FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas will welcome back some student-athletes for some sports including football on June 8, but not all the players will report at that time.
Hunter Yurachek, Arkansas’ Vice-Chancellor and Director of Athletics, explained that the true freshmen who weren’t on campus at midterm won’t report until June 29. Such transfers at linebacker Levi Draper (Oklahoma), kicker AJ Reed (Duke) and defensive tackle Xavier Kelly (Clemson) will be allowed to report on June 8 though they weren’t at Arkansas at midterm.
“The decision to hold freshman back to the 29th was really a decision I made,” Yurachek said. “It’s hard enough to make an adjustment from being a high school senior to a freshman to a college campus. I didn’t want that adjustment to be while we were working through our plan on June 8 where you didn’t have an opportunity to work with your coaches and develop a relationship with your coaches.
“The transfer student-athletes have been through that experience whether you are a grad transfer or a regular transfer. You’ve been through your freshman year, you’ve been through that experience. You are more mature and transfer student athletes will be able to come in June 8 because I feel there’s a different level of maturity. They’ve been through that adjustment of being a college student already.”
The Razorbacks had two grad transfers, quarterback Feleipe Franks (Florida) and defensive back Jerry Jacobs (Arkansas State), who enrolled at midterm. Former East Mississippi Community College defensive end Julius Coates also reported at midterm. Former Kilgore College quarterback Cade Pearson is a walk-on who came in at midterm as well.
The freshmen who can return on June 8 after enrolling at midterm are tight end Blayne Toll (Hazen), wide receiver Darin Turner (Memphis Central), safety Myles Slusher (Broken Arrow, Okla.) and linebacker Kelin Burrle (Harvey Helen Cox, La.) in addition to walk-on kicker Rhett Thurman (Cabot).
Yurachek noted that not all SEC schools are following this formula.
“We mentioned before that ever plan is tailored to the University of Arkansas and the state of Arkansas,” Yurachek said. “I think you’ll find that varies among our SEC colleagues. Some are going to welcome their freshman student-athletes on June 8. I made the decision, I’m the father one current student-athlete and father of one former student-athlete and understand the adjustment period for a young man or young woman. I just think it was the right thing to do to push that back to June 29.”
That leaves approximately 14 or 15 scholarship true freshmen reporting on June 29. Yurachek explained some of the eventual expected differences for the players.
“The first thing we’re trying to get through is these first couple of weeks of workouts, but I think what you will see differently for our athletes that are working out is let’s take football,” Yurachek said. “They are used to working out offense together and defense together in large groups. Sometimes there’s close to 50 guys. They are going to be in smaller sub-groups of about 16. They will enter the building through one direction and they will exit through another direction. They will not have access to their locker room or student-athlete lounge initially. We’re working our way to provide laundry service to them.
“Meetings will be held through zoom as they have been to date for the last eight or nine weeks. They will come in and workout, do their conditioning and then go back to their apartment or residence hall and have zoom meetings with their coaches. There’s a lot of differences for student-athletes right now. If you are part of the team and our coaches are going to really have their work cutout for them to really make these young men and women as they return continue to feel a part of the team because, at least early on, there’s going to be very few instances of where you are together collectively as a team.”