Like It Is:

Hogs do well following main attraction

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, July 18, 2019
Arkansas running back Devwah Whaley speaks to reporters during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Arkansas running back Devwah Whaley speaks to reporters during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

HOOVER, Ala. — It is just before 8 a.m., and Devwah Whaley, De’Jon Harris and McTelvin Agim, complete with his Chucky Doll, have entered the small suite with a couple of reporters, who soon would politely be asked to leave so the players could change clothes.

They are in warm-up gear and need to change into coats and ties.

There’s a hint of nervousness and anticipation among them. They are the University of Arkansas representatives at SEC Football Media Days.

It is an honor to be here and a pain, too.

Up before the sun, but they got their first ride on a private jet, and they are representing the Razorbacks and getting some national attention.

Chad Morris shows up and takes his show out in the hallway so the players can have their privacy.

This early press conference is a prelude to the main interviews.

There are 13 Arkansas-based reporters on hand and they jockey for good position around Morris, but with that few everyone gets a good spot to hear Morris, who is sporting a nice tan.

Already other reporters are showing up, but they are here to hear the other UA coach, Nick Saban, in a much bigger suite, which will be needed for the 50 or so media members including some from national publications.

Understandable, Alabama played for the national championship last season; Arkansas played and not very well too much of the time.

Also understandable, Morris is excited. His glass is always over flowing.

When asked if he had an idea how many true freshmen would play he quickly said yes, didn’t give a specific answer but added that the Razorbacks have 58 true, redshirt and walk-on freshmen and 28 sophomores.

“We are a very young team,” he said approvingly.

More times than not in the world of perspiring arts that’s a one-line excuse that is greeted with a groan.

In this case it is true, but it didn’t come across as an excuse, more that it is an exciting new time for the Razorbacks.

In the offseason Morris and staff added numbers, and hopefully depth, specifically in the defensive and offensive lines. Those were two areas that stood out where help was needed.

They also lost some players, a couple who may have been locker room distractions, but apparently that door closed behind them.

“We always liked each other,” Harris said. “You always have some things with a coaching change, but that’s over.”

Morris is also making changes, not in the way he does things, but moving players to different positions. For instance Daulton Hyatt has moved from quarterback to receiver and Agim is committed to playing on the inside of the defensive line.

“Daulton can contribute as a receiver and that’s what he wanted,” Morris said. “Telvin, I should say ‘Sosa’ [Agim’s nickname], has changed his body to be a better player.”

Agim’s Chucky Doll is to honor his cousin who was killed last year.

The warm-up press conference by Arkansas is something every school does here to give the local media a head start, and sometimes, like if you are a school recruiting nationally, you extend that invitation to the national writers.

It is a good warm-up for the kids and the coach.

The Razorbacks cleaned up nicely but had to follow the biggest act here. Alabama brought All-American candidates Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy and Dylan Moses.

Bama is the main reason the national media even came, and most of them left as soon as the Crimson Tide finished their interviews.

Still, the Hogs and their coach came early, answered every question, represented their university well and said their goal was to get to a postseason bowl.

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