By Otis Kirk
Arkansas will begin spring drills on Friday. Chad Morris met with the media on Monday to discuss the upcoming drills including Connor Noland and more.
Noland is splitting his time with the baseball and football teams this spring. He has worked his way into the weekend rotation in baseball which obviously casts some doubt on some of his availability for football.
“I’m sure he’ll be here Tuesday, I would anticipate,” Morris said. “May have him here Friday. But how about that guy? What a heck of a start, not just him but our entire baseball team. It’s impressive to watch him, so I’m excited about him. But he’ll be here. He’s going to be here and be around.”
Noland started one game last season and played in four, but was able to save his redshirt season. He is joined at quarterback by SMU grad transfer Ben Hicks, redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and sophomore Daulton Hyatt.
“Having Ben Hicks here is going to help us, as also having John Stephen Jones and Connor Noland and Daulton,” Morris said. “Those guys in their second year, you would expect. You would expect in your second year, expect things to be better. I’m excited about that. I think that what we’ve seen already, from the time we got here in January to where we are right now has been far in advance of where we’ve been. I say that in regards to these guys, the extra work they put in on their own.”
Morris went into how he has managed Noland being with the team some and also at baseball.
“Again, just communicating with him and how he feels and obviously coach (Dave) Van Horn and their strength staff and coach Tru (Trumain Carroll) and our strength staff,” Morris said. “So I think that’s number one, making sure he knows his own body feels and to be able to communicate effectively with us, and not over do him. He’s smart he understands, having him around and be around his teammates and being able to get the reps that he is getting in is critical.”
Morris was asked about baseball and how much he played the game when he was younger?
“I played it, but obviously wasn’t quite as good as Connor, but I love baseball and all sports. I love to watch guys compete at whatever sport it is,” Morris said. “It doesn’t matter. Maybe that’s part of being a high school coach – you encourage your players, ‘If you can do multiple sports, then you’re competing.’ Part of competing at any sport do we not want. We want guys who want to compete and we encourage high school players across the country, ‘Man, go play multiple sports. Go compete.’ That may be powerlifting. Go powerlifting and go compete.
“So to be able to watch one of our own and Connor going down and competing and watching how special this young man is, I’m excited. They’re having success and winning and bringing a winning attitude back to us. Hey, again, you love those things.”
Justice Hill is fresh off leading Little Rock Christian to a state championship in football as a quarterback. He enrolled at Arkansas at midterm and has practiced with the basketball team. Morris confirmed on Monday Hill is also going to join the football team this spring.
“Yes, he will,” Morris said. “Obviously we’re going to get to the point when he’ll be out. We’ll wait and see on that. I’ve met with him, talked with him and it’ll be at the position that he feels and that we both feel he can contribute. I’ve left it up to him. Whether it’s corner, wide receiver, cornerback, running back, whatever it may be, we know he’s an athlete that’s had a lot of success and won a state championship. And any time you can have a guy on your team like that we’re excited about. Now the thing is I would anticipate him … it’s going to probably be right before spring break before he gets out.”
What conversations have you had with Mike Anderson about Hill?
“We’re going to wait until everything is over with and get together on that,” Morris said. “I know Justice and them and coach Anderson, they’ve talked a little bit and we’re going to kind of wait until after the season.”
Morris didn’t really go into the exact status of junior running back T.J. Hammonds who wasn’t listed on the new Arkansas roster.
“No, he’s just not on the team, right now,” Morris said in response to a question about Hammonds.
Can you clarify?
“He’s just not on the team,” Morris said. “That’s kind of where we’re at. And is he going to play somewhere else? I just don’t know that.”
Jeff Traylor confirmed last Thursday that Jordon Curtis had been moved to running back from cornerback. Rakeem Boyd will also be out this spring. Junior Chase Hayden and senior Devwah Whaley are healthy in addition to sophomore Curtis.
“Rakeem Boyd will not be a part of spring,” Morris said. “T.J. Hammonds is not on the team. So Rakeem is out. Devwah Whaley, Chase Hayden, this is a tremendous opportunity for these young men in their second year to elevate their game.
“We’ll move Jordon Curtis from corner to running back, which is what he played in high school, which will give us some depth there. But no, it’s not. We’ve got to get fundamentally sounds. We’ve got to go back to the tracks of our zone and our outside zone and power and counter. Those things like that have got to be…we’ve got to perfect those things regardless of who’s back there.”