HOGS: O responds to poor scrimmage; notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman presumed after being dominated in Friday’s scrimmage that the offense would practice much better this week.
Junior right tackle Dalton Wagner verified after Tuesday’s practice that is exactly what’s happening.
“We came out swinging,” Wagner said. “We knew what our standard was. We knew the scrimmage on Friday wasn't our standard and isn't what our expectation level is, and it's not what we want to put on film.”
Wagner believes Friday’s flop provides a longterm boost.
“It was a lesson for us to see who we are and how we can dig out of that hole,” Wagner said. “I think we learned a lot from that scrimmage. This week, I think the offense has been doing a great job.”
Arkansas’ defense floundered the previous Friday but bounced back last Friday.
“I think we just got better the next week,” Arkansas defensive tackle Xavier Kelly, the graduate transfer from Clemson, said Tuesday night. “We had a chance to look over the film from our first scrimmage to correct some mistakes. And the second scrimmage, we applied what we went over during the week. We just got better. We had more energy and probably got more in shape, as well.”
Junior safety Joe Foucha implied both units have learned to avoid complacency after enjoying success.
“We should not get satisfied by what happened Friday,” Foucha said. “Coach (Barry) Odom told us moving forward we should focus on one day at a time and getting better every day as a defense.”
BEST VS. BEST
As an offensive tackle, Wagner appreciates what he’s up against in practice, trying to block starting defensive ends Dorian Gerald, the third-year junior college transfer, and new JC transfer sensation Julius Coates.
“Julius has made us (offensive tackles) so much better,” Wagner said. “Man, I can't tell you the invaluable experience he brings to us. He goes so hard every single play. Every third down, every 1-on-1 rep we've got, it's unbelievable. The kid is just an animal out there. The fact that we get to go against a D-end of his caliber - Dorian, too - they make us so much better every single day.”
Apparently there have been some epic battles with the defensive ends and sometimes defensive tackles Kelly and Jon Marshall, vs. senior left offensive tackle Myron Cunningham.
Asked if he had to single out one Arkansas offensive lineman, Kelly replied, “I would say Myron. He’s a great offensive lineman. We definitely make each other better.”
Wagner, battling third-year sophomore Noah Gatlin for the right tackle spot, cited freshman center Ricky Stromberg (6-4, 311) and Cunningham (6-7, 325), considerably stronger than last season, as O-line leaders.
“Those guys have stepped up everything,” Wagner said. “From their nutrition to their game and their focus on everything. They anchor the O-line.”
SEIZE THE OPP
Off his 13 catches for 155 yards last year, senior Tyson Morris should vye for time at wide receiver behind wideouts Treylon Burks, Trey Knox and Mike Woods.
However, the Helena native who moved north and graduated from Fayetteville High, has been sidelined by a broken hand.
Seniors De’Vion Warren, most impactful on kick returns, and T.J. Hammonds, a combo running back-receiver, have drawn Pittman’s attention.
“De’Vion Warren and Hammonds are the guys behind the first three who have made plays,” Pittman said after Friday’s scrimmage. “We’re a little thin there right now, but those two are the guys that to me have stuck out.”
NEW TIGHT END
True freshman offensive tackle Marcus Henderson became the latest tried at tight end. Blayne Toll, recruited as a defensive end, was the first player Pittman moved from another position to tight end, a position Pittman has said remains wide open.
The Razorbacks are off Wednesday but practice Thursday night, their first night practice of the preseason.
For their entirely SEC 10-games schedule, the Razorbacks open at 3 p.m. Sept. 26 against Georgia at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. They play the first night game at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at Mississippi State.