Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Hogs give sampling to media
Arkansas running back Rakeem Boyd (5) takes a handoff from quarterback Feleipe Franks during practice Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Media members who cover the University of Arkansas got their first glimpse of a team period at a preseason practice during the 15-minute viewing window available Thursday night.
The Razorbacks worked in helmets and shorts in the 7 p.m. practice at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in practice No. 14 out of 25. A cold front passing through Northwest Arkansas dropped the temperature into the 60s.
The first unit on offense had mixed results during a seven-play sequence against a defense that had a blend of projected starters and second-teamers during a brief team period.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks ran at right end on the first snap, pulling the ball down while rolling right after appearing to see his receivers recovered. Franks completed a swing pass to tailback Rakeem Boyd on the second snap and a short pass to Treylon Burks after that.
On the fourth play, Franks and receiver Mike Woods got crossed up, with Woods breaking deep from the right flank and Franks firing a back-shoulder type throw behind him and out of bounds.
Slot receiver De'Vion Warren got a run on the snap after that, then second-team tailback Trelon Smith had consecutive carries on which defenders were doing two-hand touches.
The team periods on Thursday are believed to be the first open to media in the SEC during training camps.
Coach Sam Pittman said late Thursday that quarterback Feleipe Franks had one of his best days and that defensive end Eric Gregory has continued to shine.
Gregory took snaps with the second unit on defense behind projected starters Dorian Gerald and Julius Coates.
"I thought Feleipe Franks had an outstanding practice tonight," Pittman said. "Eric Gregory made a lot of plays. I mean, he's a good football player. I don't talk about him quite as much as I should. But he made a lot of plays."
Pittman said quarterbacks Franks and K.J. Jefferson have come "roaring back" since having a rough second scrimmage last Friday.
The 6-6, 289-pound Coates picked off a pass under the lights.
"Coates got him a pick and scored a touchdown tonight, so he was all pumped up for a while," Pittman said.
"And I thought our linebackers showed up a little bit more today, especially on inside run. I thought they had a nice physical practice, [Andrew] Parker and [Hayden] Henry and some of those guys. Parker and [Deon] Edwards have really made a ton of strides in the last 12, 13 practices."
Sam Pittman, in talking through the players on the offensive line Wednesday night, gave particular praise to redshirt freshman Brady Latham. On Thursday, Pittman said he felt the 6-5, 295-pound redshirt freshman might be one of the top five linemen and the coaches were looking for a starting job for him.
"A guy that I've really been impressed with is Brady Latham," Pittman said Thursday. "I mean ... he's got a lot of value because he can play any position. ... He's probably leading the team in fights.
"We don't have a lot of fights, we're not supposed to fight, but he's a guy you've got to watch because he does have a lot of strain to him and you have to like aggressive people."
The fronts on both sides of the ball featured a mix of probable starters and likely reserves for the Razorbacks on Thursday. The first offense with mainstays Feleipe Franks, Rakeem Boyd, Treylon Burks, Trey Knox and Mike Woods running at the skill positions, had Beaux Limmer at center, Jalen St. John and Brady Latham at guard, Myron Cunningham and Dalton Wagner at tackle and Nathan Bax as the tight end.
They were opposed by a unit with Dorian Gerald, Jonathan Marshall, Isaiah Nichols and Julius Coates up front, Levi Draper and Andrew Parker at linebacker, and the quintet of corners Jarques McClellion and Jerry Jacobs at corner and Jalen Catalon, Micahh Smith and Simeon Blair.
Zach Williams, Marcus Miller, Xavier Kelly and Eric Gregory worked as the second unit on the defensive front.
Offensive line signee Marcus Henderson remained in jersey No. 83 with the tight end group.
The Razorbacks worked on executing blocking schemes on pass plays into bunched formations on the edges, and also defending them during the early part of Thursday's practice.
The offense had a few well-executed reps and the defense disrupted others. Cornerback Jerry Jacobs had an excellent move across the line to notch a tackle for loss. T.J. Hammonds got good blocks in front of him and made the edge on another play.
Receiver Trey Knox got hold of a defensive back on one snap and very likely would have been flagged for holding.
Tailback Rakeem Boyd hasn't been involved in a lot of the live tackling work in preseason practices, but he's still having a big camp.
Coach Sam Pittman, speaking during the debut on his weekly radio show "Sam Pittman Live" on Wednesday night, said Boyd had a big play in an area of the game he wanted to show improvement on for NFL scouts.
"Some of the things we might have talked to him about, where the NFL might take him down a round or something like that in draft, we're putting him in position to be excellent at that," Pittman said.
"Our job is to win football games. Our job is to get our kids to be as good as they possibly can be on and off the field. And if that means we can run him up a round or two in the NFL Draft, that's our job as well.
"We brought him in [and said] 'Hey, let's get a little better at pass protection. Let's be able to run some routes out the backfield, catch the ball. Do some things of that nature.' He's really taken to that part of his game. He ran a nice, little route yesterday in practice for a touchdown."
The Razorbacks were inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium for preseason practice No. 14 on Thursday.
Sam Pittman gave this rationale on his radio show: "We have four [kickoff] times, three of them at 6:30. We have to catch the ball when it's dark, so we're going to go under the lights."
The Razorbacks' opener against Georgia at Razorback Stadium on Sept. 26 is a 3 p.m. kick, otherwise their games at Mississippi State on Oct. 3, at Texas A&M on Oct. 31, and at home against Tennessee on Nov. 7 have been announced as 6:30 p.m. kickoffs.
Arkansas' road game at Auburn on Oct. 10 and its home game against Ole Miss the following week have not been assigned kickoff times yet.
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