FAYETTEVILLE — Ben Sowders came over from Louisville following the 2022 season and the team is making strides in getting bigger and faster.

Sowders talked about the improvement in size and speed the team has made and gave some examples.

“I thought we had an outstanding summer,” Sowders said. “Really excited where we’re at but I’m not satisfied where we’re at, you know what I’m saying. We’re here to get better every single day. We’re going to push the envelope. With that, we’ve made a lot a lot of strides. We’ve gotten faster.

“We’ve got 36% of our guys that wear the GPS that can run 21 miles an hour or faster. We’ve got 5 guys who can run 22 or faster and then 61% off our team that can over 20 mph. That’s everybody. I’m talking about O-line, D-line, tight ends and your skills. You’ve got over half your team being able to run 20. So we got faster. Our strength numbers went up. Very pleased. The gains that we made, the camaraderie, the togetherness that we’ve accomplished. But we’ve got to turn it up a notch as we get into training camp.”

Defensive end Landon Jackson is a perfect example of the changes in body for the current team.

“Yeah, Landon … and there’s a bunch of guys and we can get to that later … but specifically Landon, in the spring he was hitting the high 18s, low 19s in the offseason,” Sowders said. “But he played in the bowl game at 238 and he weighed in yesterday, the first day of camp at 283. So he’s held his weight and gotten stronger. And obviously it’s something to say about the kid when you get faster and you’ve put on 40-something pounds. You know what I mean? That’s hard to do. But kudos to him and all our players. They came in ready to work every day in the summer. They’re a great group to work with. They’re hungry. We’re hungry as a staff and program.

“But he was committed. He worked his butt off every day. He took his nutrition and recovery the right way and was just always looking to get better. He never stayed satisfied and I think that’s why he continued to see success in the offseason and all the way through the summer.”

Sowders also pointed out center Beaux Limmer who had a 700-pound squat on video that circulated on social media.

“Yeah, well, staying with the linemen,” Sowders said. “From a squat standpoint, I think a really good guy that probably don’t get a lot of notice is Brooks Edmonsdon. He squatted 615 and probably could have done more. I’m sorry, 625. Patrick Kutas, who is fighting for a starting job, is a 600-pound squatter. 

“Tank Booker, who came to us from Maryland, got significantly stronger. He’s squatting like 645-655. And you know what, to be honest, some of those guys could have done more. Some of y’all just see the video. It’s kind of hard to see if you’re not in person. Beaux could have done more But at the end of the day I need Beaux to be the starting center. It comes to a point where ‘Is the juice worth the squeeze?’

“I had to fight… I kind of fought him to do it because he hit 675 so easy. So he was like, ‘Coach, let me hit 700. Please let me.’ Beaux is a workout warrior, so grateful for that because he leads by example and we need that up front in the trench, guys like that. Could have done more, but at the same time, I need him to play football.”

While players are getting bigger it’s also fair to point the team speed has improved as well.

“We have doubled the amount of guys that are running 21 (mph), and we only had one guy last year who ran 22 (mph),” Sowders said. “So we’ve improved. And listen, I’m not talking (bad) with the last staff. We inherited a good situation. It’s not like I came into this big, bad thing. The staff before us did a really good job. Every staff does the little things different. For our skill guys, we wanted to get them bigger and stronger, but obviously put an emphasis on speed. You know in this league, speed kills. Especially at your skill positions. Explosive plays, typically the team that’s got the most explosive plays in a game, are the most successful teams that end up winning the game. We put a big premium on that.”

Sowders was asked who the player last year that recorded a 22 miles per hour?

“To be honest, I’m not sure who the guy was last year just off rough number,” Sowders said. “But you look at AJ Green, he hit 22, Tyrone Broden, Isaiah Sategna, Andrew Armstrong and Malik Chavis. There’s your five.”

Sowders also had high praise for transfer wide receiver Isaac TeSlaa.

“Man, he’s a freak show,” Sowders said. “He’s a freak show. I”m glad we got him and nobody else did. But, I mean, you’re talking… I think he’s like a 515-squatter at 215 pounds. He’s running high, high-21s. He cleaned 335. Could probably have done a little bit more. I think he hit 350 or 355 on his bench. I mean, you’re talking about a receiver, now. You know, so, but TeSlaa, the best thing about that kid is he shows up, and he works like it’s his last day every day, and what that does is elevates the whole room. Elevates not only his position group but the DBs, everybody. I mean, it does. It does, and it sticks out. But unbelievable kid, unbelievable human being, and we’re lucky to have him.”

Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Saturday morning.