FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ four offensive assistant coaches other than Joe Craddock, the coordinator, were available to the media following Wednesday’s practice.
Among the many topics they discussed were several of the true freshmen. Obviously, without Craddock available no update was provided on K.J. Jefferson.
Here’s a look at what the coaches had to say about many of the other true freshmen.
Q: On tight end Hudson Henry could fans maybe see him in some games this season?
Barry Lunney: “Yeah, sure, certainly you could. That’s kind of been the plan is we’ve just kind of been preparing him each week as part of the game plan. Obviously we’re probably the most experienced position group on the football team. One of the most. We’ve got some guys who have been doing a good job. We just kind of weighed the fact that he got a step behind a little early. That was a legitimate setback. I mean that was a significant setback for him and his development when he missed I don’t know how many days it was. But basically a week of fall camp, and then we started turning the page quickly to start getting ready for the first game. But our emphasis and goal with him has been to continue to prepare him to play. Because we think that with his skill set that could certainly lend itself, especially with the four-game rule, and when we might need him down the stretch. We didn’t want to use him in a situation that would kind of be uh I don’t want to say meaningless. We haven’t had a lot of those opportunities, obviously the way the games have unfolded. We didn’t want to put him there for just a play here or a play there. A kickoff return. We want to save that for down the stretch in case we need that for depth to help us in the game.”
Q: How are Dylan Rathcke and Brady Latham doing on the offensive line?
Dustin Fry: “Dylan’s a freshman Dylan reminds me a lot me as a freshman. Things are spinning a little bit. He’s gotten a lot better. I think once school started, getting out of that camp, camp stuff as a freshman. But he’s handled it well, and we’re really happy to have him. He’s a guy that needs a lot of reps, a lot of practice time, but he’s done nothing but attack it and get better each day.
“Brady, that guy, he’s a guy you’ve got tell whoa and not . He’s always playing fast. He’s got great feet. He’s what we thought he was. He’s actually done a little bit better than I thought he would. There’s.a reason why he’s traveling. There’s a reason why he actually has s shot to possibly play this year because he’s physical. He plays fast and he’s smart.”
Q: What are your thoughts on offensive guard Ricky Stromberg?
Fry: “He has blown me away. Obviously he’s still a freshman and we’re not going to pat him on the butt too much, but he plays and his mentality is bigger than a freshman. I know he says he does get nervous and all that, but I remember the first I told him, ‘Hey, you’re starting against Ole Miss,’ he said, ‘OK. I’ve got to go to class.’ It was just like that, very nonchalant. I looked at Mods my G.A. and I was like, that didn’t even …. It was just like, ‘OK. Cool, I’ve got to go.’ Just his poise. The kid can just play. I can’t wait to see him at 300 pounds. I’m always worried going into games, because he is a little bit lighter, but he plays so heavy. And we’ve given him some different things to help counteract him being a little light … He plays with great leverage. He has great balance. Great feet. It blows me away about how good he is as a freshman and the kind of ceiling he has over the next three years.”
Q: Stromberg admitted to us later he was a little nervous?
Fry: “If I was nervous for him, I knew he was nervous. I knew he was. But still, though, you don’t see too many freshmen on the road in the SEC to be able to come back to the sideline and look you in the eye, and you can just see … You can reads pretty well and it was just like, ‘I’m good.’ He gave good information, he was honest when he missed up — ‘I screwed that up.’ Some guys will try to, ‘Ahh…’ He plays beyond his years. But I’m quick to say he’s still a freshman, he’s still got to get his reps. I don’t want to crown him too soon. But he’s done a fantastic job for us, and hopefully he just keeps getting better.”
Q: A couple more offensive linemen are Beaux Limmer and Drew Vest. How are they doing?
Fry: “Beaux has done a fantastic job too. He got banged up a little bit in camp and just wasn’t full-speed the last few weeks of camp. He’s finally starting to get really where he’s going. Really impressed with him this week. He’s a kid that takes a lot of pride in what he does. He plays bigger than his size. He actually weighs more than Ricky (Stromberg) does by about 15 pounds. He’s done a great job. He’s as advertised….exactly what we thought.
“Drew is a guy we talk all the time. Big body, but he’s got to get flexibility. That’s his big thing. He does a great job and he’s a fantastic teammate. He does everything you ask. His biggest thing is movement. We’ve got to make sure we get flexibility. He understands that and has done a good job in practice.”
Q: Has Logan Kallesen got to practice much since his injury?
Fry: “He just got cleared two week’s ago. He’s gonna be scout team. He’s kinda learning what college football is all about. He’s still learning. He will get a lot in spring. He has got to get back healthy in playing shape. He took a lot of time off. He’s got to get back in shape before we put him out there and do anything with him.”
Q: Is running back A’Montae Spivey close to getting reps in game?
Jeff Traylor: “He’s a really sharp kid. He came from a great program in Alabama. He understands the game very well. It’s just, I’m blessed with a very deep room and the situation just hasn’t presented itself where we can get him out there. We’ve been in five fourth-quarter ball games. It’s nothing against him, at all, it’s just the room is deep. It’s nothing he’s done or hasn’t done, it’s just a matter of, you got Rakeem Boyd, you got Devwah Whaley, Chase Hayden, you got TJ Hammonds, so it’s a very deep room.”
Q: Who is Spivey comparable to in terms of running the ball?
Traylor: “He’s kind of a slasher. He’s a downhill back but he can catch. He’s got some skill to him, some speed to him. I’m not very good at comparisons. I’m probably a terrible interview. I apologize to y’all. So, I’m not really good at that. He’s just a tough kid that plays angry, he comes from a winning program in Alabama. He’s a state champion back. You know, he’s fiery, a competitor.”
Q: How special has wide receiver Treylon Burks been?
Justin Stepp: “He’s really special. Obviously he’s gifted. He’s a big kid, big enough to play in this league already from the weight standpoint and height. If I can just get him to quit bullying, he tries to bully and run everybody over which is something different than you usually have in the room. But the best thing about the kid is he works hard every single day. He brings it every single day and raises the level of the competition in the room and I’m really proud of him. He’s got a chance to be really good. He’s just got to continue to get better every day.”
Q: Have you ever seen anyone catch a punt like Burks, more like an outfielder in baseball?
Stepp: “No, actually I never have. When he started returning punts in fall camp I was back there trying to coach my tail off and trying to get him fixed. And Coach (Chad) Morris finally looked at me one day and said, ‘Hey, Stepp, just leave him alone.’ Whatever you got to do to catch it, I’ve never, there were guys on the sideline at AT&T Stadium and NFL guys that were saying, like man, ‘I’ve never seen a human being catch it like that.’ And I said, ‘I haven’t either but it works. He wears 5x gloves which I think we had to order some for him. He’s got huge hands and he goes and attacks the ball. He does the same thing on punts. So as long as he keeps catching them, he can catch them any way he wants to. Just keep catching them.”
Q: How about Trey Knox?
Stepp: “He’s doing good. He’s so smart. He pays attention in meetings and he’s very attentive during practice and he prepares mentally.”
Q: Is T.Q. Jackson held back some because of the type offense he played in high school?
Stepp: “I wouldn’t necessarily say different style of offense. Some programs run a certain way and some aren’t. Like where Trey Knox came from and obviously where Coach (Bo) Hembree down at Warren it’s just a lot of the same stuff. So that’s one of the reasons they have caught on so fast. But T.Q., man, that kid is electric. He can do some things physically that nobody else in that room can do. It’s our job to find the best ways to put him on the field where he can be successful.”
Q: What are some of the things he can do that others can’t?
Stepp: “Speed, quickness, jumping ability. That kid, man he can do some special things.”
Q: Have there been some penalties because some of the receivers are so young?
Stepp: “There’s no excuse. The one Treylon went down field on, he wasn’t even supposed to go downfield. That’s the formation. He is ineligible. He just happened to slip a guy and just playing ball. He was actually ineligible, so it’s not his fault. We line him up like that. But it just going back, it’s not just a youth thing. The last drive and it’s a freshman, man, he wants to make the best play of the game, he wants to win the game, and you just have to pay attention to the details. He ain’t the only one. We have to clean that stuff up and that’s on me as his coach. The good thing about it is every mistake we’ve made in a game is correctible. It’s not like kids are going out there and blowing it on purpose. It’s because they care. They’re pleasers. There’s no bigger pleaser in this program than Treylon Burks.”
Q: What’s impressed you the most about Knox and Burks?
Stepp: “For their age, they’re incredibly mature. You look at a kid like Trey Knox, he was 17 when got here in January. He didn’t turn 18 until August. It’s a credit to the programs they came from in high school and it’s just their maturity. Obviously there’s things they can get better at, but they’ve done a great job of doing a good job of preparing every single day. They study and they watch a lot of film. I think that shows up in how they play on Saturday.”
Q: How do they compliment each other?
Stepp: “That’s a very good question. It helps when you have two guys of that size. When we were at SMU, Courtland Sutton was as big as Trey Knox is, probably a little bit bigger, but we didn’t have another guy that size on the other side. It helps. As far as safety rotation, it helps keep guys basic and they can’t really cloud a side because you have two weapons on the other side, as well. Treylon, he’s just one of the more physical kids I’ve ever been around, especially at the receiver position. He’s looking for contact. We just have to get him to use better technique. But when both of them are on the field, it’s a definitely match-up problem.”
Q: How about Shamar Nash at wide receiver?
Chad Morris: “Well Shamar just needs to continue to stay on the course that he’s on and just work preparing and learning the offense. And whether that’s this year or next year or whenever it may be he’s going to be a really good player for us. It’s just a process right now.”