HOGS: young defenders emerge; notes
FAYETTEVILLE - The abundance of redshirt and true freshmen vying for spots on Arkansas' defensive 2-deep manifested in questions Tuesday for Razorback defensive assistant coaches.
Secondary coaches Ron Cooper and Mark Smith and line coaches Steve Caldwell (ends) and Kent Ingram (tackles) fielded the inquiries.
Before their session was through, they were asked about true freshmen nickel back Greg Brooks, safety Jalen Catalon, cornerback Devin Bush, ends Mataio Soli, Eric Gregory, Zach Williams and Collin Clay and tackles Enoch Jackson, Marcus Miller and Taurean Carter.
Redshirt freshmen drawing media inquiries included cornerback LaDarrius Bishop (Ashdown) and defensive tackles Isaiah Nichols (Springdale) and Nick Fulwider.
Brooks, a 2018 December high school graduate able to impress the Razorbacks staff last spring and the only true freshman opening the preseason on the first team, is sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
ONE AT A TIME
Freshman flash and preseason interception leader Catalon seems a natural to join the throng at nickel back.
Not yet, Cooper says. He doesn't want to overload Catalon from what he's learning at safety behind Kam Curl and Joe Foucha and top returning sophomore sub Myles Mason.
“Talented, still learning,” Cooper said. “You forget that everything is new to him. The speed of the game is new. The heat is new. You are expecting more than you have ever had to do and it's chaotic. When you have 80,000 people in the stands, it isn’t going to be like high school. And you still don’t take that step until you get thrown out there. Today I would say was his nicest practice here."
Junior two-year letterman safety Curl, generally deemed the quarterback of the defense, was in a green caution jersey Tuesday, limiting his practice as a precautionary measure, Cooper said.
Curl's presence helps even when not actively practicing.
"Kam anticipates and knows the different checks that go with every single coverage call we have," Cooper said. "Even though he’s only a 20-year-old, he’s in his third year and the older one out on the field with the most playing experience on the back end. He knows the correct alignments of everybody. He is communicating well and getting better everyday."
Bush impressed last spring, and Bishop last fall redshirting and again in the spring. Both rank behind first-team corners Jarques McClellion and Montaric "Buster" Brown and impress this preseason, Smith said Tuesday.
Gregory is out for awhile with ankle surgery, but the sons of Razorbacks Soli (dad Junior Soli was an Arkansas D-lineman in the 1990s for Danny Ford) and Williams (dad Rickey Williams played linebacker in the 1980s for Ken Hatfield) are impacting behind seniors Dorian Gerald, Gabe Richardson and Jamario Bell.
"Zach’s going to play a lot," Caldwell said. "So will Soli. Don’t be surprised if you see Collin Clay."
Ingram credits senior starting tackles Sosa Agim and T.J. Smith with "inspiring" Miller, Jackson and Carter through their true freshman ups and downs.
"All of them have shown signs of good things, and all of them have shown they are freshmen," Ingram said. "Marcus Miller, he's doing really well right now, and Enoch and Taurean, both of them are doing well. Taurean had a little shoulder injury but he's come back fine."
Fulwider returned Tuesday from recent injuries.
All four coaches expressed general, but certainly not total, satisfaction with Saturday's scrimmage.
“Let's see how we can apply coaching and not make those same mistakes this Saturday," Ingram said. "Let's just see growth."
Among those not practicing are receiver Daulton Hyatt (out with a pulled hamstring), running back T.J. Hammonds and tight end Hudson Henry (both in concussion protocol).
BOYD ON LIST
Junior running back and Houston native Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas' leading rusher with 734 yards last year despite reporting from junior college with a chronically injured shoulder that required surgery last winter, has been named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Preseason Watch List.
Honoring Texas Longhorns College Hall of Fame and Houston Oilers NFL Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell of Tyler, Texas, the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award annually honors the best collegiate offensive player from Texas.