FAYETTEVILLE — Though named Arkansas’ football coach in December with 15 spring practices, including a spring game, and seven August preseason practices behind him, Chad Morris, for the first time ever, today works his Razorbacks inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The ongoing north end zone construction has preempted the Razorbacks from using their campus home, moving last spring’s Red-White game to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, but obstacles from the Frank Broyles Field are sufficiently cleared for Morris’ Razorbacks to scrimmage at their Fayetteville scrimmage today.
“I told our guys a couple days ago that Saturday’s scrimmage would be in the stadium,” Morris said Thursday when last meeting with media after practice. “They were excited. They see what’s going on. I mean, they’re driving down the road seeing everything kind of coming together. Just a lot of excitement. Change of venue, something thats always good for these guys, especially in a scrimmage. A lot of their parents are coming in and will have a chance to watch them perform. As close to a game situation as we’ll get.”
Apparently players’ parents and various staff invitees will be the only ones seeing today’s scrimmage. It is closed to the public including media as was Friday’s workout.
For Friday, Morris said the Razorbacks would taper from Wednesday’s and Thursday’s hard practices in full pads to refresh the Razorbacks for their scrimmage today.
In the so far, too close to call first-team quarterback battle between third-year sophomore Cole Kelley, last year’s backup to the graduated Austin Allen, and Ty Storey, the fourth-year junior from Charleston who backed up Allen in 2016 while Kelley redshirted, what could one, or even auditioning true freshmen Connor Noland of Greenwood and John Stephen Jones and redshirt freshman Daulton Hyatt, do take command?
“I think they need to stay consistent from what we have seen this week,” Morris said. “As much a game setting as we can have. We will put them in for eight-straight plays and see how they respond and how they lead their team. I think it's all about getting in that stadium and seeing how guys respond.”
Walk-on Jack Lindsey seems to have carved the first leading role of the quarterbacks. The son of former Razorback Lyndy Lindsey and grandson of 1964 Razorbacks national champion wingback Jim Lindsey, Jack Lindsey so far seems the top holder for returning place-kicker Connor Limpert’s field goal attempts.
Morris, offensive coordinator Joe Craddock and receivers coach Justin Stepp spent the summer challenging third-year sophomore receiver Jordan Jones of Smackover because of the speedster’s inconsistent spring.
Now they root for Jones to scrimmage today like he’s practiced the first six August preseason workouts.
“Jordan Jones in particular is having a really good camp right now,” Morris said after Thursday’s practice. He’s standing out.”
And speaking out.
“I’ve heard Jordan Jones talk more over the last three or four days than I’ve heard him talk since I’ve been here,” Morris said. “He’s got a lot of confidence. I think that has a lot to do with some strength that he gained during the summer. He’s making plays out on the field, and it’s good to see that.”
After slipping from 2016 freshman flash to 2017 sluggish sophomore his two seasons under the Bret Bielema Razorbacks regime, junior running back Devwah Whaley has shed weight and revved up his motor, a combination Morris wants on display today.
“I think Devwah has looked lighter on his feet,” Morris said. “His movement, his plants in the ground and his vision. He sees it and makes the cut. In the spring, I think he saw it but just couldn’t get into the cut quick enough. He just looks more explosive.”
Because of injury induced absences on the offensive line, true freshman offensive linemen Noah Gatlin, 6-foot-7, 294 pounds, of Jonesboro, and Silas Robinson, 6-4, 304, will be varsity monitored in today’s scrimmage than most true freshman offensive linemen are monitored.
“Both of these two offensive linemen, Silas Robinson and Noah Gatlin, are getting a ton of reps in that offensive line,” Morris said. “We have some guys out right now that’s forcing these two young guys, to get in there and get game-speed reps. They have done a really good job. I think we have a lot of freshmen that have a chance to help us out this year.”
Outside linebacker/nickel back Joe Foucha, of New Orleans, and safety LaDarrius “Day-Day” Bishop, of Ashdown, both are rookies of Morris merit.
“Joe Foucha, I think hands down he has a chance to be special,” Morris said. “He really does. I’ve been pleased with Day-Day, LaDarrius Bishop. He’s done some good things.”