Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Turnovers disappoint assistants
Justin Stepp, Arkansas wide receivers coach, huddles with players in a timeout Saturday, April 6, 2019, during the Arkansas Red-White game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas offensive assistant coaches, in the media room at the Fred Smith Football Center for the only time during camp on Thursday, said the Razorbacks had too many turnovers in practice No. 13.
The "thud" workout in full pads was held on another hot morning on the fields outside Walker Pavilion, with the temperature pushing into the low 90s, and featured around a half hour of live tackling.
"We turned it over quite a few times today, so the belt went back to ol' coach Chief [John Chavis] and the defense," running backs coach Jeff Traylor said.
The defense has held the belt the last two days after the red-clad offense took it Monday and Tuesday -- for the first times in camp -- due to low turnovers and a strong performance in the red zone.
"Obviously our whole group has got to be better," receivers coach Justin Stepp said. "We didn't have a good day today, but it will be interesting to see these guys because usually when we don't have a great day we follow it up with a pretty good one. It will be interesting to see how they come to meetings [later Thursday] and how they approach that."
Tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. said he's glad Cheyenne O'Grady's knee injury, which led to arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday, was not any worse.
"Life goes on, obviously, in practice and it's part of football," Lunney said. "Stuff like that happens.
"We were pleased that it was not an extensive deal and we're hoping for a swift and fast recovery. I guess that's the same thing, swift and fast. Does that make it extra fast? That's what we want."
Lunney said junior Grayson Gunter, who is splitting first-team reps with Chase Harrell, is having a great camp and playing with confidence.
Harrell caught a touchdown pass Thursday, on what was described as a great throw and catch, in situational work.
Lunney reiterated Coach Chad Morris' take that O'Grady had responded to an early challenge in camp, when he had some third-team reps mixed in with his work with the top group.
"We're just holding everybody to the same standard, and C.J. certainly responded there before he got hurt. He was on the right track and is having a good camp. ... We just want a consistent grind every day. He knows this."
Down to size
Running backs coach Jeff Traylor said tailback Rakeem Boyd revealed his shoulder issues, which led to offseason surgery, after the year. Boyd needed to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff, which he had played with the last part of the season.
"I called him soft, everything you can say as a coach to motivate somebody, and then you find out he's got a torn labrum and a rotator cuff," Traylor said. "I went from 6-foot-3 to about 4-foot-10 in a day. I felt terrible.
"I love the kid. I've spent a lot of time with him through the years and he's a tough young man."
Quarterback Nick Starkel took reps with the first team during the first period of practice open to media. The one-back offensive set featured tailback Rakeem Boyd, receivers Jordan Jones, Trey Knox and Tyson Morris with tight end Grayson Gunter and an offensive line of, left to right, Myron Cunningham, Kirby Adcock, Ty Clary, Shane Clenin and Dalton Wagner.
Starkel worked on the turf field, as did quarterback KJ Jefferson and the third unit, while quarterbacks Ben Hicks and John Stephen Jones worked on the grass field with the twos and fours.
The quarterbacks struggled during the team period to open the practice while operating on both fields. Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks, operating with the first and second units, respectively, both went 0 for 3, while John Stephen Jones was 0 for 2.
KJ Jefferson completed a rollout pass to Peyton Ausley for a long gain while working with the third unit. Jefferson went 2 for 3, and the lone incompletion was a dropped interception by safety Jalen Catalon. Ausley caught a short pass to finish Jefferson's five-play sequence.
With the top group, Montaric Brown had a breakup on a pass intended for Knox, Starkel threw incomplete on a play-action crossing route that tipped off Tyson Morris' fingers with DeJon Harris in coverage, and Rakeem Boyd had a pair of runs.
Defensive backs Jarques McClellion and Greg Brooks Jr., remained in green (no contact) jerseys Thursday but were involved in the team period to open practice. Tailbacks T.J. Hammonds (concussion) and A'Montae Spivey (bruised rib) were also in green and were engaged in limited roles.
Transfer receiver Kendall Catalon missed the workout.
Running backs coach Jeff Traylor was pleased that all his charges came through the workout in good shape.
"It was thud day, and we had probably 25 minutes, 30 minutes of live tackling," Traylor said. "I know all the running backs left the field walking so it's a good day for me."
New left side
The Razorbacks have two new first teamers on the left side of the offensive line with seniors Colton Jackson (foot) and guard Austin Capps (knee) sidelined.
Myron Cunningham is working at tackle in place of Jackson, and redshirt sophomore Kirby Adcock is working at left guard for Capps.
Offensive line coach Dustin Fry said he would not discuss the injuries to Capps and Jackson, but added "I expect all those guys to be ready to go week one. Timeline wise, we're going to make sure they're ready."
Fry said Cunningham has been practicing well, but took a "little step back" on Thursday.
"I didn't like his strain a little bit today," Fry said. "I hope he hears that, all right? Because he'll hear it again in the meeting room. But overall, [Cunningham is] what we thought."
Last week Cunningham got work at right guard after taking snaps at both tackle spots.
"Having to go guard one day and then all of a sudden we had to go right back to tackle," Fry said. "But he's handling it pretty well."
Fry said Adcock, from Nashville, is having a solid camp, but has an area of need.
"We've got to play with lower pads with him," Fry said. "He understands what to do. He understands the footwork. He's not a [missed assignments] guy.
"It's just pad level now. He has a tendency to get a little high, and that's the biggest thing we've been working with him on. But he's doing a good job."
3 Hogs on squad
Arkansas defenders De'Jon Harris, McTelvin Agim and Kamren Curl were named to the preseason All-SEC team as selected by coaches and released by the SEC office on Thursday.
Harris, a senior from Harvey, La., who led the SEC with 118 tackles last year, was named to the second team. He's the first Razorback since Jerry Franklin in 2010 and 2011 to post consecutive 100-tackle seasons.
Agim, a senior from Texarkana, Texas, and Curl, a junior from San Diego via Muskogee, Okla., were both named to the third team. Agim had 45 tackles, 10 for loss, 4.5 sacks and a team-high 3 forced fumbles in 2018, while Curl had 53 tackles, 27 solo, 5 breakups and a forced fumble.
Players who were charged with 22 of the Razorbacks' 26 turnovers last season are no longer on the team, and the vast majority of those came from the quarterback spot.
Ty Storey, now at Western Kentucky, threw 10 interceptions and accounted for five of the team's eight lost fumbles, with some of them due to blocking breakdowns and others to lack of ball security. Cole Kelley, now at Southeastern Louisiana, accounted for five interceptions, four of them against North Texas. He did not lose a fumble in 2018. Storey and Kelley combined for 20 turnovers.
Quarterback Connor Noland, now fully involved with baseball, thew two interceptions.
The other turnovers were lost fumbles by tailbacks Chase Hayden (Auburn) and Rakeem Boyd (Tulsa), and punter Reid Bauer (Mississippi State), and an interception thrown by John Stephen Jones.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joe Craddock has a term and its acronym he's instituted to stress the importance of ball security.
"We're charting what I call 'BIJs,' ball in jeopardy," Craddock said. "If the ball is in jeopardy we're charting that. We're holding our guys accountable. If you put that ball in jeopardy during practice, guess what? We're not going to count on you in the game because we can't turn the football over.
"Again we're charting everything. If there's a BIJ, we're counting it. We are constantly holding our guys accountable to take care of the football."
Sports on 08/16/2019
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