FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It wouldn’t be a press conference at Arkansas if the quarterback topic didn’t come up and it was no different following Wednesday’s final scrimmage of the preseason.
Arkansas’ Joe Craddock, who is the offensive coordinator, started off his portion of the post-practice talk with that subject.
“Me and Coach (Chad) Morris, obviously today was the last day we’ll really evaluate those guys,” Craddock said. “Like we’ve said all along, hopefully sooner than later we’ll be able to name somebody. We’ll sit down as a staff and talk about it with Coach Morris. I know Coach has probably told you that he has one more vote than everybody else.
“So all we can do as a quarterback room is continue to get better. And whoever we decide to go with they’ve got to be in a position to lead our offense and get our unit in the end zone. That’s the main thing. That’s where we’re at. I’m hoping in the next couple of days we’ll know something. I know coach has his radio show tonight … and some other things. It probably won’t be in the next couple of days I would imagine. But we’ll try to get somebody named here pretty soon.”
The candidates are senior Ben Hicks and junior Nick Starkel as well as possibly redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones. Did any of the three standout today?
“It’s so hard to tell to be honest with you,” Craddock said. “I know that Ben had a couple of times that he pulled the ball down and ran, and coach has a quick whistle, which I’m totally fine with that. We can’t afford to get any one of those guys hurt. We had a coming out situation, where Nick wanted to run a quarterback sneak and I wouldn’t let him.
“Just those kind of situations right now are not necessary to put those guys in jeopardy. So we’ll go back and look at the film. I do know there was a couple of drops. Obviously we limited some guys today as well.”
Craddock was asked how many plays Wednesday’s scrimmage consisted of in the Walker Pavilion?
“It was about 80 scripted,” Craddock said. “I don’t know if we got to all of them or not, but it was about 80 originally that planned on running. But I am not sure what the number exactly was.”
Last year, both quarterbacks played in the opener. Do you foresee that happening again?
“We’ll see,” Craddock said. “Again, we will talk to coach, I will talk to him. It could be a possibility. We have seen enough of both of them now that we can make a decision and live with it. We’ll see where the game goes next Saturday. We’ll see. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Craddock also was asked if the receivers get any feedback on who starts at quarterback?
“No,” Craddock said. “Film says enough and we were out there with those guys and Coach (Morris) is in about everyone of our quarterback meetings and is hearing the questions I am asking and seeing who is answering them right. Everything counts and whoever we put out there, the receivers don’t really have a say so, so whoever we put out there, they need to just worry about their job, catch the ball, make plays and go score touchdowns.”
Any big plays in the scrimmage?
“In terms of big plays, I think it’s the first time we’e been in the indoor ever,” Craddock said. “So, it’s hard to see who made plays and who didn’t. It’s just a bunch of people so it’s kind of hard to see. I do know John Stephen threw a touchdown. I think it was to Blake Kern. I may be wrong about that, but I feel like that’s right. We scored a couple other touchdowns. I really couldn’t tell you who it was, but again, we limited a lot of guys and tried to get the young guys a lot of work. I think that was very very beneficial for their development, as well.”
No matter who starts at quarterback against Portland State, Craddock is more confident than last year. He explained why.
“I feel confident and here’s why,” Craddock said. “Obviously Ben’s been in the system for several years. Nick has come in and learned it very quickly. I’ve been very impressed with how intelligent he is and how quickly he’s picked up our offense. I’m just really challenging Nick – and all those guys, really – just to get the finer details of the offense down, the small stuff. You may be out there with a guy like A’Montae Spivey at running back and you might have to tell him what to do. So I’m challenging those guys to just know every detail of our offense and try to help them when they’re out there.
“John Stephen, again, he’s done some really good things. He’s really put some pressure on us to really give him a shot. I’m really proud of my room. I’m a lot more confident, obviously, John Stephen Year 2 in the offense, Nick coming in and being smart and learning it quickly and Ben obviously being in it for so long.”
Craddock also talked about what Arkansas State Coach Blake Anderson has meant to him. Anderson’s wife, Wendy, lost her battle with cancer this week.
“That’s a tough question for me to be honest with you,” Craddock said. “Coach Anderson recruited me. I would not be here today without him. It’s really said to see that happen, and Miss Wendy was a great person. I remember her through the recruiting process. I remember her being around a lot with the team.
“It’s really sad. My heart goes out for Coach. Again, I would not be standing here in front of you today without Blake Anderson giving me a shot to play college football. He found me at Briarwood Christian, a little small school south of Birmingham and gave me a shot to play quarterback. I owe him a lot. Me and my family have said a lot of prayers for his family. Coach has taught me a whole lot through this process with his courage, how he’s handle this whole situation. We wish them nothing but the best. I know Coach will bounce back and go through the grieving process and all that stuff. But it’s really sad. We’re continuing to pray for the Anderson family and hopefully everything will pass. Miss Wendy fought hard. She fought really, really hard. And we them. I love Coach Anderson to death. Hopefully he’ll bounce back.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m.