HOGS exit summer bigger, faster, stronger
FAYETTEVILLE - Second-year strength coach Trumain Carroll didn’t just round up the usual suspects among Arkansas Razorbacks enhancing their strength, speed and stamina over the summer.
He touted some who have been Hogs for awhile but not mentioned among the conditioned elite in the past.
With UA head coach Chad Morris’ Razorbacks beginning preseason practices Friday, strength coach Carroll addressed the media before Morris’ assistants talked Monday.
Team wise, Carroll said the Razorbacks have progressed significantly over this time last year in conditioning, strength and speed, a forerunner to a 2-10 debut for Morris after he inherited a program that had fallen to 4-8 in 2018 under predecessor Bret Bielema.
“Honestly, I feel we’re in a much better spot this year than we were this time last year,” said Carroll, who as strength coach accompanied head coach Morris from SMU to Arkansas. “Just physically, mentally, from a team standpoint in guys being a cohesive unit, all of those pieces are starting to jell.
“This time last year I wished we had a lot more time to get the team prepared before fall camp,” Carroll said. “As we stand today, I’m pretty happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish in the last eight weeks of the summer.”
Senior linebacker Scoota Harris, last year’s leading SEC tackler, has recovered from his foot surgery last spring.
“Scoota is moving faster than I’ve ever seen him,” Carroll said. “From an agility standpoint, he is like … Oh my goodness … To see his competitiveness within drill work, it’s fun to watch. The foot’s 100 percent back.”
Running back Rakeem Boyd, last year’s leading rusher, has recovered from shoulder surgery and got a Carroll thumbs up.
So did freshman receiver Treylon Burks and defensive back Jalen Catalon, both coming off 2018 surgeries. Morris had touted those two incoming freshmen as comers upon signing them.
The surprises include senior starter but heretofore unspectacular defensive tackle T.J. Smith, fourth-year junior reserve defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall and last year’s graduate transfer Chase Harrell from Kansas who made little impact at receiver but moved this last spring to tight end.
“Guys who jump off the page start with T.J. Smith,” Carroll said. “He’s transformed his body tremendously. He’s shed a lot of body fat and looks extremely good. He’s feeling good. He has a motor that he can go for much longer than he was able to go in the past. Another guy who really has stood out is Chase Harrell. He’s switched positions this past off-season and really embraced it. He challenged himself nutritionally and challenged himself in the weight room. He’s added some good size to his (6-4) body. He’s walking around at 251 right now. He looks like an action figure.”
Marshall, (6-3, 299) is “hands down,” the strongest Razorback, Carroll said. “He’s as strong as a human as I’ve ever been around,” Carroll said. “He puts up some astronomical numbers on the clean squat and bench press. Honestly giving him an accurate gauge of what his true max is, I can’t tell you what that is. Because that kind of weight doesn’t fit on the bars that we have in the weight room.”
Getting two-year letterman Marshall to convert his weight room strength to football prowess is the “challenge,” undertaken by new D-line coach Kenny Ingram.
“You look at his spring from the beginning of spring to the end of spring he kept progressing,” Ingram said. “We’re definitely counting on him to have a big impact.”
The Razorbacks’ best D-lineman, 6-3 senior Preseason All-SEC second-teamer McTelvin “Sosa” Agim, weighed 279 last year playing both defensive end and defensive tackle. He now varies from 294 to 296 since moved full-time inside to D-tackle. Extra heft is desired inside, but does added weight risk decreasing Agim’s devastatingly explosive quickness?
“Absolutely not,” Carroll replied. “He’s still got a 30-inch vertical and over a 9-6 broad jump, so his explosiveness is still intact. The numbers he was able to accomplish at 280, he’s still accomplishing at 296 and that’s one of the biggest things that we made, gauge and manage as strength coaches. To make sure the size guys add or lose actually benefits them on the field.”
“He’s put on the weight in the right way,” Ingram said. “He’s maintained his explosiveness. I think at his size and position those 15 pounds will serve him well. He hasn’t struggled with carrying it.”