UA loses senior linebacker for spring

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Arkansas linebacker De'Jon Harris participates in a drill Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, during practice at the university practice field on campus in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas linebacker De'Jon Harris participates in a drill Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, during practice at the university practice field on campus in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas senior linebacker De'Jon Harris will miss the rest of spring drills after requiring surgery to repair a small fracture in his foot, Coach Chad Morris announced after Tuesday's third spring practice.

Harris, a two-year starter and one of the most experienced players on the Arkansas roster, was expected to be held out of most of the live-tackling work this spring.

Morris said Harris is scheduled for surgery most likely on Friday to repair a slight fracture.

"I think it's been something that's been nagging," Morris said. "It was during the season and ... we rehabbed it and thought we had it. It just kept bothering him, so we just had it looked at.

"We don't want this to carry on. We know what he's capable of doing, and he's going to be just fine."

Continuing the weather pattern that marked last weekend's start of spring drills, it was a frigid practice No. 3 for the Razorbacks, who worked in shoulder pads but no leg pads on the outdoor fields. The temperatures hovered in the mid-30s, but the wind chill ranged in the mid-20s due to a steady breeze.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Noland made his first practice appearance of the spring after being tied up with baseball on Friday and Saturday of last week.

"We know he's going to be sporadic through the course of spring," Morris said. "He was not in shoulder pads, so he has to go through the acclimation period. So he got some reps in at the pace we are putting it in at, and there really wasn't a whole lot that he didn't know."

Morris also commented on signing transfer quarterback Nick Starkel, who is finishing up at Texas A&M this semester and can enroll this summer and be immediately eligible.

"He's got an extremely strong arm," Morris said. "That's one of the things that really stands out. A good size, but he's got a strong arm, and obviously we know he's played in this league.

"I think everybody that has been around him just talks about the quality of a person that he is. So again, as you bring a guy into your program, you want to bring the right fit into your program. I think that brings great competition in that room. We're trying to improve every room."

Morris said the pace of installation is intentionally slow since a strong emphasis has been placed on getting the fundamentals right.

"We've been pretty simple with our install right now, and and that's by design. It's about going back to the fundamentals and getting better," he said.

Morris pointed out several standouts among the new enrollees through three days, specifically receiver Trey Knox, defensive lineman Eric Gregory, defensive backs Greg Brooks and Devin Bush, and offensive lineman Myron Cunningham.

"Trey Knox has been consistent and is really making an impact when he steps on the field, and I've been very pleased to watch him and the growth of the offense and him catching on," Morris said. "It's been good to see."

Morris also singled out veterans such as running backs Devwah Whaley and Chase Hayden, and linebacker Bumper Pool.

He also said graduate transfer quarterback Ben Hicks has been a huge plus.

"He's brought great energy to that quarterback room as well as to our football team," Morris said. "I think he's done everything that he's supposed to do as a grad transfer coming in.

"You come in and you put your head down and you don't say much and you earn the respect of your teammates by working. What I've seen more about Ben is not just him and how he relates and the players relating to him, but the quarterbacks as well. He's got a great rapport."

The Razorbacks are running low at linebacker with Harris out. Veterans Hayden Henry and Deon Edwards have been sidelined by injuries as well, though both are at practice.

"Well, moving guys around right now," Morris said of the linebacker depth. "Bumper's getting a lot of reps. Gio LaFrance is getting a lot of reps. Grant Morgan, [too]. We don't have the depth that we need to have right now at the linebacker position, but what it does is it allows some of the these other guys [more work]."

Morris said Noland has missed some meetings, but he's still eager to compete, even if he misses Saturday's scrimmage work.

"Being in this business for a long time and watching guys play two sports, you encourage your guys," Morris said. "He's competing all right. He's down there and he's battling his tail off, so I love that.

"Now, it's on him to get caught up in the meeting rooms and doing his own film study when he's not there and when he's not at practice to make sure he stays on schedule with that."

Other players who missed Tuesday's workout were offensive tackle Noah Gatlin (illness) and defensive end Dorian Gerald (infection).Morris said both of those players should be back for Thursday's practice No. 4.

The Razorbacks work out again Thursday and Saturday this week, and will add some live tackling on both of those days.

Recent Razorbacks Dre Greenlaw and Brian Wallace were among the attendees. Greenlaw said a small hamstring issue prevented him from running the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, but he hopes to run for the scouts at the Hogs' annual Pro Day on Monday.

Sports on 03/06/2019

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