FAYETTEVILLE — New Arkansas coach Chad Morris’ Razorbacks zipped through Wednesday’s first preseason practice in full pads so energetically they couldn’t sit still for halftime.
“We went into halftime still pumped up,” Arkansas third-year sophomore backup middle linebacker Grant Morgan of Greenwood said. “Coach Morris cut out halftime because we all still had energy. So he said, ‘Enough of halftime. Let’s keep going.’ We all had a lot of energy out there today.”
While the Hogs won’t have an entire full day of hitting until Saturday’s closed scrimmage, they apparently hit plenty during Wednesday’s practice, closed to media for all but the first 20 minutes when at that point they are just getting warmed up.
“Yeah, we tackled full,” Morgan said. “We did a couple of periods of that. Offense made a lot of good plays. The defense has got to step up. They moved the ball on us a little bit. We’ve got to figure that out. I messed up on that I’ve got to get figured out.”
Who made some of the good offensive plays?
“I know (junior running back) T.J. Hammonds made a couple good plays,” Morgan said. “The (injury-depleted) offensive line was really doing well with the little bit that they have. Our D-line really stood their ground.”
Who made some good defensive plays?
“We had a lot of good defensive plays,” Morgan said. “Jamario Bell (the junior backup defensive end from Junction City) punched out a ball during inside drill. He punched it out and returned it.”
Bell, 6-5, 247, picks up these August closed practices where he left off, with these statistically stellar performances from spring practice and the spring game.
“You see him go play basketball and you say that guy is an athlete,” Morgan said. “I’m really anxious to see what he can do off the edge because he’s really lengthy, and he can get to the quarterback quick. I think a lot of people are going to be happy to see him out there.”
Morgan said Bell wasn’t alone in wresting the ball from the offense.
“We’ve been forcing turnovers,” Morgan said. “We think had like eight yesterday and today I think we had four or five.”
Sophomore strong safety Kam Curl picked one of them.
“I saw Kam Curl pick one off and drag one foot on the sideline,” Morgan said of an interception. “It was really good. And Sosa (junior defensive lineman and Hope High School alum McTelvin Agim) made like three or four sacks in a row. He’s unstoppable. He’s an unblockable guy.”
Speaking from an offensive perspective, tight end Cheyenne O’Grady of Fayetteville in passing noted a catch by junior Arkansans receiver La’Michael Pettway of Nashville.
“We had like our special situations drill going there and I saw LaMichael caught a fade ball,” O’Grady said. “I was just really trying to pay attention to the play calls because I’m just trying to master the offense.”
Arkansas senior right offensive guard Johnny Gibson of Dumas was asked after Wednesday’s practice about a line that has lost starting left tackle Colton Jackson of Conway (July back surgery) until at least midseason and reserve lineman Deion Malone (major knee surgery after injured Monday) for the season and currently has starting center Dylan Hays (back) and reserve guard Jalen Merrick (concussion protocol) not practicing.
The nine scholarship O-linemen practicing Wednesday included true freshman guard Silas Robinson and true freshman tackle Noah Gatlin on the second team, Gatlin is behind first-team left tackle Dalton Wagner, promoted with Jackson idled, and has converted redshirt freshman tackle Shane Clenin playing first-team center when not swapping positions with senior first-team left guard Hjalte Froholdt.
“The intensity was high,” Gibson said. “It was very physical.”
Gibson says Froholdt has adjusted well to the shotgun snaps in Morris’ spread offense and going on his third year starting at guard certainly has the experience to play center even if he hasn’t played it in a game.
“Having Hjalte next to me is just another experienced guy next to me,” fellow senior Morris said. “With Hjalte being there, I know that he sees the fronts and sees the defense and he looks at everything just like I do, right beside me.”
The boyhood nickname of Arkansas nickel back and Jacksonville High alum D’Vone McClure has just aged considerably.
McClure, a Razorbacks football sophomore at 24 because he played four years of minor league ball signed out of high school by the Cleveland Indians, said he’s long been called “Pluck” because of his boyhood fondness for the Looney Tunes character Plucky the Duck.
“It’s Grandaddy Pluck now,” McClure said Wednesday. “That came from Santos.”
Fifth-year senior safety Santos Ramirez is Arkansas’ secondary elder in point of Razorbacks’ service but McClure is the elder by age.
“I think I’ve got two years on him, but he’s about to get out of here,” McClure said.