FAYETTEVILLE — The SEC allowed schools to have a two-hour virtual training session and that will expand to four hours next week.
On Friday, junior wide receiver Mike Woods, senior linebacker Grant Morgan and redshirt freshman safety Jalen Catalon participated in a teleconference with beat reporters. The virtual training was one of the hottest topics discussed.
Morgan, a former walk-on linebacker from Greenwood, played in all 12 games last season. He finished with 39 tackles, including nine solo, three for loss and one sack. The 39 tackles allowed Morgan to finish tied for fifth on the team with Montaric Brown and McTelvin Agim.
“From my aspect I feel like we’re taking it pretty well,” Morgan said. “The way that everyone has been responding through group texts. As a linebacker group I feel like everyone is really holding each other accountable with workouts, not being apart from each other. Coach (Barry) Odom said, ‘This isn’t time off. It’s just time away.’ So there is a difference in that.
“Regarding the virtual stuff, we hit that head on. We’ve been doing a pretty good job with that this past week. I know the linebackers, we haven’t been meeting with the full defense because that would mean a ton of people. But we’ve been holding it, and keeping our fundamentals down and our base of what this defense wants it to be. I think that people have really had a good attitude throughout this whole time. They can’t do anything that’s not in our control at all. We’re having trust in the people that are making our decisions for us.”
Catalon redshirted last season after inking with the Hogs out of Mansfield (Texas) Legacy. He also talked about the virtual training.
“Yes, sir,” Catalon said. “It’s going good. I think as Grant said we’re all staying in good communication. I know as a safety group we’re all doing really well with having a little – just Coach Odom checking up on us seeing how we’re doing and making sure we’re fresh with everything we’ve learned so far. Making sure we’re on top of our schoolwork and everything.
“I know that people are getting some type of productive work wherever they’re at. So I think Grant said it best, ‘Everybody is doing good with communication.’ The strength staff is on top of everything as far as physical and nutrition on that. So as far as the transition, I think we’re handling it really well as a unit.”
Morgan went into a little more detail about how the online meetings are conducted.
“We’re doing it as position groups right now to be able to be able to keep everything fresh in our heads,” Morgan said. “What the linebackers have actually done is we’ve gone through Microsoft Team. It’s an ap that you can pull up different documents and pull up different IT files and still see people’s faces. So he can look at all of our faces and we can still be interactive but then he can pull something up and show us what our four rules and our bottom line are for our defense. And we can look at different aspects. So we can hit the computer screen and see his face. It’s like Zoom on steroids, I guess.
“Other than that we have a test we have every single day. It’s like a 15-question test. If this happens, how do we respond as a defense? How do we respond as a Mike linebacker? We’re not really implementing anything because this is the first hard week we’ve jumped into it. We’re really just keeping everything fresh in our mind with everything we’ve done over this spring.”
Morgan talked about the two hours being broken up into different days.
“This week we broke it up every single day into Monday through Thursday,” Morgan said. “And then we had a couple like … Bumper (Pool) called us today and we all did a little FaceTime thing with just us, the linebackers.
“We’re doing a lot of stuff. We have a bunch of linebacker texts out to coaches and we talk and get all together. I know this past week we spread it out every single day. We used the time limit through every day.
“I don’t know how we’re going to do it next week. … I saw something on Twitter — you guys may know more about this than I do — but something about it changing to more time limit. So I’m guessing we’ll still do the same thing. We’ll just break it up Monday through Friday or Monday through Thursday.”
While it was only two hours of virtual training this week, Catalon felt it was very beneficial for the team.
“We get a lot out of it,” Catalon said. “We’ve done a great job of being on time, making sure we’re locked in like Coach Odom says. We talk 30 minutes of ball, but those 30 minutes are critical because every single second counts. No matter how you get it in, you’ve got to get it in while you can. Those meetings, we take them very serious and make sure we get the most out of it. We’ll just kind of go through and refresh us on what we’re going to do as a defense, make sure we know our spots and everything. Also just kind of talk about life lessons, making sure we’re good in life, making sure we’re knowing everything that’s going on in society and making sure we’re educated on that. I think
“Coach Odom goes a great job with our DB group just emphasizing our coverages, our defense itself, but also just making sure we understand life lessons and stuff like that to make sure we become better men as well. We take those 30 minutes real seriously and make sure we’re locked in when the times comes. That’s kind of how that’s working out.”
Woods also talked about how the receivers handed the virtual training this week.
“We did basically normal position meetings,” Woods said. “So it was good going over some things that we needed to go over. It kind of was a refresher to our minds, so I thought it was real good and we got some good things out of this week. We can definitely handle some more.”
Arkansas is slated to open the 2020 season at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5, against Nevada.