FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas held its first preseason scrimmage on Friday and grad transfer quarterback Feleipe Franks was among the standouts.
Franks threw four touchdown passes including a pair to tight end Hudson Henry and then one to wide receiver Treylon Burks and another to wide out Mike Woods. Quarterback KJ Jefferson tossed a touchdown to wide receiver De’Vion Warren
Defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall and defensive end Mataio Soli each had one sack and linebacker Deon Edwards recovered a fumble near the goal line. Cornerback Montaric Brown and safety Micahh Smith each had tackles for loss.
The scrimmage included over 120 plays. Arkansas coach Sam Pittman talked about how the snaps were broken up afterward.
“On the scrimmage today, we went about 50 plays with the ones and twos, somewhere around 25 with the threes,” Pittman said. “We also kicked in all phases of the game – punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return, PAT, field goal. We handled several reps in all three different phases there. I thought our kickers kicked well. I thought our punters punted well.
“I think we have to get in better shape. We’re not there yet, nor did we think we would be. It was hot out there and we had a very lengthy scrimmage. Not an injury. We stayed free, as far as I know, of injuries. So I was proud of our kids to get through the first week basically in pads. With that I’ll visit with you guys.”
Pittman had praise for Franks and Jefferson and their execution at quarterback.
“I thought they executed the offense, both of them,” Pittman said. “Feleipe, it was probably his most accurate day. KJ did a little bit more with his feet, as well as Feleipe, but KJ did a little bit more on the ground. I thought both of them played well.
“Certainly we missed a few throws that we have to make in the future because every down is so critical. But I thought both of them went in the two-minute drive and went down the field and did a good job in that and a good job of orchestrating the offense in both of those situations. We had really struggled earlier in two minute on offense and they did a little bit better today.”
Pittman also talked about Henry catching two touchdown passes. He also moved true freshman Blayne Toll back to tight end today.
“Of course Henry, he caught a couple of short passes for touchdowns today and it was good to see him [do that],” Pittman said. “He broke a tackle and got in the end zone. It was good to see him have some success. I was proud of that tight end position today.”
As far as the defense, Pittman talked about who had some hard tackles.
“Edwards was one of them and then Busta Brown was the other one,” Pittman said. “Busta actually caused and recovered a fumble down close on the goal line. A magnificent, wonderful play.
“Defensively, Julius Coates is still really hard to block and he’s on some special teams as well. So we kind of ran him out of gas a little bit. But the D-line, again, they put pressure on the quarterback and I was pleased with that group. And certainly I think we’ve got work to do on defense but I was pleased with the effort.”
As far as special teams, A.J. Reed has been extremely solid after transferring over from Duke. Michigan transfer George Caratan and Sam Loy are in a battle at punter.
“A.J.’s done a good job,” Pittman said. “I think he had one day out there that I wouldn’t consider bad, but not to his standards, nor ours. But I thought he kicked the ball really well today. And our punters both Sam and Caratan really punted the ball well.”
Pittman feels the team has some good competition going on at linebacker as well. Junior Bumper Pool is back after finishing second on the team in 2019 with 94 tackles, including 38 solo, and 6.5 for loss. He also had 0.5 sack, five pass breakups and one quarterback hurry.
“There are a lot of guys there at that position,” Pittman said. “You’ve got Bumper and of course (Grant) Morgan and Edwards and (Andrew) Parker … (Levi) Draper. There are a lot of guys there.
“We haven’t really had a guy going, ‘This is my job, and I’m going to take it from you. That position right there is still a wide-open position of who’s going to be our starters there. I think we’ll know a little bit more after the practice today, once we view that.”
Pittman also talked about the running backs with senior Rakeem Boyd obviously limited today. Boyd is a proven starter and Pittman along with the staff want to try and keep him healthy for the season. Last fall, Boyd rushed 184 times for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 160 yards.
“Boyd was limited a little bit today,” Pittman said. “We limited him. He didn’t get as many carries. I don’t know what he carried it, maybe three or four times. Maybe two or three times, I don’t know. Not very many, and that was as planned. We were trying to get (Treylon) Burks and (Josh) Oglesby (carries). Both those guys those guys looked good, along with Dominique (Johnson). Those kids run the ball extremely hard, and I was proud of that.”
Pittman talked some more about the running backs not named Boyd.
“I do think we’re going to have an adequate two,” Pittman said. “You know, Oglesby was a great addition to us. He came over from track. He’s a very strong runner. He’s not a great big guy, but obviously everybody knows he’s fast. He’s a very tough runner. Trelon Smith is just a tough man. He’s tough on the field, he’s tough off the field. That’s his personality. I think we’re going to do well there. (A’Montae) Spivey did not play today. He’s a little dinged up. But I think Spivey is going to help in that rotation. And I like Dominique Johnson. I like him. He doesn’t have the speed those other guys do, but he’s not a rock’em, sock’em, run over the top of you (type of back). He can make you miss as well. He did some nice things as well. I think running back-wise, Jimmy Smith does a great job of coaching them. He’s got some hard-nosed, tough guys back there.”
Burks is someone Pittman wants to see very involved in the offense this season.
“He’s a really good player, so it’s been much topic of conversation about getting the ball to the guy,” Pittman said. “We got the ball to him early today and he took off. Not only is he big, but he’s extremely fast.
“I think he can run the football as well as catch it. He’s so dynamic with the ball in his hands we have to [get it to him]. There can’t be a game where we go, ‘Well, we got it to him two or three times.’ That just can’t happen. So we’ve got to have a plan for him. He’s been that dynamic.”
As a true freshman in 2019, Burks played in 11 games. He finished with 29 receptions for 475 yards, rushed nine times for 35 yards and also returned 12 punts and 10 kickoffs for a combined 356 yards.
Pittman did add he had awarded another scholarship to a walk-on player, but declined to name him.