FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Chad Morris has his team practicing in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts on Wednesday as the season opener grows nearer.
The team practiced without backup quarterback Nick Starkel who was attending the funeral of Luke Laufenberg.
As far as practicing in shorts, Morris explained his reasoning.
“It’s been a long camp,” Morris said. “These guys are ready to go and we’ve had plenty of live days and full-padded days. Again, this is just an opportunity for these guys to go out in shells, without their knee pads, they’ve got their thigh pads still and it’s just a mental thing.”
Trey Knox has been out since participating in the Aug. 17 scrimmage. He did dress out on Wednesday for the first time since then. Still a chance he plays Saturday?
“Trey is not in today, won’t practice today,” Morris said. “We hope, we keep being told, ‘It’s coming,’ so we anticipate him being back tomorrow. He’ll be around today.
“I think Trey will play if he’s able to go tomorrow and go through what we call our focus fast Friday. I don’t know the exact number of reps he’s going to get, but I anticipate him being out there.”
Arkansas is a heavy four-plus touchdown favorite against Portland State on Saturday. They follow this game with an important SEC opener against Ole Miss in Oxford. Any chance they overlook Portland State?
“No, not at all,” Morris said. “Not with the season we came off last year, you don’t overlook anybody. It’s not about who we play, it’s about how we play. I shared with them today in our team meeting, I’m far more concerned about their preparation and how they continue to prepare, regardless of who we play and the magnitude of the game on Saturday. It’s about preparation today and that’s been our focus. Our guys have had great preparation to this point and I expect that today.”
With Myron Cunningham at right guard do you feel you now have your best five on the offensive line?
“I’m excited about these guys,” Morris said. “As I’ve mentioned before with Myron moving inside and Colton (Jackson) being healthy we’ve got some interesting dynamics there that I’m excited about. We’re athletic which is a good thing. We’ve got some depth which is another great thing. Ricky Stromberg is gonna have an opportunity to play Saturday. I’m excited to watch him as well.”
Treylon Burks will be the punt returner on Saturday. Morris was asked if he has ever had a true freshman handle punt returns?
“A true freshman at punt return … you know, I’d have to go back and look at that,” Morris said. “I don’t recall that I have. That’s a trust position, and this young man’s got an opportunity to be really special. I think that he’s earned that (starting spot), and we’ve got the utmost trust in Treylon. I think he’s earned that during camp.
“He’s a fantastic individual, and y’all see him as a football player, but we see him as both, and he’s a better person than he is football player. I can tell you that’s a credit to his family and credit to his coach and program. I have no problem putting him back there – as long as he can catch it.”
Some injury updates:
*** Morris on defensive end Eric Gregory, “I have. I’m really pleased with Eric right now. Where he is, I think he’s ahead of schedule. I don’t know if we’ll see him or not Saturday, but he’s definitely going to be in the mix before it’s over.”
*** Morris on tight end Hudson Henry, “We’ve got him part of the plan. He’s coming along just fine. We’re excited about Hudson. We’ll see. A lot of it just depends on where CJ (O’Grady) is. How many reps CJ will get. But, we anticipate him getting reps in on Saturday.”
*** Morris on O’Grady, “CJ O’Grady was in green yesterday, which means he got reps all but any contact against an opponent. He did hit the sled a little bit yesterday, just to see where he is today. I anticipate him playing.”