'Big scrimmage' arrives for Hogs

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, March 9, 2019
Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks throws during practice Thursday, March 7, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks throws during practice Thursday, March 7, 2019, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- If the weather allows, the Arkansas Razorbacks will conduct their first major spring scrimmage inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium under Coach Chad Morris.

If the weather is shoddy, the University of Arkansas will hold the scrimmage inside the Walker Pavilion this morning.

Either way, spring practice No. 5 will follow up the first live tackling of the season with move-the-ball sequences for a Razorbacks program aiming to bounce back from a 2-10 season and notch their first winning record since 2016. The scrimmage is closed to the public.

"This Saturday is a big, big scrimmage day," Morris said Tuesday. "Absolutely. We're going to be obviously simple offensively and defensively, but we want to see these guys compete and we want to see guys tackle in space, how they respond, decision making. Yeah, it'll be a big scrimmage day."

As is often the case in the early stages of a football season, the defense opened with an edge in Thursday's live tackling work, based on comments from tight end Cheyenne O'Grady.

Winning the day meant winning the championship "belt," a new incentive rolled out this spring.

"That's actually new, the belt," O'Grady said. "I think it's pretty cool. It's a fun way to compete and a cool way to establish who had a better day or who won the day as Coach Morris would say.

"There's still plenty of practice left, so we have time to bring it."

The Arkansas offense has undergone a significant transformation at many positions outside of running back and tight end.

Graduate transfer Ben Hicks is taking a good share of the first-team reps at quarterback, where Ty Storey and Cole Kelley split time last year. Redshirt freshman right-hander Connor Noland is scheduled to be the starting pitcher for the Razorbacks baseball team in today's 1 p.m. game against Louisiana Tech at Baum-Walker Stadium, leaving John Stephen Jones, Daulton Hyatt and Jack Lindsey to round out the quarterback depth today.

"I've been doing this since I was a freshman in high school, so I've had the experience and I'm just kind of feeling it out right now," Noland said of playing football and baseball on the major college level.

On the offensive line, left tackle Colton Jackson, left guard Austin Capps, center Ty Clary and right guard Shane Clenin look to take first-team reps, possibly with right tackle Dalton Wagner. Noah Gatlin, who has been battling a flulike illness that has affected a few players, is also in the mix at right tackle.

The defense would like to play fast and error-free today.

"Just a lot of running to the ball, physicality, reading plays, making sure you're making plays," defensive tackle McTelvin Agim said.

"He wants us to run around and play fast," redshirt freshman linebacker Andrew Parker said of what Morris is expecting.

The linebackers are perhaps the thinnest spot on the team this spring with several players dealing with injuries, including senior middle linebacker De'Jon "Scoota" Harris.

"It's a little light," Parker said. "But I really look at it as an opportunity for some of these young guys to get in the game and start to develop and become better linebackers. Scoota is one of the best linebackers in the country, and you've got to be ready to back him up."

Coordinators John Chavis and Joe Craddock, and a select group of players are scheduled for post-practice interviews today.

Sports on 03/09/2019

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