Roundtable Analysis: Arkansas Quarterbacks

By: Scottie Bordelon , Dudley E. Dawson , Clay Henry , Matt Jones
Published: Thursday, July 19, 2018
Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley takes a snap during the Razorbacks' spring game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Little Rock.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley takes a snap during the Razorbacks' spring game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Little Rock.

What was your sense for the quarterback competition as spring practices ended? Did Cole Kelley or Ty Storey have a leg up on the other in your eyes?

Clay Henry: Every practice or scrimmage that I watched Ty Storey was with the ones before Cole Kelley. The coaches always mentioned Ty first. I don't think there is a big gap, but it seemed that Ty was ahead. It may be that there is also the intention of pushing Cole, but Ty seemed to understand the offense better than Ty both at the start of spring and at the conclusion. The most important thing is that he probably had a grasp of it before the workouts even began because it's similar to what he ran in high school.

Matt Jones: Cole Kelley and Ty Storey looked pretty even, evidenced by their identical stats in the spring game when neither looked great running the offense. The same was true for the other spring practices that were open. In an even competition, you typically would defer to the player with more game experience, which would be Kelley, but this is a different situation because of the drastic change in the offense. Storey's high school team at Charleston tried to mimic what Chad Morris' Clemson offenses were doing at the time, so he has some prior experience with this offense's pace and terminology, which could offset Kelley's advantage in playing time. Neither looked particularly adept at going as fast as coaches wanted in the spring. There is a reason Morris won't name a starter: it's too close to call.

Dudley Dawson: I like both kids and I'm glad that the time has arrived that Ty Storey gets a chance to compete for the starting job. As he noted this spring, he came very close to transferring out of the program, but decided to stay. I think he is a solid quarterback - one that will not make mistakes and get you beat. That being said, I would say that Cole Kelley is a more high-risk, high-reward option. He might make some mistakes simply because of the confidence he has in his arm, but also would likely make you more game-changing positive plays.

We'll see which one Arkansas head coach Chad Morris and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock go with, but I would also not rule out a move to freshman Connor Noland around Game 7-8 if the other two are not getting it done.

Scottie Bordelon: In my mind, neither guy really separated himself, but I think there is definitely something to Ty starting the spring game and running with the first team a lot this spring. In a story we posted a few days ago, Ty talked about how excited he was to learn that many of the reads in Chad Morris and Joe Craddock’s offense were familiar to him because of the type of offense he ran in high school at Charleston. I think he picked things up quicker, for sure. That said, I think Cole felt the challenge and did his best to up his game.

The previous staff greatly valued experience and seniority when making calls on who would receive the most reps at key positions. Do you believe the current staff will go in that direction at quarterback?

Clay Henry: My comparison between the two staffs goes back to when the old staff arrived. There was the belief that in the installation of a new offense, veterans did not have an advantage. They were quick to play freshmen like Hunter Henry, Alex Collins, Denver Kirkland, Dan Skipper and Sebastian Tretola. So they did not see an advantage in experience. They went with talent. As they stayed longer, there was an advantage with experience because players might have several years in the system. But that was not the case in their first year.

I think you will see similar moves with this staff. The players who got in one spring don't have a huge advantage over incoming freshmen.

Quarterback is a different animal. First-year college quarterbacks are seeing a much different look with SEC secondaries and disguises from these defensive coordinators. It often takes awhile for a quarterback to understand these differences. It isn't so much learning a new offense as it is learning all the adjustments that a fast defense gives at this level.

Matt Jones: Chad Morris was asked at one point this year whether he had any trepidation about playing a freshman quarterback and he said no. That tells me he will play whoever is going to give him the best chance to win.

Dudley Dawson: Judging from coach Morris' comments this spring, I would say that he is ready to play young players all over the place, including at QB. Especially if you have speed, they are going to find a place for you.

Scottie Bordelon: It sounds simple, but I think they’ll go with who is most comfortable running the offense. Who is most confident, can get guys in the right positions at the right time, have everyone on the same page. That can be a real challenge. As far as experience goes, Cole Kelley has that and no other quarterback on campus does. Ty may be crisper running the offense, but he has essentially zero game reps outside of the spring game. Fall camp is going to be ultra-important for those two.

Over or under 23 passing touchdowns this season. For context, Austin Allen and Kelley combined for 18 in 2017.

Clay Henry: There will be many more plays run in this system than the previous system. I'll go with the over.

Matt Jones: I think it really depends on how well Arkansas does in the games it is supposed to win against Eastern Illinois, North Texas and Tulsa. Those are the games where stats can be padded. I see this team being more ground-oriented because the talent in the run game exceeds the talent in the passing game.

Dudley Dawson: Over. I think that there will be more passing yardage and touchdowns coming from getting more receivers and tailbacks being in open spaces.

Scottie Bordelon: I’m going to go slightly under. I believe Arkansas has some deep ball threats in Jonathan Nance and Deon Stewart, guys who can make defensive backs miss, and then there’s the screen game, which plays right into the hands of a TJ Hammonds, Chase Hayden and Jared Cornelius. And La’Michael Pettway can use his impressive frame and just go get it. But Chad Morris said he wants to be a run-first offense, and the running backs group is pretty loaded.

How will Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones mix into the race in fall camp?

Clay Henry: They will get a chance. It's difficult to imagine them taking control in camp. I would think it would take awhile, but I wouldn't doubt their ability to play as true freshmen at some point in the system. Mostly, it will depend on how well the returning quarterbacks perform. The best thing for Jones and Noland is for them to redshirt - if someone who was with the team in the spring steps up.

Matt Jones: I think both will be given every opportunity to earn playing time, but I would be surprised if either was the opening-day starter. The change to the NCAA's redshirt rule is intriguing because it will allow both to play in up to four games without losing a season of eligibility. If the front-line QBs struggle, perhaps Noland or Jones will get a look in a game at some point in the season.

Dudley Dawson: I love the makeup of both kids. I give Connor the edge due to his size, but it would not surprise me at all if Jones plays significant snaps at quarterback during his time here. He is not just Jerry Jones' grandson and Stephen Jones' son. He is a productive, gutty young man with a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the football field and is simply a winner.

Scottie Bordelon: I’m not one who thinks one of these guys – mainly Noland – has to be ready to play right away. I don’t believe it to be in their best interest progression-wise to be pushed into action so quickly unless something big happens. Can they push Storey and Kelley? Absolutely. As of now, I don’t see either being in the hunt for a starting role. If Ty and Cole don’t bring it in fall camp and assert themselves, though, things could change and get interesting. I'm not ruling out that one of them starts a game this fall.

True or false: An Arkansas quarterback will reach 2,250 yards passing.

Clay Henry: I would think that number is well within the capabilities of this offense. I say true.

Matt Jones: Can one quarterback takes the reins in the preseason and not let go? That is an average of 187 yards per game, which is achievable even for teams that struggle in the passing game.

Dudley Dawson: I'll take yes and pick Kelley to be the one.

Scottie Bordelon: I expect some big passing plays in this offense at all three levels, so I’ll say true. A player like TJ Hammonds makes me believe it’s possible. He can turn a 2-yard bubble into a 50-plus yard score, and I don’t think it’ll only be him or happen just once.

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