FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The second preseason scrimmage will be held on Saturday morning as Arkansas prepares for the season opener in two weeks.
The scrimmage follows up one they had this past Saturday. Chad Morris is hoping to have a productive scrimmage on the practice fields.
“We won’t be on the stadium this week,” Morris said. “It will probably be another week before we get out there. I do not anticipate going as long. We’ve got a lot of our former players coming in. We’ve got our former player Barbecue. We’re excited to have a lot of our former players back in town and being around our players, our team. I don’t anticipate it being a 170-plus plays. We’ll go well in excess of 100 plays.
“But we’ve got it more kinda by design more situational. I want to see what we do in first down play, second down and we’ve got a lot of red zone work this week. Short yardage work this week and that will all carry over to Saturday in the scrimmage as well.”
Morris talked about the particulars he’s looking for in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“Consistency in all positions,” Morris said. “I would like to come out of this scrimmage with a really good indication on both sides of the ball of who are we going into that first game week and start two weeks out really rep ping those guys and getting them ready to go. That’s our goal as a staff and hopefully we will get there.
“We will have one more scrimmage, it will be that following Wednesday. But that is our goal right now.”
One position battle everyone is interested in is at quarterback. It appears the decision on who will start will come down to senior Ben Hicks or junior Nick Starkel, both grad transfers, but redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and true freshman KJ Jefferson are still battling for playing time. Any chance Morris names the quarterback after Saturday’s scrimmage?
“Sure, we’ll end up announcing it at some point,” Morris said. “We’ve got two really good opportunities ahead of us and we’ve got some live situations that we’ll get into.
“We’ll transition into afternoon workouts next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and try to get them ready for the start of school. Then we’ll go back to the morning for Thursday and Friday’s practices, and then get ready for our mock game that Saturday. We’ll eventually announce it, just at the right time.”
There’s a battle for playing time at wide receiver. Justin Stepp seems to have a lot of talent in his room. He also is looking for certain things from his group on Saturday.
“Do a lot better than we did today,” Stepp said Thursday. “I can tell you that, for my group. It needs to go to another level in my room.”
While Thursday’s practice wasn’t to Stepp’s liking, how about the first scrimmage. How did the receivers do there?
“We showed flashes of what we can be,” Stepp said. “We showed flashes of where we need to improve. I think it was a great learning tape and a great teaching tape, especially for the young guys. Really looking forward to seeing what we can build off of going into Saturday for this week.”
On the offensive line, Dustin Fry also has some thoughts and goals in mind for his group.
“We want to see everything we have in protection-wise and just be consistent and show we know what to do,” Fry said. “I know we’re going to make some mistakes, but as long as we’re making them full speed … I know we’re not going to be as fresh as we were on day one, but I want to see us push. I want to see guys that may have to play with the ones but haven’t been, I want to see them step up. Guys that are playing with the twos that have been playing with the threes, I want to see them step up.
“This is the time where I’m really going to start putting that two-deep together. I have an idea what it’s going to be already, but I want those guys that are going to travel to really be impressive on Saturday.”
Mark Smith is one of two secondary coaches with the Hogs. He talked about his expectations for Saturday’s scrimmage as well.
“Just to see another step in the right direction,” Smith said. “We’ve got some different scenarios I know that Coach is going to work, so I just want to see and continue to progress. If they’re making the same mistakes they made last Saturday, then you know that the progression is a little bit slower. But hopefully the mistakes they made a week ago, they don’t make those this week and they learn from them.
“So, that’s really what we’re looking for. Did they do the same thing wrong two weeks in a row or do they have the ability to correct that and then continue on.”
Ron Cooper helps with the secondary and talked about the one this past Saturday and how the group did at that one.
“I thought we tackled well,” Cooper said. “We didn’t have many mental busts. A lot of the young guys played a lot of plays. Some guys that needed the reps got them. At the same time, I feel like we didn’t get tired. I thought we played with great effort.”
Cooper also looked forward to his expectations for the defensive backs on Saturday.
“We are only as good as our back-ups,” Cooper said. “A lot of guys are wondering right now, am I second team, am I third team…I mean I have been 14 years in this conference and you can’t play the same two guys all year. Something is going to happen. You really can’t play it with four. Somebody is going injured, somebody is going to pull a muscle, somebody is going to get tired.
“You better have five that can play, four that can play but if you lose them, you still need two more to practice. You need six corners, you need three groups of linebackers with special teams and all that. The depth is important so this scrimmage will show a lot of the young guys for the second week in a row, some played 50 snaps last week, will play 50-60 more this week before they try to take the field.”
Kenny Ingram coaches the interior defensive line. The scrimmage will be big for him as he looks for players to go with seniors Sosa Agim and T.J. Smith.
“Just growth,” Ingram said. “Things we made mistakes last Saturday, let’s see how we can apply coaching and not make those same mistakes this Saturday and let’s just see growth. Let’s get better every day not only this Saturday and this scrimmage but every day.”
Steve Caldwell coaches the defensive ends. He was asked about how his unit did in the first scrimmage?
“We did some good things,” Caldwell said. “Obviously we have a long ways to go, got a lot of young kids working. So we made some mistakes, but we were able to make some plays. Today I thought we might have even taken a step backwards, which is very frustrating. Just the fact we were out there… Coach Morris warned them, ‘Hey, the new has worn off this week. You’re going to have to learn how to really suck it up and grind.’ That’s a process. That’s a process and that’s my responsibility to make sure that they’re out there ready to practice. There were some things that happened today that were not acceptable.”
The scrimmage is closed to the media. Morris and selected players will be made available afterward.
The Razorbacks open the season on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 3 p.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium against Portland State. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.