Football assistants survey UA spring

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, February 22, 2019
Arkansas defensive tackles coach Kenny Ingram speaks to reporters on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, at Fred W. Smith Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas defensive tackles coach Kenny Ingram speaks to reporters on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, at Fred W. Smith Center in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas defensive tackles coach Kenny Ingram was bubbling with enthusiasm and thankfulness on Thursday, just a couple of days after signing on as the only new full-time assistant coach in Year 2 under Chad Morris.

Ingram and the Razorbacks' other nine full-time assistants met with the media for 30 minutes at the Fred W. Smith Football Center with the program eight days out from the start of spring drills. Morris is scheduled to have a pre-spring news conference on Monday.

Morris added Ingram, a Memphis native, to the defensive staff coordinated by John Chavis after Ingram spent the last two years off the field as director of player relations at Auburn.

"Man, this is exciting," Ingram said. "That's where my passion is. I'm passionate about coaching. I'm excited about this opportunity."

Ingram met with seniors McTelvin Agim and T.J. Smith, veterans on the Arkansas defensive front, on Wednesday to start building a relationship with team leaders.

Ingram came with a strong recommendation from Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and others in the industry.

"Two things we wanted to make happen, to hire a great man and a great football coach and I think Coach Morris did that," Chavis said.

"There were so many people that we talked to about Kenny and it was all the same. And when the story doesn't change it's probably accurate. We certainly feel very good about him."

Tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. addressed his added role as special teams coordinator and the assistant coaches imparted player updates during the talks.

From an injury standpoint, running back Rakeem Boyd (shoulder), defensive tackle Briston Guidry (knee) and cornerback Britto Tutt are expected to miss all or parts of spring ball, which opens March 1. Additionally, running back T.J. Hammonds' status is up in the air after he had another knee injury last year.

"I think that is going to be addressed Monday [by Morris] what's going on with that situation," running backs coach Jeff Traylor said.

Jordon Curtis, who has recovered from the scrapes he received after landing on the windshield of a vehicle in a crosswalk outside the Smith Center last fall, has been moved from cornerback to the running back room.

Additionally, receiver Chase Harrell, who transferred from Kansas in the summer, will cross train as a tight end to help with that spot's depth.

Offensive coordinator Joe Craddock discussed the running back situation with Boyd still recovering from surgery.

"With Rakeem being out for spring ball, Chase [Hayden] and Devwah [Whaley] are going to get a lot of reps," Craddock said.

Craddock called transfer quarterback Ben Hicks, who played for Morris for three seasons at SMU, a coach on the field for helping impart the offense.

"He knows what we're looking for in terms of the offseason program, so he's been grabbing the young receivers that are here, grabbing the older receivers that have been here, and kind of getting them all on the same page with the offense," Craddock said.

"I think it's been a really good transition for him. I think he enjoys it here."

Craddock said he understood redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Noland's desire to play two sports and that the football side will have to be aware of his right arm as not to jeopardize his role as a pitcher for Coach Dave Van Horn.

"We'll just try and get him when we can," Craddock said. "We have to do a really good job ... of being cognizant with his arm, make sure we don't overuse him. I went to his first start and it looks like he's going to be a dude over there on the weekends."

Craddock said the coaches haven't really discussed who will take the first snaps at quarterback this spring.

"[Hicks] is obviously the oldest guy in our room with Connor being down at baseball and coming back and forth," he said. "Having John Stephen [Jones] and Daulton [Hyatt] in the room as well, we're kind of sitting back and watching how offseason drills are going, seeing who's leading and who is really pushing the other guys and that will make that determination."

Lunney, who has handled the punt team for five years and added kickoff return responsibilities last year, said he's excited about the opportunity of having an expanded role in the kicking game.

"Our special teams, it's like this at a lot of places in the country, are a group effort," Lunney said. "It takes a group of coaches to coach the scheme and the responsibilities, so really that's kind of how I see this and Coach Morris sees it the same way, of kind of having a point man that oversees a lot of those areas.

"Not necessarily having total control or autonomy of it, but just being a point man to help practice schedules, to coordinate what we're going to do during that period of the day, to coordinate who's running that unit, to coordinate the personnel that we're going to use and obviously to make some game-day decisions and judgements about scheme and those type of things."

Ingram said he's ready to make an impact on the Razorbacks' recruiting efforts in Memphis.

"Oh yes, born and raised in Memphis and I love my city," Ingram said. "I know a lot of people there, so I'm thankful to have that opportunity."

During Ingram's first two seasons at Arkansas State University in 1988 and 1989 he played defensive end under position coach Steve Caldwell, who is beginning his second season with Morris.

"He's someone that I respect, someone who has had an influence in my life," Ingram said of Caldwell.

"I coached him two years at Arkansas State, then he got into the coaching business and I followed his career closely ever since," Caldwell said. "I'm just excited to have him here and be a part of the program. ... It's not just about him being a good football coach, he's a good man."

Ingram touted the credentials of the coaches he'll be working with, saying everything about the job attracted him.

"Just knowing the people that were here, the coaches that were here, I had no doubt that whatever they had to do they would be able to do it," Ingram said. "They have a lot of experience. But more important you have people that are professional, who do things the right way, who have the right heart and they have the kids in mind. It was something that I desired to be a part of.

"This is a tremendous opportunity. The leadership we have in place here is destined to be successful."

Sports on 02/22/2019

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