No signals yet: Morris not ready to commit to starting QB

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Sunday, August 18, 2019
Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks looks to pass Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, during practice at the university practice field in Fayetteville. Visit nwad.com/photos to see more photographs from the practice.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks looks to pass Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, during practice at the university practice field in Fayetteville. Visit nwad.com/photos to see more photographs from the practice.

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas Coach Chad Morris wasn't ready to name a starting quarterback after Saturday's second major scrimmage of training camp.

But he was eager to discuss the two-minute drive engineered by redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones with the starting unit late in a 110-play, mostly situational scrimmage that was closed to the media and general public.

"John Stephen Jones continues to impress," Morris said. "He actually had a situation with the ones in a two-minute offense and led them down and had to score a touchdown to win the game, and he did it. I was very impressed with him."

Jones' clutch drive ended with a touchdown pass to Mike Woods, and Connor Limpert's PAT kick provided the "game-winning" point near the end of the scrimmage in searing heat on the Arkansas practice fields.

Several former players were on hand to watch the 14th workout of camp and take part in the Hogs' annual former players barbecue afterward.

Morris also had positive comments about quarterbacks Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks.

"I thought Nick Starkel probably had one of his better days," Morris said. "That was good to see. I thought Ben made some really nice checks and some good throws today."

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Starkel opened with the top offense and threw three touchdown passes, with one each to Treylon Burks, De'Vion Warren and Jordan Jones.

Starkel's lone interception came on a pass intended for T.Q. Jackson over the middle that was deflected by cornerback Montaric "Buster" Brown and into the hands of safety Joe Foucha.

"Our cornerback tipped the ball up, so it was a good coverage by him, and I was just there to make the play happen," Foucha said. "Buster Brown ... man he's aggressive. He's been showing that the whole camp, that he's going to be there every time."

Morris said since the Foucha interception came late in a two-minute drive to clinch the game, the sophomore should have gotten down with possession of the ball instead of trying to return it.

"We're teaching you've got to get down," Morris said. "Joe kind of kept running. I said he was tackled, fumbled, offense recovered, and we kept the drive going, just to try to teach a lesson right there."

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Other big plays from the scrimmage included a touchdown run by junior tailback Chase Hayden, and an interception by Brown against Hicks on a third down with the offense deep on its own end of the field.

"Ben was backed up and just made a bad decision," Morris said. "He should have thrown the ball away. He didn't. He threw it up. We can't have that."

Morris said the naming of a quarterback starter likely would not come soon.

"I'll watch the film and see," Morris said. "I don't think we're -- I don't know the exact time we're going to name a starter. I want to go through definitely Wednesday and see where we're at.

"We've got some work that we'll do later in the week on Friday before we have our mock game out here on Saturday. It'll be some live situational work on Friday, too. We're getting closer, but again, we're evaluating it."

Warren described his scoring catch from Starkel.

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"It was a little pick play, and they just overlooked and came down and I just slipped through the back," he said. "I think it was a busted coverage."

Morris said running backs Rakeem Boyd and Devwah Whaley had big days, and the group of freshman receivers stood out, particularly Burks, as well as the sophomore Woods.

"Treylon Burks, this was the best day he's had. Very, very explosive and powerful," Morris said. "He's not afraid to catch the ball across the middle. Mike Woods, same way. Trey Knox, again, same way."

Morris said the tailbacks showed patience in waiting for seams to develop at the line of scrimmage.

"This was the best that Rakeem Boyd and Devwah Whaley ran, so we did some good things up front," he said.

Junior center Ty Clary said the Razorbacks improved noticeably from the first scrimmage to the second.

"For the O-line, I thought the scrimmage went well," Clary said. "It definitely could have been better. I think we need to start out a lot stronger. That's something we've really been focusing on.

"But other than the kind of slow start, we did well. We had some key players step up and really come in and help us out today."

Morris said the improvement from scrimmage one, which was more of a move-the-ball setup, to Saturday's scrimmage was apparent.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8G_gVGXwLc]

"I thought there was a lot of progress from scrimmage one to scrimmage two," Morris said. "Again, going back and we'll watch the film and see. There'll be a lot of things we've got to correct."

From a defensive standpoint, Morris singled out tackles McTelvin Agim, T.J. Smith and Jonathan Marshall, defensive end Gabe Richardson and linebacker De'Jon "Scoota" Harris.

"Scoota, we know what he's doing," Morris said. "We know the caliber of player he is. I think he probably played about half the scrimmage and got some really good work in."

The Razorbacks will scrimmage again Wednesday in workout No. 17 of training camp. Saturday's "Beanie Bowl," a walk-through scheduled for Reynolds Razorback Stadium at 3 p.m., will funnel into Fan Day at 5 p.m.

Sports on 08/18/2019

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