Hogs: Greenwood walk-on Morgan, Pulaski Academy true freshman Henry in the mix at LB
FAYETTEVILLE - While starting junior weakside linebacker Dre Greenlaw continues easing back into the Razorbacks preseason practices after missing spring drills with a twice broken foot, Grant Morgan takes the bulk of Greenlaw’s first-team practice snaps.
Grant Morgan, erstwhile known as the Greenwood sibling of now former Razorbacks leading receiver and current NFL Miami Dolphin Drew Morgan, is a redshirt freshman walk-on trying to capitalize on this surprising opportunity.
Redshirt freshman Dee Walker and true freshman Kyrie Fisher also have rotated at weakside ‘backer, says inside linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves.
“Right now it’s been Grant,” Hargreaves says. “He’s going with the first bunch a little bit. Right now it’s kind of by committee with Grant taking most of them and I’m working the other two guys.
“Grant is a smart football player. He knows what do to. I think he’s got really good instincts. He’s tough and he loves to play. So I think he’s going to put himself in position if he continues to improve to be able hopefully to help us this year and play a little bit. I’m excited for him.”
The coach is excited Morgan and others get ready but obviously would be most excited when 2-year starting playmaker Greenlaw of Fayetteville is deemed full go as the Aug. 31 season-opener in Little Rock against Florida A&M awaits.
NOT RUSHING GREENLAW
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema has set scrimmages for Saturday and the following Aug. 12 Saturday but nothing forthcoming yet if Greenlaw would participate in either.
Asked if Greenlaw might play the season opener without scrimmaging before it, Hargreaves did not envision that occurring.
“ I don’t think that’s going to be the case,” Hargreaves says. “He’ll be able to get in some scrimmages. There’s no doubt about that.”
However since Greenlaw first broke his foot six games into the 2016 season then reinjured it upon his return from the Belk Bowl loss to Virginia Tech, the coaches aren’t going to scrimmage him prematurely, particularly with Greenlaw having a “ little setback,” Hargreaves says, unrelated to his foot.
“He’s just been a little sore,” Hargreaves said. “We’re just trying to make sure that he’s 100 by the time we get rolling.”
ANOTHER SIBLING RISING
Grant Morgan isn’t the only walk-on brother of a former Razorback star climbing the ladder.
With first-team outside Hog linebacker Karl Roesler out with a hamstring injury and second-team Hog linebacker Jamario Bell of Junction City undergoing surgery Monday to repair a broken foot, true freshman Hayden Henry has been practicing some second-team Hog ‘backer behind new junior college transfer Gabe Richardson.
A Little Rock native and Pulaski Academy grad, Hayden Henry is the brother of current Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, a Mackey Award winning All-American tight end during his 2013-2015 Razorbacks career.
EVERYONE LOVES T.J.
If there was a staff tug of war for a single Razorbacks player, it seems sophomore T.J. Hammonds of Pulaski Joe T. Robinson would be the one tugged.
A running back last year, Hammonds was moved to receiver before spring ball following Arkansas graduating four senior receivers from 2016.
Then when 2016 SEC regular-season leading rushing running back Rawleigh Williams suffered a career-ending neck injury on the final day of spring practice, it appeared Hammonds might move back to running back. And he has, kinda sorta, under Bielema’s directives to offensive coordinator Dan Enos and running backs coach Reggie Mitchell yet mainly remains at receiver.
A good thing, too with senior wideout Jared Cornelius, 32 catches for 515 yards last season, out indefinitely with an ailing back.
Bielema listed Hammonds, sophomore Deon Stewart of Hardy and deep-ball catching redshirt freshman Jordan Jones of Smackover as the current first-team receivers.
“T.J. does some nice things,” Bielema says. “He's good with the ball in his hands and we will continue to flip him in there at running back a couple times throughout the course of the day during practice and of course in game-like scenarios.”
Running backs coach Mitchell says, “He’s one of the more dynamic guys on our team. You put him out at receiver and he looks like a natural born receiver. You put him in the backfield doing certain things and he’s a natural there. He is about one of the only guys on our team able to do both those things.”