Arkansas depth chart observations: Georgia week

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Monday, September 21, 2020
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman directs members of the offensive line Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, during practice at the university practice facility in Fayetteville.
( Andy Shupe)
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman directs members of the offensive line Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, during practice at the university practice facility in Fayetteville.

— Arkansas released a depth chart Monday for its season opener against No. 4 Georgia.

There weren't many surprises on the depth chart, and none among the projected starters. Open practice sessions this preseason had given a good indication of who was running first team at each position.

First-year Arkansas coach Sam Pittman had not named any starters, though, which made the depth chart release noteworthy. Here are a few observations:

Feleipe Franks will start at QB: Reading between the lines, the Arkansas staff made this decision weeks ago and since then Franks was voted team captain. Franks easily has the most experience among the players at his position and will be the sixth different quarterback to start for the Razorbacks in the past six games dating to last season.

Blayne Toll in the mix at TE: Toll, who was recruited as a defensive lineman, bounced back and forth from defense to offense this season. Now he is listed as an "OR" with Hudson Henry at tight end, meaning a starter hasn't been determined at the position. It is likely both will play considerable snaps given Pittman's liking for sets with two tight ends.

Interior line: Brady Latham, Ricky Stromberg and Beaux Limmer were all in Arkansas' 2019 signing class, but only Stromberg has significant playing experience. All three are the projected starters in the middle of the line this year, with Stromberg projected to start at center after playing last year as a guard. They will get a big test early against Georgia's strong defensive front.

Right tackle: Dalton Wagner and Noah Gatlin have been battling for the starting job all preseason and it is still undetermined as of game week.

Isaiah Nichols making a push: Those who have been at practice have remarked about Nichols challenging for playing time in recent weeks. He is now listed as an "OR" at defensive tackle with Xavier Kelly, the fifth-year senior who transferred from Clemson and was a presumed starter a few weeks ago.

Base defense: The base defense includes a four-man front and nickel secondary. New defensive coordinator Barry Odom has typically sidestepped questions about his base look since he was hired, noting that he will mix up looks. At Missouri, Odom would often play three safeties.

Dorian Gerald at the Jack: The Jack position is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker who can turn the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 depending on whether he puts his hand on the ground. Gerald played more of a traditional defensive end under previous coordinator John Chavis. He is backed up by Mataio Soli, a starter last season after Gerald suffered a season-ending injury in the first game.

Linebackers: Bumper Pool and Grant Morgan have the most playing experience and they are the projected starters, although Pittman has said he expects a heavy rotation at linebacker. Hayden Henry and Deon Edwards are listed in the expanded depth chart, indicating they are likely to play, too. Pittman has remarked on his past two radio shows that there has not been much separation between the ones and the twos at the position.

Jarques McClellion and LaDarrius Bishop: McClellion and Bishop are backups at cornerback and nickel, respectively. Many assumed it might be the other way around. Pittman has praised McClellion's length as a nickel back and Bishop spent much of the preseason working out in one of the two corner positions. It's probably safe to say both could play either position, and being cross trained is as important as ever this season with the threat of quarantine.

Punter: Many assumed George Caratan would win the job after transferring from Michigan, but Sam Loy is listed as an "OR" at the position in perhaps the most surprising depth chart note. Loy has shown the capability to boom kicks, but has been inconsistent. Caratan has never punted in a game.

Transfers: At least five starters were playing for a different team last year. That number increases to six or seven if Kelly starts over Nichols at defensive tackle, or Caratan starts over Loy at punter. Arkansas added five graduate transfers during the offseason in Franks (Florida), Kelly (Clemson), linebacker Levi Draper (Oklahoma), cornerback Jerry Jacobs (Arkansas State) and kicker A.J. Reed, and also signed Caratan from Michigan and defensive end Julius Coates from East Mississippi Community College. Three other projected starters — Gerald on defense, running back Rakeem Boyd and left tackle Myron Cunningham — previously transferred to Arkansas from a junior college, and second-string running back Trelon Smith sat out last season after transferring from Arizona State. Luke Jones, who is battling with Shane Clenin for the backup role at left guard, sat out last season after transferring from Notre Dame.

Freshmen: There are 10 freshmen on this week's two-deep, including two true freshman backups in the secondary, Myles Slusher and Khari Johnson. In addition to Latham and Limmer at the guard positions, the Razorbacks are projecting to start a freshman at tight end (Henry or Toll) and strong safety (Jalen Catalon).

OFFENSE

QB 13 Feleipe Franks 6-6 228 G-Sr.

1 KJ Jefferson 6-3 236 R-Fr.

RB 5 Rakeem Boyd 6-0 206 Sr.

22 Trelon Smith 5-9 185 R-So.

WR 8 Mike Woods 6-1 196 Jr.

6 Kendall Catalon 5-9 182 R-So.

TE 82 Hudson Henry 6-5 249 R-Fr.

OR 89 Blayne Toll 6-5 234 Fr.

RT 73 Noah Gatlin 6-7 307 R-So.

OR 78 Dalton Wagner 6-9 319 R-Jr.

RG 55 Beaux Limmer 6-5 293 R-Fr.

71 Ryan Winkel 6-6 307 R-So.

C 51 Ricky Stromberg 6-4 311 So.

66 Ty Clary 6-4 298 Sr.

LG 62 Brady Latham 6-5 296 R-Fr.

57 Shane Clenin 6-6 316 R-Jr.

OR 70 Luke Jones 6-5 293 R-So.

LT 76 Myron Cunningham 6-7 325 R-Sr.

73 Noah Gatlin 6-7 307 R-So.

WR 7 Trey Knox 6-5 207 So.

19 Tyson Morris 6-1 202 R-Sr.

OR 41 T.J. Hammonds 5-10 189 R-Sr.

WR 16 Treylon Burks 6-3 232 So.

10 De’Vion Warren 5-10 186 Sr.

DEFENSE

JACK 5 Dorian Gerald 6-3 288 R-Sr.

11 Mataio Soli 6-4 235 So.

DT 97 Xavier Kelly 6-5 311 G-Sr.

OR 93 Isaiah Nichols 6-3 281 R-So.

DT 42 Jonathan Marshall 6-3 317 R-Sr.

91 Taurean Carter 6-3 291 R-Fr.

DE 13 Julius Coates 6-6 289 R-Jr.

50 Eric Gregory 6-4 283 R-Fr.

WLB 10 Bumper Pool 6-2 229 Jr.

30 Levi Draper 6-1 235 R-Jr.

MLB 31 Grant Morgan 5-11 222 R-Sr.

28 Andrew Parker 6-2 235 R-So.

CB 21 Montaric Brown 6-0 190 R-Jr.

4 Jarques McClellion 6-0 188 R-Jr.

SS 1 Jalen Catalon 5-10 189 R-Fr.

18 Myles Mason 6-2 204 Jr.

BS 7 Joe Foucha 5-11 188 Jr.

2 Myles Slusher 6-0 190 Fr.

CB 8 Jerry Jacobs 5-11 203 G-Sr.

19 Khari Johnson 6-0 189 Fr.

NICKEL 9 Greg Brooks 5-11 185 So.

24 LaDarrius Bishop 6-0 192 R-So.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K 35 A.J. Reed 5-11 186 G-Sr.

P 40 George Caratan 6-2 213 Jr.

OR 42 Sam Loy 6-1 192 R-Jr.

H 40 George Caratan 6-2 213 Jr.

LS 48 Jordan Silver 6-1 228 R-Jr.

PR 16 Treylon Burks 6-3 232 So.

KR 10 De’Vion Warren 5-10 186 Sr.

16 Treylon Burks 6-3 232 So.

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