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 twice.
Freshman DTs show good work
Arkansas assistant coach Kenny Ingram watches Friday, March 1, 2019, during practice at the university practice facility in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas defensive tackles coach Kenny Ingram said this week that he's got a good collection of freshmen trying to play their way onto the depth chart and the travel roster.
True freshmen Taurean Carter, Enoch Jackson and Marcus Miller are the young tackles behind starters McTelvin Agim and T.J. Smith and second-team players Jonathan Marshall and Isaiah Nichols.
"Each one of them has shown some positive signs, and they've shown signs of being a freshman as well," Ingram said. "But I'm pleased with them. I enjoy coaching them and I'm looking forward to continuing to help them grow."
Ingram offered specifics into good things the freshmen are doing.
"Taurean works well with his hands," Ingram said. "He's always inquisitive, always asking questions. You can tell it's important to him and he wants to get better. Enoch shows some explosiveness. He plays with good leverage. I see him apply coaching. He's adjusting to this level. Then Marcus has fit in the run game playing off blocks and competing and being tough.
"All three of them have shown positive signs. We've just got to keep working and getting after it. We want to play several guys to make sure we're always fresh."
A sellout crowd of about 900 people filled a banquet room at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers for Arkansas' annual football kickoff luncheon Friday.
Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said he was excited to see the fan support after Arkansas went 2-10 last season.
"I think it's awesome," Yurachek said. "I've said since I've been here that what makes this state special is the passion of the Razorback fan base. They're a passionate fan base and they're filled with hope as we head into the 2019 season.
"I think everyone has put that 2-10 season in 2018 behind us and they're looking ahead to all the good things that are going to happen in the upcoming year."
Yurachek said he appreciated Coach Chad Morris' upbeat message when he spoke to the crowd.
"I hear it and see it every day," Yurachek said. "I love his passion, I love the positive nature in which he approaches the job that he's doing and I love the culture that he's building with our football program.
"We're not just building a team, we're building a program that's going to sustain success for a long period of time once we have everything in place that we need."
Coach Chad Morris told the crowd at the kickoff luncheon that the coaching staff will present the Broyles Razorback Award -- named in honor of Frank Broyles, the legendary coach and athletic director -- to a deserving player who best exemplifies the values of Broyles. The first Broyles Razorback Award will be given out today, Morris said.
Hot seat fun
Several players took the stage at the luncheon and fielded questions from Chuck Barrett, the Razorbacks' radio play-by-play man, for what was called "Hogs in the hot seat."
Barrett asked tailback Devwah Whaley to name the most embarrassing thing that has happened to him.
"My sophomore year I sat in the wrong class for a week straight," Whaley said as the fans laughed. "It's a long story."
Offensive tackle Dalton Wagner was asked who his favorite celebrity was and why.
"Jennifer Lawrence," Wagner said. "I think the why is pretty obvious."
Defensive tackle McTelvin Agim was last with the microphone and Barrett asked him to sing.
After laughing and looking a little embarrassed, Agim belted out a couple of lines, which came out fine.
Defensive assistants Steve Caldwell and Ron Cooper, guys who have known coordinator John "Chief" Chavis the longest, commented on his sideline sprint to the end zone during freshman Jalen Catalon's pick-six interception return earlier in camp.
"I saw that," Cooper said. "Chief's stride is a little off. He's gotten a little slower, but we're working with him, working out every morning at 6 o'clock."
Caldwell said he's seen Chief bolt like that many times during their years together at Tennessee.
"Oh yeah. When you watch Chief high step down the sidelines, something's going good," Caldwell said.
Foot on gas
Defensive tackle McTelvin Agim pointed out how defense vs. offense is a serious competition, but both units also want to see the other improve.
"With us keeping our foot on the gas, it's going to make them catch up to us," Agim said. "It's either a sink or swim type of moment right now, and they're swimming.
"We've got to make sure we keep it competitive. Sometimes they'll get the best of us, but we have to make sure it doesn't keep happening. It's going to happen, but we have to limit the times it happens."
Transfer tailback Trelon Smith, who has to sit out this season due to NCAA rules, is impressing his coaching staff and teammates.
Coach Chad Morris said Smith has a chance to be a special player when he hits the field for games in 2020, and running backs coach Jeff Traylor heaped it on the 5-9, 184-pounder from Houston, who proved hard to tackle in last week's scrimmage.
After tailbacks T.J. Hammonds (concussion) and A'Montae Spivey (asthsma) came out of the scrimmage, Smith got extra work.
"He literally had a chance for 118 graded opportunities and he had 107 'plusses.' That means he played about 58 snaps in the scrimmage, which is a lot of plays in the heat."
Coach Chad Morris said freshman offensive lineman Ricky Stromberg has been progressing.
"I've been really pleased watching Ricky," Morris said. "We have to get some more weight on him, but very, very athletic. Extremely athletic. He's got a mean streak to him."
Stromberg, from prep powerhouse Tulsa Union, is 6-4, 266 pounds.
Defensive tackles coach Kenny Ingram said he's impressed with how McTelvin Agim has transformed his body by going from 280 pounds last season -- when he played primarily at end -- to 300 now that he has moved mostly inside.
"He's put it on the right way and he carries it really well," Ingram said.
"There's no fat on him. He's built it powerfully, He's done an amazing and awesome job. He's shown no signs of putting on any bad weight."
Defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell was asked whether his young players -- including freshmen Mataio Soli, Zach Williams and Collin Clay -- are hitting a wall in training camp.
"It's just mental toughness," Caldwell said. "You've got to be mentally tough and not worry about it. You've got to line up and play. We talk to them about playing one play at a time. You've got to go out to practice and take one rep at a time and not worry about the last one. Just push through it."
Another true freshman end, Eric Gregory, isn't practicing as he recovers from ankle surgery.
"When Eric gets back and we get him ready to play, we'll get him on the field," Caldwell said.
David Porter, a redshirt sophomore, has moved from tackle to end to add depth.
No merry Xmas
Offensive line coach Dustin Fry said it was tough when tackle Noah Gatlin suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first day of training camp.
"That's like waking up on Christmas Day and your tree's burned down," Fry said. "That was disappointing. But things happen like that. It was kind of a freak deal. His foot just kind of got caught a little bit in the ground. Nobody rolled up. Everybody was clean.
"I was devastated for the kid. He'd had a great summer. I was excited where he was going. But his next step is to get ready. Hey, man, we need you back next spring we need you back next year. You've got three years left to play. I know he's going to attack that rehab just like he's attacked everything else."
Sports on 08/17/2019
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