach B leave because he was a great guy and offensive coordinator Coach (Dan) Enos, too. It was a lot of fun being a recruit for them.

"But when Coach Morris and (current Razorback offensive coordinator) Coach (Joe) Craddock came in, it was an easy transition and I am looking forward to being coached by them.”

Noland completed almost 70 percent of his passes this season.

“I think I was efficient this year while just spreading the ball all around the field, throwing what the defense gave me and just being a game manager,” Noland said. “I think I have to get better as a pocket passer, go through my progressions better - get one, two, three, four and let the ball fly.”

There is some natural maturation of his body that will happen this summer.

“I think I will put on some more weight, but that is hard to do with baseball season,” Noland said. “I try to pitch seven innings all the time and just stay in shape to do that.

“Once I get through with baseball season, it is going to become a reality and I am going to get in the weight room and get with it.”

Noland is 7-0 on the pitching mound for Greenwood this season with a 0.75 ERA while allowing just four earned runs in 48 2/3 innings. He's fanned 87 and walked 12.

He has been a leader for both his football and baseball squads at Greenwood and expects that to continue at Arkansas.

“I have had a lot of influences on my life with obviously my dad being the biggest one and preparing me to be a leader,” Noland said. “He is a great man, a hard worker and a (gold mining) entrepreneur who runs his company like I try to run a team.”

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