HOGS must protect QB; notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas senior left tackle Colton Jackson of Conway is “doubtful” for the game Saturday at Alabama because of an ailing back.
Arkansas (2-5 overall, 0-4 in the SEC) and Alabama’s No. 1 defending SEC champion Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) meet at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. ESPN will televise the game.
Jackson injured his back during the first half of Saturday’s 51-10 SEC West loss to Auburn.
“He got out there yesterday (Tuesday) and went through practice and was unable to complete practice,” Morris said on Wednesday morning’s SEC Coaches teleconference. Morris termed Jackson “doubtful,” and senior left guard Austin Capps of Star City “out” for the game.
Junior college transfer Myron Cunningham, finishing the Auburn game on Jackson’s behalf, starts for Jackson. Sophomore Kirby Adcock finished the Auburn game for Capps (concussion) and will start Saturday against Alabama.
Recruited by the Bret Bielema regime for which he lettered in 2016 and 2017 after redshirting in 2015, Jackson was plagued by injuries and missed two of Arkansas’ 12 games under Morris last season.
This year he suffered a lingering preseason foot injury, has twice been in concussion protocol, missing games against San Jose State and Kentucky and possibly vs. Alabama, too.
“It hurts you from a depth standpoint and it hurts for a young man who has put in a lot of time and energy into this program to just not be able to be as healthy and as consistent as he wants to,” Morris said of Jackson. “We tried to limit him as much as we could in practice and still get his work in to prolong his season as much as we could. We knew he was dealing (since the foot injury) with some pain. He’s a guy who works extremely hard, loves the Razorbacks and wants to play and wants to contribute. I know he’s frustrated. We’ll continue to re-evaluate him.”
Morris said Adcock did some things well against Auburn. “He’s got to continue to get better as well all do,” Morris said. “But he’ll have his opportunities this week as he did last week.”
This makeshift line faces a formidable task protecting the quarterback, whether it’s Ben Hicks or Nick Starkel, after Auburn repeatedly pelted Hicks like a piñata last week.
“We have got to protect our quarterback better than we did last week,” Morris said Wednesday. “He got hit entirely too much. They got pressure on him when they were just running four. We’ve got some guys up front who are continuing to grow. We are having to grow them up early, (true freshman right guard) Ricky Stromberg being one of those guys. He hung in there and played every snap last week. But we’ve just got to continue to get better.”
Going into Wednesday’s practice, Morris had not designated whether Hicks, with three starts, or Starkel, four starts but not used last week, will start against Alabama.
“I haven’t made that decision,” Morris said. “Ben was out there at practice yesterday (Tuesday), trying to work through some of the soreness that he has. He definitely made it through practice and did some good things. Obviously we just wanna kinda see where these guys are as the week continues to progress.”
SABAN BACKS MAC
Because of Saturday’s surgery-causing ankle injury to Heisman Trophy candidate Tua Tagovailoa during Alabama’s 35-13 SEC triumph over Tennessee, Alabama coach Nick Saban starts sophomore backup quarterback Mac Jones for the first time.
Jones played from the second quarter on against Tennessee and apparently took command this week during practices.
“He’s been good,” Saban said on Wednesday morning’s SEC teleconference. “Really good. His disposition has been good. And he’s executed really well. Hopefully he’ll just keep improving through the course of the week as we get more repetitions. I think everybody has got to focus on finishing and doing their job. Mac’s got to do his job, and everybody’s got to do their job and that’ll be the best way for us to be able to execute.”
O’GRADY TO CAPTAIN
Senior tight end Cheyenne O’Grady of Fayetteville joins permanent defensive captains senior linebacker Scoota Harris, senior defensive tackle Sosa Agim and junior safety Kamren Curl as game captains Saturday in Tuscaloosa.