FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Wednesday was Arkansas’ turn to attend the SEC Media Days.
Following Chad Morris talking to the assembled media SEC Network’s Greg McElroy discussed Arkansas’ outlook for this fall.
The obvious hot topic is who will be the starting quarterback for Arkansas this season since all three with starts in 2018 are gone now. Arkansas added two graduate transfers, SMU’s Ben Hicks and Texas A&M’s Nick Starkel, along with redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones, true freshman KJ Jefferson and junior walk-on Jack Lindsey.
When host Dari Nowkhah suggested many were speculating that Ben Hicks was the one who would start due to three years with Morris at SMU, McElroy chose a different one.
“I am on Team Starkel,” McElroy said. “I just look at the talent and I’d rather have talent than experience. I know 2019 for Arkansas is probably not going to be their year, but they could take a huge leap in 2020 especially if they find the right guy and Starkel is gonna be there in 2020.
“I look at his arm talent. The way he can get the ball up and down and drive it into tight windows. We saw him play at this level and a pretty good defense in Wake Forest a couple of years ago. He torched them, absolutely torched them. I think he’s
Count McElroy among those that thinks the offense under Morris and Joe Craddock will get going.
“I just this offense under Chad Morris is going to get going….it’s inevitable,” McElroy said. “They are gonna score points. They did last year against Alabama. They hang high 30’s against them and moved the ball with relative consistency.
“They have some home run hitters out of the backfield. (Rakeem) Boyd can be that guy. I’m really optimistic about the type season he can have and there will be an upgrade at quarterback too.
Dari Nowkhah asked McElroy what would be a good gauge on how good the Arkansas season was in 2019?
“Are they faster and do they have more athleticism at wide receiver?” McElroy said. “That was a huge and pressing need they addressed on the recruiting trail going out and getting four guys that are highly touted and two of which that enrolled in spring that might become superstars before season’s end we’ll see.”
However, McElroy is more concerned with the other side of the football.
“But I would say more than their offensive production I want to see growth on the defensive side,” McElroy said. “It’s fine if you score points in this league that’s all well and dandy. We saw teams score a lot of points and win games, but you’re never going be really, really consistent hanging your hat exclusively on the offensive side of the football.
“If you look at Arkansas defense last year there was just too few times when you looked at that unit and said, ‘man this is an SEC caliber unit.’ Along the front they’ve got a stud in McTelvin Agim. The most disruptive guy they have and one of the few known commodities you have coming back on this defense. You also have two pretty good linebackers in De’Jon Harris and Bumper Pool. So on the inside they might be OK. But the other 7-8 pages on defense they’ve got to get on the same page.”
McElroy went on to talk about John Chavis, Arkansas’ defensive coordinator and how he has his work cut out for him this fall.
“John Chavis is an experienced defensive coordinator who has been in this league forever,” McElroy said. “I would be really surprised if they don’t take significant steps forward, but then again are those steps gonna be enough to get them to bowl eligibility because that’s truly the goal in Year 2. And to do it they probably have to get off to a 4-0 start and pull off an upset in the last 7-8 games.”
McElroy continued to go into detail about Chavis’ challenge this fall.
“It’s a difficult challenge,” McElroy said. “I don’t care necessarily about defensive personnel. I wish they had 10 superstars you knew could make a play on every single down, but they don’t have that.
“Defense is as much about mentality and fundamentals as anything else. Stay within the system. If the defense that is called requires you to play a certain gap play that gap. If you get there then tackle. That’s about all it comes down to.
“What I saw last year too often guys playing out of position, guys having opportunities to make plays and ball bounces out their hands, a guy being in the right spot to make the tackle and can’t make the tackle, the ball stretched to the perimeter and guy tries to shoot the gap and the guy goes around him. There was just too many inconsistencies. I do think there’s a lot of room for growth on that side.”