HOGS: Most consistent QB to start; notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Wednesday’s scrimmage looms as the last major hurdle as Arkansas coach Chad Morris ponders whether SMU graduate transfer Ben Hicks or Texas A&M graduate transfer Nick Starkel starts at quarterback in the Aug. 31 opener against Portland State.
Hicks, Morris’ 2016 and 2017 SMU starting quarterback before Morris moved to Arkansas in December 2017, and Starkel, wielding the hotter hand during Saturday’s scrimmage, were media available Tuesday after practice.
Starkel operated first-team Tuesday, but they’ve flip-flopped throughout the preseason drills with the first-team offense and second-team offense working on different practice fields so all can get more reps.
Morris said Hicks likely gets first-team snaps early Wednesday but Starkel will get his first-team snaps, too.
“It will rotate back and forth,” Morris said, noting redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and true freshman K.J. Jefferson also will get reps.
“I'm not naming one (the starter),” Morris said, “but I will tell you this: I'm looking for consistency again.”
Both quarterbacks addressed the importance of Wednesday’s last major scrimmage of the preseason.
“I think every scrimmage is big,” Starkel said. “Especially for the quarterback position and being able to feel what it’s like to be in a game almost, with them. The last scrimmage was a little different. A lot of first downs and didn’t really get a feel for how the offense could work when you get a drive going. But I think tomorrow is going to be a really good sense of how we can get our tempo going and everything.”
Hicks assessed much the same.
“I think it’s as big as any of them,” Hicks said. “You take one day at a time, get ready to practice and get the guys in the end zone. That’s the main thing we’re looking for, a guy that’s going to get us in the end zone and help us win games.”
Hicks, a January UA enrollee taking command of the team in spring practice while Starkel was finishing his Texas A&M degree, still feels in command.
“Oh, yeah,” Hicks said. “I think we’re all pushing each other from that standpoint and making each other better as leaders. Being on split fields you are not getting to talk to everybody every single day like you were if you weren’t doing split fields. So everyone is taking command and has a leadership role.”
Both know Morris and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Joe Craddock will choose the starter.
“We’ll see how that goes from the coaches,” Starkel said. “It’s their decision. It’s all going to play out. It’s just the game of football. There’s always a quarterback competition unless you’re in the League and you’re like Tom Brady. Even then they’re still competing, but it’s just a little different.”
Hicks: “That’s up to Coach Morris and Coach Craddock. I feel like I’ve done my job, and that’s what I’m trying to do every day at camp. Just do my job and take it one day at a time and see what happens when they make that decision.”
TUESDAY’S FIRST TEAMS
For the 20 minutes media were allowed to view Tuesday’s practice in shorts, Starkel quarterbacked the first-team offense against the first defense.
Hicks quarterbacked the second-team offense against the second-team defense and redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones, who did complete a deep pass to freshman receiver Shamar Nash, quarterbacked the third offense vs. the the third defense.
Junior Rakeem Boyd, the Razorbacks’ leading rusher from 2018, operated first-team running back.
With senior first-team left offensive tackle Colton Jackson of Conway practicing but under caution coming back from a foot injury, junior college transfer Myron Cunningham, also working Monday at right guard, did the team session at left tackle. True freshman Ricky Stromberg worked at right guard.
Junior Ty Clary drilled at center, and sophomore Dalton Wagner at right tackle as they have throughout the preseason.
With senior tight end Cheyenne O’Grady (knee surgery two weeks ago) not due to practice until game week, fourth-year junior Grayson Gunter and second-year senior transfer Chase Harrell operated as first-team tight ends in conjunction with wide receivers Mike Woods, a sophomore, and true freshman Treylon Burks.
Freshman wideout Trey Knox, ill since Monday, did not practice.
The defensive first team included veteran ends Gabe Richardson and Dorian Gerald, senior tackles McTelvin “Sosa” Agim and T.J. Smith, linebackers Bumper Pool and De’Jon “Scoota” Harris, the senior middle ‘backer and 2018 SEC leading tackler, and cornerbacks Jarques McClellion and Montaric “Buster” Brown, freshman nickel back Greg Brooks and safeties Kamren Curl and Joe Foucha in the secondary.
With the final major scrimmage of preseason scheduled Wednesday, Tuesday’s practice was lighter but still taxing with 95-degree air temperature while the heat index approached 105.