Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year three times.
LB Harris snatching footballs
Arkansas linebacker De'Jon Harris calls out a play at the line of scrimmage during a game against Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in Arlington, Texas.
FAYETTEVILLE -- One University of Arkansas defender has interceptions each of the past three days of camp, and it's not freshman safety Jalen Catalon, who has two pick-sixes in that span.
The interception man is senior linebacker De'Jon "Scoota" Harris, who picked off Ben Hicks on Tuesday, then Nick Starkel on Wednesday and Thursday.
"Scoota is leading the team in picks right now," defensive end Dorian Gerald said.
Harris said his pass drops and coverage were a point of emphasis when his draft evaluation came back from the NFL Draft advisory board last winter, and defensive coordinator John "Chief" Chavis has stressed it to him.
"That's one of the things me and Chief came together after the season and tried to focus on, just doing a better job in the passing game," Harris said. "So I've been trying to get out early [in coverage] and just had a couple of tipped balls to me from the D-line, just at the right place at the right time."
Harris said he caught a tipped pass in Thursday's work.
"My first two were just me in my right spot, just playing the ball," Harris said.
The defense notched several more takeaways Thursday, with Gerald saying the first unit accounted for two turnovers and other units combined for two more.
Harris said the takeaway count is not troubling for the Razorback offense.
"It doesn't give me concerns at all," he said. "We have players on both sides who have scholarships on both sides of the ball. It was good throws, I was just in the right place at the right time."
Junior linebacker Giovanni LaFrance has entered his name into the transfer portal, the Democrat-Gazette learned Thursday.
LaFrance, a 6-1, 237-pound middle linebacker from New Orleans, had posted four career tackles, including three last season. Both LaFrance and cornerback Jordon Curtis had been wearing No. 20 in camp, meaning one of the pair would have to change numbers prior to the start of the season.
Southern University in Baton Rouge is believed to be a likely landing spot for LaFrance.
Based on clips shared on social media by the UA, there were several touchdowns scored Thursday.
Quarterback Nick Starkel scored from short yardage on fourth down on a naked bootleg; quarterback Ben Hicks threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Koilan Jackson in front of Ladarrius Bishop; and tight end Blake Kern caught a touchdown pass from intermediate yardage.
Defensive back Micahh Smith, defensive tackle Nick Fulwider and offensive lineman Ricky Stromberg were not spotted during the opening four periods of the workout.
Others not in attendance included tight end Hudson Henry, defensive end Eric Gregory, defensive tackle Isaiah Nichols and receiver Daulton Hyatt. All have missed time previously. Gregory was wearing a walking boot on his left foot Thursday.
The Razorbacks will hold a closed session for practice No. 7 of camp today. The workout is expected to be in helmets and shorts as a light session.
Practice No. 8 will be the first full-scale scrimmage of camp, and it also will be closed to the media and public.
Junior receiver De'Vion Warren likes what he's seeing in the battle for the starting quarterback job between grad transfers Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel.
"It's interesting to see two people battle," Warren said. "Like we battle in the receiving room, but to see it from a different position like that is amazing.
"Like you see them battle, but you also see them critique each other, which is a good thing. Which means they know how to battle, but they also know how to help each other out."
Defensive end Dorian Gerald said he weighs 260 pounds -- down from 283 last season -- and not 293.
Gerald said he's heard several people quote the 293 figure as his weight.
"I look fat to y'all?" Gerald said Thursday. "I look that big?"
Gerald, a junior-college transfer who arrived on campus the third day of preseason practice last year, looks to be in good shape physically and said he feels better at the lighter weight.
"I feel a lot faster. I feel how I'm supposed to feel," he said. "Last year, I came in, I was too sluggish. I couldn't go 10 plays. Now I can go 10 plays. I can tell a big difference."
The coaching staff has given numerous players work at right tackle behind first-teamer Dalton Wagner and his top backup Ryan Winkel since redshirt freshman Noah Gatlin was lost for the year to a knee injury.
First-team right guard Shane Clenin said he's among the players who have cross-trained there.
"Myron Cunningham will go out there a little bit when he's not doing left tackle," Clenin said Tuesday. "I'll do a couple reps just to give some people a break. Kirby [Adcock] did a couple, Ty [Clary] did a couple. Dylan Rathcke is kind of like the third right tackle right now, so he's been doing a pretty good job."
Praise for Soli
Senior defensive end Dorian Gerald said freshman Mataio Soli has been standing out in practice among the young players.
"Honestly, Soli is what you look for in a D-end," Gerald said. "He's very twitchy. He's a big dude. He's fast.
"Soli's just got to keep getting better every day. As long as Soli keeps coming and gets better like he does, Soli's going to be one of the best defensive ends to come through, in my opinion."
Gerald brought up Soli when asked who has done a good job of pressuring the quarterbacks.
"You're going to ask me that? I'm going to say me," Gerald said. "I mean, I like everybody. But me personally, Soli stands out to me. I know I speak high on him, but Soli is going to be a really good player."
The Razorbacks mostly surround the four combatants in the "attack" drill that opened first period on both Tuesday and Thursday.
However, there was a brief window to glimpse an all-receivers drill Thursday that pitted Mike Woods against Jordan Jones, De'Vion Warren and Tyson Morris. Woods fought through his position mates -- who are staggered in a roughly 10- to 15-yard section of grass -- to reach the goal area.
The UA posted a nice clash between freshman defensive tackles Enoch Jackson and Marcus Miller, and another one between Miller and freshman Taurean Carter on its social media accounts Thursday.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall said familiarity with the scheme in coordinator John Chavis' second season has resulted in forcing more turnovers in practice.
"Honestly, we're being more aggressive on defense than we were last year," Marshall said. "Last year, we were playing a little timid because we were new to the system."
Keep it on
Defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall said his weight got as low as 280 pounds last season.
Marshall said he's at 304 pounds now and hopes to stay at that weight throughout the season.
"Oh yeah," Marshall said. "I've got to maintain it a lot better. I've switched up my eating habits and all that. So I'm doing a lot better."
Sports on 08/09/2019
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