HOGS: Morris lauds 17 seniors; notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas redshirt freshman quarterback John Stephen Jones was awarded his first start with little fanfare.
Reassembling the Razorbacks for Sunday’s light practice after Saturday’s 54-24 loss to Mississippi State, Arkansas coach Chad Morris showed more than he told Jones he would start Saturday’s non-conference game against Western Kentucky. Jones will start ahead of previously starting grad transfers Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel. True freshman KJ Jefferson has been elevated to top backup.
“He just said, ‘Get ready’ and he threw me in with the ones on Sunday practice,” Jones said Tuesday evening after practice. “That’s kind of how it went.”
Arkansas (2-7, 0-6 in the SEC), with three games left, plays its final non-conference game and its 2019 home finale vs. the WKU Hilltoppers (5-4 of Conference USA) at 11 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network.
Jones gets the starting nod after directing long second-half scoring drives at Alabama and against Mississippi State.
Jefferson, able to keep his freshman status for 2020 by playing just these final four games, debuted late against Mississippi State. He directed a scoring drive he capped with a 5-yard TD after dashing 21 yards on his first play, then throwing a 32-yard pass to freshman receiver Treylon Burks.
On Wednesday morning’s SEC Coaches/Media teleconference, Morris said the Razorbacks responded well to the double freshman promotions.
“I think they did a great job of everybody rallying with them," Morris said. “It was great to see Ben and Nick helping those guys out through the course of practice. That was really inspiring to see those guys.”
Time of possession has worked decidedly against Arkansas in recent games, but Jones did direct a 13-play, 85-yard scoring drive against Alabama and a 12-play, 59-yard scoring drive against Mississippi State.
“Well, his (Jones) decision-making is really good,” Morris said. “Coming out of the Alabama game with all we asked him to do, he did not miss a read, which was a credit to those long drives that we had. Just his decision-making and ability to move the chains with his feet.”
Morris was asked Wednesday about his plan to insert Jefferson earlier against WKU than he played against Mississippi State.
“I don't know exactly when, but there is a plan to get him in and get him some reps and get him going,” Morris said. “We're excited about both these guys. They've had a really good week of practice.”
KNOX ILL, CAPPS OK
Freshman receiver Trey Knox missed Wednesday’s practice because of illness. Knox, 27 catches for 366 yards, is Arkansas’ second-leading receiver.
Senior starting left offensive guard the Austin Capps, out since suffering a concussion during the Oct. 19 (51-10) loss to Auburn, has practiced every practice this week on the first-team line and appears set to start Saturday.
Kirby Adcock, out with a concussion since starting for Capps against Alabama, drilled some on Wednesday in a green limited practice jersey.
Kick returner De’Vion Warren, injured ankle against Mississippi State, is out of Saturday’s game, Morris said.
Already a prime receiver and punt returner, freshman Treylon Burks of Warren returns kickoffs, too.
“It hurt us that De’Vion went down, but I told him that I had his back, kind of like I did with Deon (Stewart, the senior punt returner lost for 2019 with a preseason injury) and the punt return,” Burks said. “Just go out there and do what I can to help him out and help the team out.”
Sophomore receiver Mike Woods (26 catches for 334 yards) will be Saturday’s offensive captain, Morris said along with regular defensive captains De’Jon “Scoota” Harris, the senior middle linebacker, senior defensive tackle McTelvin “Sosa” Agim and junior safety Kamren Curl.
Arkansas’ 17 seniors bid farewell to their Reynolds Razorback Stadium tenure Saturday.
Most, led by All-SEC linebacker Harris, were recruited by former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema who closed 4-8, 1-7 in the SEC in 2017. They have persevered under Morris through last season’s 2-10, 0-8 and this season’s 2-7, 0-6.
“They’ve been so resilient,” Morris said. “Over the time they’ve been here and the amount of change since they got here as freshmen, these guys are still with this group and still hanging in here, the 17. I’ve got great respect for them. It hasn’t gone the way they’ve wanted it to go or anybody has wanted it to go. But you’ve got guys continuing to show up and give great effort. You saw that last week with Scoota, and you’ve seen it with these seniors throughout.”