More shake-ups. Some telling signs at quarterback. No injuries.
The first Arkansas football scrimmage of 2016 was quite a bit different than the initial one of 2015. Somethings were better. Some worse. At the very least, if seeking a positive, the Razorbacks didn't lose anyone for the season on Saturday.
These are the top five things to gather from Arkansas' initial two-hour scrimmage Saturday. The team is expected to have at least one more, if not two, before the regular season begins September 3 against Louisiana Tech in Fayetteville.
1a. Kofi Boateng is out for the year
The freshman wide receiver wasn't actually hurt during Saturday's scrimmage. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament earlier in the week in practice. He will redshirt and likely return to Arkansas in 2017.
Boateng's loss is damaging on paper, but it was unlikely he would see much time this season. It was possible he was going to redshirt even before the injury.
1b. Still muddled at quarterback behind Allen
Five scholarship quarterbacks on the Arkansas roster. Four of the five, currently, within a year's worth of eligibility of one other. Sophomore Rafe Peavey, redshirt freshmen Ty Storey and Ricky Town and freshman Cole Kelley each saw varying amounts of reps behind starter Austin Allen on Saturday.
Kelley, the youngest, has the best arm and he showcased it in a 60-some-odd-yard touchdown pass. But, Bielema said, Kelley still does "things you can't do in the SEC." He wasn't efficient, going 5 for 12.
Storey and Peavey each were perfect going 5 for 5 and 3 for 3. Bielema said Peavey is still fighting it physically after undergoing back surgery in July. He also said Storey has had a solid camp. It seems likely the No. 2 job will come down between those two players.
We really wanted to kind of define (the No. 2 job) today and in the practices," Bielema said. "I thought Ty showed some good things today. Ty has got so many intangibles, he understands the huddle, he understands procedure, he understands what we’re asking him to do. I thought he’s had a nice fall camp. Rafe has been able to go in the 1-a-days, he can’t go in the 2-a-days just because his back gets a little sore. Not quite there yet. Not quite 100%, no fault of his own, just maybe isn’t quite where he wants to be with the zip on the ball and all of that other stuff. That might limit him a little bit.
Town did not enter until the very end of the scrimmage.
2. Tight end behind Jeremy Sprinkle continues to be a work-in-progress
Unlike quarterback, where stability is important personnel-wise, tight end is less concerning. No one person has to win the No. 2 job behind Sprinkle. Which is good news for Arkansas considering none have.
Cantrell started alongside Sprinkle in the team's usual two tight-end set. Walk-on Anthony Antwine actually saw a healthy chunk of No. 2 reps Saturday, too, and he made the most of them. Sophomore Jack Kraus and the two other redshirt freshmen - Cheyenne O'Grady and Will Gragg - had moments, but were mostly indistinguishable.
Arkansas may not need a clear back-up, but settling one or two players into the role would probably be preferred over running six different guys out there.
3. Running back will be fine
Devwah Whaley impressed all day Saturday. The freshman from Texas may not begin the year as the team's starting running back (although he could do exactly that, too), but it's a job he will earn before season's end barring injury. Whaley carried defenders, darted around them and looked completely at ease just a few months after arriving to campus.
"What was really intriguing today, was he’s looked good all camp, he’s made some nice reads, some nice cuts, but today you saw that gear that I saw in HS film, and I’ve seen him play with," Bielema said. "He definitely showed a burst today that hadn’t been seen in practice, I think he turned some guys heads."
His competition, so-called, for the job - Rawleigh Williams III and Kody Walker - were acceptable. Williams, coming off surgery for a broken neck, appeared to be completely good-to-go, health-wise in his first full-contact, full-speed work since receiving the injury against Auburn last year.
The team's expected fourth running back, freshman T.J. Hammonds, tweaked his knee before the scrimmage and did not play.
4. The defensive line is good
Deatrich Wise Jr. is going to eat the lunch of some SEC offensive tackles this year. Not just the Texas State or Alcorn State offensive linemen, Wise looks completely the part of future first-round pick. He handled Arkansas' Jake Raulerson with regularity Saturday.
Jeremiah Ledbetter and Taiwan Johnson remain a sturdy and play-making interior. McTelvin Agim held his own opposite Wise. The entire crew, as a whole, will be one of the best in the conference. The starters were in the backfield, sometimes with ease, even despite Bielema telling defensive coordinator Robb Smith to "tone it down" because he didn't want as much pressure, especially on the developing quarterbacks.
5. The offensive line is not so good
Right now. Things are still being worked out there.
Dan Skipper stayed at left tackle just a few practices after being moved there from the right side. Raulerson was in for him at the old spot. The interior was Hjalte Froholdt, Frank Ragnow and Zach Rogers. Rogers appears to have settled into the first-team right-guard duties the last few practices.
Raulerson at right tackle made him the third player on the roster to play there significantly this camp. Skipper started the season there, and played there last year and Brian Wallace had taken over there initially when Skipper moved back to the left, a position he played his sophomore season. Bielema said the position could ultimately be by committee.
"For tackle you like them a little bit longer probably but he understands it," Bielema said. "He’s a very intelligent player, and because of that he might be our next best option or by committee over there at right tackle."
Schedules for next week's practices have not yet been released. It's expected the Razorbacks will scrimmage again on Saturday, August 20.
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