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.
SJS coach knows the challenges
San Jose State coach Brent Brennan is shown prior to a game against Utah on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Salt Lake City.
FAYETTEVILLE -- San Jose State Coach Brent Brennan, speaking on his weekly television show Wednesday, went into detail about the toughest issues facing his Spartans (1-1) in Saturday's 6:30 p.m. game against the University of Arkansas (2-1).
Brennan separated the question into two parts: the atmosphere and the personnel for the Razorbacks.
"The football part is going to be just dealing with their size. They have some skill players that are fantastic," Brennan said, before describing Treylon Burks, De'Vion Warren, Rakeem Boyd, Trey Knox, Cheyenne O'Grady, Grayson Gunter and Nick Starkel, though not by name.
"They have a punt returner [Burks] and kick returner [Warren] who can break any kick you kick to them. They have a running back [Boyd] who can take it to the house every time he touches it. And then they've got two big-body wideouts [Burks and Knox]. And then they've got two tight ends [O'Grady and Gunter].
"Starkel, in this game last weekend, he made every throw you need to make. ... Some of those personnel things are going to be great challenges."
Brennan particularly praised Burks and Knox.
"They're freaks," he said. "They're so big and so fast and it's really, because of Coach [Chad] Morris' history as an offensive coordinator and putting up huge numbers ... in the passing game, they've been able to recruit some really high-profile wideouts."
Brennan said the Razorbacks' defensive front is the strength of that unit.
The third-year coach said he and his staff have been watching Northwest Arkansas weather reports for three weeks.
"I think the toughest thing for West Coasters to deal with when they go East is humidity, because we don't even know what that is, right? That's a huge challenge."
Brennan said he's seen projections of a high of 80 to 82 degrees, 80% humidity and 40% chance of rain in Fayetteville on Saturday.
"It's like you have a chance to have it all," Brennan said. "It's a grass surface. What does that mean? Is it gonna be slick? Is it gonna be dried out? You just have no idea. Those are some of those things you have no control over, but you have to have the conversation.
"We started our guys on a hydration plan two days ago to make sure they're hydrated for the battle."
The remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda, local forecasters say, will likely drop both the temperature and the humidity, and rain, on Northwest Arkansas by Saturday.
San Jose State has not forced or recovered any opponent fumbles this season to go along with two interceptions, by cornerback Nehemiah Shelton and safety Bobby Brown II. The two takeaways are tied for 99th nationally. Only Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Troy do not have a takeaway.
However, the Spartans rank in the middle of the pack nationally in turnover margin at zero because they have two turnovers of their own, both on fumbles.
The Spartans are one of 15 FBS teams without a fumble recovery.
Seven for 3
The Razorbacks gave up a hefty 425 yards, but they also had some positive series outcomes on defense last week against Colorado State.
Arkansas had seven three-and-out defensive series against the Rams, including two in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.
Arkansas also held the Rams to 4 of 14 on third-down conversions.
"We're over 72 percent getting off the field on third down and that's good enough to win," defensive coordinator John Chavis said.
Two for 7
Arkansas Coach Chad Morris said on his radio show Wednesday night that quarterback Nick Starkel has the option of changing plays and attacking man coverage on the edge when it's available, and he did just that for the Hogs' first score against Colorado State.
On a first-down snap at the Rams' 24, Starkel threw a fade pass at the goal line on the left edge for 6-4 Trey Knox against 6-0 cornerback Andre Neal. Knox easily beat Neal to the ball for the 24-yard touchdown.
"That was a run call right there," Morris said. "Nick and Trey were the only guys on the field who knew it was going to be a pass."
Chad Morris made a playful reference when asked Saturday night about having so many freshmen playing late in the victory over Colorado State.
"Yeah, you first talk about all the hair you're losing when you put those guys in there," Morris said, taking off his visor to show thinning hair. "That comes with it though.
"They don't know they don't know. That's what you love about them. You've got a group of seniors and older guys who are taking them under their wing. We all know they're going to be fantastic players in due time."
Connor Limpert had five touchbacks on 10 kickoffs against Colorado State and averaged 57.2 yards.
"I was hitting the ball really well all throughout the week," Limpert said. "Right when I got into that stadium I was getting the feel for that new grass for my kickoffs.
"I had to adjust a little bit from the first home game. I was feeling really good and just kept it going throughout the game. I wasn't really worried about the returns. We had a good plan going into it. I was really confident in it."
No way, Jose
San Jose State is 0-6 against SEC teams.
The Spartans lost at Florida 59-21 in 1999; at LSU 29-21 in 1999; at Florida 65-3 in 2003; at Alabama 48-3 in 2010; and at Auburn 59-13 in 2014 and 35-21 in 2015.
Get down with it
Coach Chad Morris showed off his dance moves after the Razorbacks beat Colorado State. A video of his dancing was posted on Arkansas' football Twitter account.
"I mean, I enjoyed them," freshman receiver Trey Knox said. "I thought he was going to hit the meanest 'Woah' [dance move] of the 21st century, and he started doing the wave or whatever and then he just lost me.
"But hey, he was going at it for a little bit. I was in the middle right there next to him. He impressed me. I didn't think he had it like that."
Linebacker Grant Morgan said Morris' dancing was awesome.
"That was fun, wasn't it?" Morgan asked. "We hope to see it a lot more."
Morris is hoping to show off more moves soon.
"When you win you get to practice dancing," he said. "So hopefully my dance moves will continue to improve.
"It's fun to go in there and see those guys excited, see our staff excited. And man, they need to see me excited, too. I think the guys got a lot of fun out of that, and that's great because we want to continue to have a lot of fun in Club Dub."
The other Morris
Chad Morris said he's been pleased with the play of receiver Tyson Morris, a sophomore who played at Helena-West Helena and Fayetteville. The former walk-on, who earned a scholarship this season, has three catches for 32 yards.
"I think he's another player that has really matured, really grown a lot and is understanding the system," Chad Morris said. "He's definitely been an asset to our wide receiver room."
Sports on 09/20/2019
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