Razorbacks report:

RBs carry heavy dose of criticism

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, August 19, 2018
Arkansas running back Chase Hayden (2) carries the ball Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, during practice at the university practice fields in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas running back Chase Hayden (2) carries the ball Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, during practice at the university practice fields in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas football coaches have been full of praise for the running backs throughout preseason practice, but that changed Saturday.

"I've bragged on these running backs pretty much all camp," Coach Chad Morris said after the Razorbacks' second scrimmage. "They've challenged each other, they've pushed each other.

"I think I bragged on them enough that they might have started feeling a little bit better about themselves than we probably should at this point in camp."

Morris said running backs coach Jeff Traylor got on to his charges after a sluggish start.

"I know coach Traylor and the running backs had to have a little heart-to-heart and kind of get things back right on the sideline and get their focus back right," Morris said. "I didn't think we started strong at that running back position ... but I was proud to see how they responded.

"That's what you can tell about a team and a position group is when you challenge them, how do they respond? And they did. They finished strong."

Morris said breakdowns in pass protection were an issue Saturday.

"We gave up a quick-whistle sack at the running back position, and we've got to keep getting better at that," he said. "We've got to put them in those situations."

The top running backs are Devwah Whaley, Chase Hayden, T.J. Hammonds, Maleek Williams and Rakeem Boyd.

"They've had a really good camp, and they were challenged today and they did some good things," Morris said. "It was more of a pass-emphasis scrimmage. We ran the ball still some, but I wanted to see them hold up in pass protection, so we've got some really good film to watch with them."

Powerful message

Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor who is an advocate for stopping sexual assault and relationship violence, addressed the Razorbacks players and coaches Thursday night.

At each stop, she talks in graphic detail about being raped by four men -- including three Oregon State football players -- in 1998.

"Just to see someone come and tell a story like that, so visual, so explicit, that type of thing is hard to do," Arkansas receiver Jared Cornelius said. "For her to come down and tell her story -- any type of story like that -- is impactful on the team.

"I think everybody needs to hear something like that. Just to put how blessed we are into perspective and then to notice how important our role in just day-to-day things is. One of the things she mentioned is that athletes aren't the problem. We don't have to be the problem. We can be the solution."

Arkansas Coach Chad Morris had Tracy address his SMU teams. Several Razorbacks tweeted out support and respect for Tracy.

"It was intense to hear her story, to watch our players' response, reaction, the conversations afterwards," Morris said. "Just says a lot about our players. Their message is, 'What can we do? What can we do as a team? What can we do as a man? We're the next generation, what can we do?'"

Morris said players have thanked him for having Tracy talk to the team and that he's gotten positive feedback from their parents.

"That's just one more way of coming in and teaching these young men that when they finish playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, we want them to be great husbands and great fathers and community leaders," Morris said. "It's a well-roundedness that we're after."

Good punting

Chad Morris praised punters Blake Johnson and Reid Bauer.

"I thought we punted the ball exceptionally well," Morris said. "This is probably the best day that I've seen us punt. We did some live punting. We did some pooch punting."

Johnson is a junior who averaged 38.6 yards on 59 punts last season, including five of more than 50 yards and 16 inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Bauer is a walk-on freshman.

"This is the first time I've seen them punt as well as they've done today in some live situations," Morris said. "So that was good."

Hammonds back

Sophomore tailback T.J. Hammonds, who injured his left ankle in Thursday's practice, returned to practice Friday and took part in Saturday's scrimmage, Chad Morris said.

"He got quite a few reps in there today," Morris said. "Full speed."

No idea

If receiver Jared Cornelius has any inside information on who will be Arkansas' starting quarterback, he's not sharing it with the media.

"Man, I have no idea who's going to be the quarterback," Cornelius said. "We have four or five guys that are fully capable of leading this team to winning a whole bunch of games in the fall, and I say that with all honesty.

"So, I'm cool with if [Chad Morris] wants to name the quarterback next week, if he wants to do it the day of the game. I could care less. I'm just excited to play football."

Still waiting

Chad Morris said coaches still are waiting on test results on offensive lineman Jalen Merrick, who has suffered headaches this summer, to determine whether he'll be ready to play this season.

"As of right now we haven't gotten everything back yet, so we don't know," Morris said.

Merrick, a junior expected to compete for playing time, hasn't practiced during camp.

Morris said the coaches are preparing for the opener as if Merrick won't play. If Merrick is cleared to play, Morris said, the coaches will address his status at that time.

Video fun

Jared Cornelius jokingly said the reason he didn't have any catches in Saturday's scrimmage is that the quarterbacks were mad at him for a video the receivers did making fun of them.

Each position group did a video, Cornelius said, called "Razorback Idol" and that it was Coach Chad Morris' idea.

"It has nothing to do with 'American Idol,' " Cornelius said, referring to the television show. "Who knows why they came up with that name?

"But basically every position group was in charge of making a two- to three-minute long video with any type of scenario or scheme or plan that you wanted to do. In the receivers' video, we decided to show what the QBs did all day, and it was kind of funny. [About how] they don't do anything at practice and all that stuff."

Cornelius said the players filmed the videos using their cellphones.

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