Arkansas junior quarterback Ty Storey / ArkansasRazorbacks.com
Either Arkansas (1-6, 0-4 SEC) or Tulsa (1-5, 0-3 AAC) will pick up their second win of the season Saturday when the two beleaguered football teams square off at 11 a.m. at Razorback Stadium.
For the Razorbacks, it could be their last chance for another victory this season as four SEC games await the Hogs to close out what has been a miserable season thus far.
Or the game could conceivably be the start of a Razorback turnaround that would likely still fall short of a bowl appearance but one that would at least leave a less bitter taste in the mouths of the Razorback faithful during the offseason.
Next up for the Razorbacks
Opponent: vs. Tulsa
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20
Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville
TV: SEC Network
Oct. 27 – Vanderbilt
Nov. 10 – LSU
Nov. 17 – at Mississippi State
Nov. 23 – at Missouri
We don’t what Saturday will bring. Just like we don’t exactly know who will start at quarterback for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas starting quarterback Ty Storey, who exited last week’s 37-33 loss to Ole Miss in the fourth quarter after a hard hit that ended with his head bumping the ground, reportedly practiced this week. Arkansas coach Chad Morris said Wednesday that Storey would likely play against Tulsa during the SEC teleconference, but he was about as noncommittal as possible in doing so.
“We’ll re-evaluate again today, but he’s been cleared to go, so we anticipate him playing right now on Saturday,” Morris said.
During Morris’ short time as the Hogs’ head coach, he’s been less than forthcoming about some injuries.
Case in point, no one knew that running back T.J. Hammonds couldn’t play last week because of an ankle injury until Rakeem Boyd and Devwah Whaley suffered injuries, and Hammonds didn’t step onto the field.
When information like that is withheld, it creates questions when the coaching staff is coy about injuries.
The UA can rightly stand behind the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which was instituted to protect the rights of the injured and ill, for not releasing information about an injury, but Arkansas’ less than firm stance on whether Storey will play much less start this week seems to be more about gamesmanship.
Why give the opponent more information than is absolutely necessary?
So, despite the fact Storey was spotted Wednesday going through drills during the short window media is allowed to watch practice, the question will persist until after kickoff about how much Storey will or won’t play.
However, the fascination isn’t so much about Storey, but whether true freshman Connor Noland will take meaningful snaps in the game.
Noland and fellow freshman John Stephen Jones both played in Arkansas’ loss to North Texas, but under a new NCAA rule, each could play in three more games and this season be counted as a redshirt year, leaving them both with four years of eligibility.
With Storey banged up, many fans would like to see if the future is now. What can Noland do at quarterback in a game that isn’t already out of reach?
I have to admit, I fall into that category.
Not to say that sophomore quarterback Cole Kelley doesn’t still have value to the Razorbacks, but we’ve seen the Hogs falter several times this season when he was given opportunities, most recently in the fourth quarter last week in the loss to Ole Miss.
A nonconference game at Razorback Stadium seems to be as good a time as any to see what the promising young quarterback from Greenwood can do whether Storey is healthy or not.
Frankly, this is a game where other freshmen Razorbacks should be given the opportunity to see the field as well. The Hogs’ final two games are on the road at Mississippi State and Missouri where Arkansas’ travel roster is limited to 70 players. That leaves just the Tulsa, Vanderbilt, and LSU games for some players to gain experience.
With the luxury of bowl practices this December highly unlikely, further development of those young players has to come in the regular season. While I’m not advocating an overall youth movement, experience gained now could pay off for the Razorbacks next season.
All of that said, the Razorbacks are going to have their hands full with Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane’s record is terrible, but they played No. 7 Texas and No. 21 South Florida off their feet before falling 28-21 and 25-24 respectively.
Tulsa won’t be in awe of the Hogs, and they won’t lay down just because it is homecoming.
I firmly believe the injuries suffered last week during the game kept the Hogs from beating Ole Miss. I have less issue with that loss than any the Razorbacks have suffered this season.
However, at some point, Morris and his staff needs to lead the Razorbacks to victory over a FBS program this season, preferably more than one, to give fans and for that matter recruits to trust in.
Patience is a necessity when a coach is rebuilding a program that is as down as Arkansas’, but progress is too.
At some point, “looking improved” while losing can’t be credited as progress.
I’d say that time is now.