Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Attitude, blue-collar approach impresses Chavis
Arkansas linebacker Grant Morgan (31) runs through a drill Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, during practice at the university practice facility in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see photographs from the practice.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas' defense isn't where defensive coordinator John Chavis, entering his second season with the Razorbacks, says it needs to be through 17 days of preseason practice.
Following the team's final scrimmage of training camp, though, he commended players on his side of the ball for their positive attitudes and blue-collar approach this month.
The Razorbacks have two more practices scheduled for Thursday and Friday mornings as well as Saturday's Beanie Bowl, a scripted walkthrough inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, between them and game week.
"It’s been a hard grind in this fall camp, and I think that’s what this football team needed," Chavis said Wednesday. "I think they’ve responded well. ... They’ve taken that hard-hat approach that they know when we walk on that field and we cross those lines it’s all business.
"They have approached it that way."
Chavis feels his defense, which regularly won the team's championship belt in early August by coming up with three takeaways, has done plenty of good things in camp. The unit has improved fundamentally, he added.
"We’ve got a group of young men that have talent," said Chavis, sporting a scruffy white beard. "We’ve just got to keep pushing the envelope and we’ve got to do a great job coaching. That’s kind of where we are."
The longtime SEC coordinator declined to comment on what went on during the approximately 80-play scrimmage that was moved inside Walker Pavilion because of weather, but added that he was "very pleased" with how his guys competed.
Chavis viewed the defense's three scrimmages, as a whole, as a bit of a mixed bag.
"I think in a lot of situations we (made progress), but there's a lot of situations we've got to clean up," he said. "That's why you have those scrimmages and you have goals and certain things you want to accomplish in those scrimmages. I don't know if I've ever been around a situation where we were a 100 percent."
Rarely a coach to sing the praises of any one player in news conference settings, Chavis did single out sophomore linebacker Bumper Pool, who was forced into action against Eastern Illinois after linebacker Dre Greenlaw went down with an injury. His 38 tackles ranked ninth on the team last season.
Pool, who started four games in 2018, is projected to start the season at linebacker alongside senior De'Jon Harris.
"(Last season) we had to throw him into the fire before he was really ready," Chavis said. "He’s gotten bigger, he’s gotten stronger, and he looks like an SEC linebacker. He’s got guys behind him that are pushing him, and that’s the thing - we want that competition."
Should Arkansas play a three-linebacker scheme, junior Hayden Henry would be the starter at Sam. Henry has been receiving plenty of reps at Will, too.
"He’s ready to play (Will)," Chavis said of the Little Rock native. "He’s not going to be on the bench. He’s going to continue to play multiple positions at the linebacker spot."
Asked if he is confident in the depth at the second level, Chavis said he is given the group remains healthy. Grant Morgan, a former walk-on from Greenwood High School, has emerged since spring practices, and Chavis insists there is no dropoff when he replaces Harris. D'Vone McClure, a nickel back turned linebacker, has provided maturity and athleticism as well.
"Grant Morgan can play, there's no question about that,” Chavis said. “He proved that all spring long."
Even with only 10 days remaining until the season opener, Chavis wasn't ready to dive into Portland State just yet, but preparation has begun.
"A little," he added. "It will start full speed ahead now."
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