Grass greener for UA rehearsal

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, August 24, 2019
Work continues Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, to install a turf playing surface at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Work continues Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, to install a turf playing surface at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas football fans hankering for a look at the Razorbacks will get their first chance today on the new natural grass surface at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The Hogs, wearing their new "McFadden Era" throwback jerseys, will conduct their annual Beanie Bowl at Frank Broyles Field, weather permitting, in the first usage of the Tacoma 31 grass surface installed two weeks ago.

Beanie Bowl/Fan Day

When 3 p.m.-6 p.m., today

Where Reynolds Razorback Stadium/Walker Pavilion, Fayetteville

What First general public viewing opportunity of the 2019 Arkansas Razorbacks, followed by Fan Day at Walker Pavilion

Schedule: 2:30 p.m. Gate 1 opens for mock game; 3 p.m.-4 p.m. Open practice; 4:30 p.m. Fan Day begins at Walker Pavilion; 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Chad Morris and players meet and greet fans at Walker Pavilion

Noteworthy The Beanie Bowl mock game will be held at Razorback Stadium, weather permitting, from 3 p.m. until a little after 4 p.m. The Razorbacks will then convene in Walker Pavilion for Fan Day, where they will sign autographs and take pictures with fans.

The Beanie Bowl, a mock game in which the coaching staff scripts events that could crop up in games, is likely to run a little past 4 p.m. Arkansas players and coaches will meet and greet fans in the Walker Pavilion starting at 5 p.m. for about 90 minutes.

There will be no scrimmaging in the bowl, which serves as the wrap to training camp, but fans will see which quarterback takes the field with the first unit, possibly as a prelude to a starting assignment vs. Portland State exactly one week later at 3 p.m. on Aug. 31.

Second-year Coach Chad Morris and his staff spent time Thursday putting together the plan for the Beanie Bowl.

"We'll go through the entire Beanie Bowl script, from excessive celebration [penalties], what happens there, and it's opportunities just to teach," Morris said. "We try to put these guys in a lot of situational football."

Morris has advocated for playing on natural grass since his arrival at Arkansas in December 2017, and members of his staff agree.

"That's the way you're supposed to play football -- on grass. I had a boss before that kind of like to eat the grass," said Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis, referencing former LSU coach Les Miles.

"You grow up playing football on grass, at least in my generation," offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said. "I like it. I think it looks great. We were out there for picture day and it looked good.

"I think the field has been raised up a little bit so fans get a little up close and personal look at the players."

The mock game also allows players to go through a full pre-game experience so there's no confusion for warm-ups or individual and group drills when the real thing hits the next week.

"I think there's a lot of value in it," Chavis said. "It gives the players a little bit of relief in terms of what's gonna happen.

"It will give us some time to recover because the Beanie Bowl's not gonna be a real physical thing. It's gonna be mock situations, and you get to prepare for those situations."

Said Craddock: "You don't get much out of it other than a dress rehearsal of the game, so everybody knows where they're going. All the stuff where people will know where to go, people will know where to line up, people know where to sit on the sidelines. It's all those kind of things."

Because strange occurrences pop up from time to time in games, the coaching staff wants players to be aware of how to react when they do.

"You don't know if they're ever gonna happen," Chavis said. "A lot of those situations Coach Morris will prepare for they have happened, and they can happen. Some won't even happen during the course of the year, but it gives you an opportunity to prepare for those situations."

Morris likes to create sudden-change scenarios -- such as turnovers, blocked kicks or even fake fights -- on his mock game scripts, as he did last year.

A reporter suggested 6-9 offensive lineman Dalton Wagner and 6-3 defensive end Gabe Richardson might be good candidates for the mock fight, citing their potential for future careers in pro wrestling. Richardson is one of the flashiest dressers and outgoing personalities on the team, while Wagner has some of the longest hair and previously expressed an appreciation for wrestling.

"Yeah, those would be two probably that we need to select," Morris said, chuckling, after the suggestion. "We've got to make sure they're lined up against each other, not across from each other on the far end. But no, we'll do that [fake fight scenario], then call the team up and explain what happens now, that they're ejected and our ejection policy as you come off the field, who takes the guy into the locker room and how we do things.

"Those are things behind the scenes that no one ever knows. You've got to coach those things up."

Morris said the term "Beanie Bowl" has been around for years, and it's likely a reference to the colored, strap-on mesh coverings that go over the helmets of players for identification purposes.

"It probably goes way, way back and well before my time," Morris said. "I've just kind of carried on the tradition. I would assume it takes place from guys putting different colored beanies on top of their helmets to simulate scout team."

Craddock said Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney also used the "Beanie Bowl" terminology, as did his head coach at Middle Tennessee State, Rick Stockstill.

Sports on 08/24/2019

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