HOGS: QB Hicks ready; injury report
FAYETTEVILLE - Of the three Arkansas offensive starters questionable for Saturday’s season-opener against Portland State, one practiced fully Tuesday, one practiced partially and one watched.
Senior left tackle Colton Jackson (injured foot) practiced in pads Tuesday and appears good to go for Saturday’s 3 p.m. SEC Network televised game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
“Colton looked good,” Arkansas senior starting quarterback Ben Hicks said after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s always great to have a leader like Colton back. He’s a great leader. He helps me out there and having him back was phenomenal. I think he’s ready to go on Saturday.”
Senior Mackey Award candidate tight end Cheyenne O’Grady (recent arthroscopic knee surgery) wore a green non-contact jersey Tuesday, enabling him to do some drills. Freshman wide receiver Trey Knox missed his eighth consecutive practice because of illness. UA coach Chad Morris has said their availability for today’s practice will determine their availability Saturday.
Hicks was asked if whether they play or not affects the game plan set for him. “No, I don’t think so,” Hicks said. “I think we got enough guys to make plays, and it’s next guy up.”
Sophomore wide receiver Mike Woods reacted to Hicks being named Saturday’s starter.
Hicks, the graduate transfer who was Morris’ SMU starting quarterback in 2016 and 2017, the senior QB has been locked in a tight August preseason QB battle with Nick Starkel, the Texas A&M graduate arriving in June as a transfer to the UA.
“Let’s go. Let’s ride,” Woods said. “I’m ready. We ready. That’s it.”
From practicing against Hicks since last spring, sophomore starting cornerback Jarques McClellion also laude Hicks.
“Ben Hicks, ever since he got here, he’s just had this swagger about him as a quarterback,” McClellion said. ”He walks in like he’s the leader. He’s the guy. He’s proven it.”
HICKS MEETS PRESS
Hicks’ meeting with media Tuesday was his first since Morris’ announcement. Is he almost as relieved a decision was made as he is to be the starter?
“Yeah, I’m at peace with it," Hicks said. “I’m excited for the opportunity and very thankful for the opportunity and ready to lead the guys and score points.”
Hicks told fellow quarterbacks he appreciated them for pushing him in practice, including Starkel.
“He’s taken it fine,” Hicks said. “He’s done well. I think we would have both handled it well either way. So, I appreciate Nick, and we’ll be fine.”
Starkel has two years of eligibility, but fifth-year man Hicks has only this one.
Morris said Hicks’ experience in Morris' offense compared to Starkel’s June arrival factored in his decision, especially with the Razorbacks playing so many freshmen offensively.
“We’re counting on a lot of young guys,” Hicks said. “It’s my job as a quarterback to get them prepared for Saturday and keep them going when it gets tough at times.”
Hicks said his last SMU year helps him at Arkansas now.
“I had some ups and downs last year, and I think they made me a lot better as a player and teammate,” Hicks said. “I feel like I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in my career. I’m just excited for the opportunity.”
CONTINUITY ON D
Senior middle linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris, last year’s leading SEC tackler, noted this marks his first time to see the same defensive starters get through August drills intact for Game Week.
“Our first time actually finishing camp with at least all 11 of our starters hitting the field,” Harris said. “That’s kind of been our downfall as a team these last couple of years. It builds more confidence within the first unit that all of us are still there.”
Eight Razorbacks will have SEC graduate patches adorning their football uniforms this season.
Senior defensive tackle McTelvin “Sosa” Agim of Hope, fourth-year junior linebacker Grant Morgan of Greenwood, Colton Jackson and injured for the season senior Deon Stewart of Hardy and defensive tackle T.J. Smith of Moultrie, Ga., have earned University of Arkansas degrees.
Joining the Razorbacks as graduate transfers are QBs Hicks, (SMU) and Nick Starkel (Texas A&M), while senior tight end Chase Harrell commences his second UA year as a Kansas graduate transfer.