You’d think that most of the talk among fans about the Arkansas Razorbacks would center around the quarterbacks.
Second-year Razorback head coach said Thursday the answer to that mystery won’t be disclosed until next week. It will be announced before game day, but Morris wouldn’t say exactly when.
Even though redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones had received the lion’s share of specific praise from Morris and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock in post-practice interviews until Wednesday when Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel were made available for questions for the first time since Aug. 3, the starter will be one of those two graduate transfers.
No doubt there is interest among fans in who’ll get the nod, and opinions do abound. However fans’ biggest concern is more basic. Hog fans are still wondering if this squad will be worth their emotional investment.
The simple truth is we don’t know, yet.
The way most evaluate a team is looking back at what it accomplished last year, tallying up how many key players return, adding in what type of talent was added, and then looking at the schedule. From that, a projection is made.
That formula simply doesn’t work with this Razorback team. While last year was a shambles, there has been so much turnover in personnel that there is no real use in looking at last year’s squad to gauge what this team might be.
As first mentioned by Hawgsports.com’s Trey Biddy, there is a possibility that there will be no Razorback who started on offense in last year’s season opener that will start Aug. 31 against Portland State.
Most of the time that’s not a positive indicator for the season, but in this case, I think it is for obvious reasons.
Whether Hicks or Starkel starts at quarterback or Rakeem Boyd or Devwah Whaley at running back or Kirby Adcock or Austin Capps at guard, my belief is this Razorback offense is going to be better. I’m convinced of that from the attitude and confidence displayed by the players and coaches in post-game interviews. Yeah, I know that’s not a lot, but it’s all we really have to go on at this point.
Arkansas’ defense is a bit more of a known quantity. Defensive tackles McTelvin “Sosa” Agim and T.J. Smith, linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris, and safety Kamren Curl lead a defense that simply put was hung out to dry last year by an inept offense.
I’m not saying last year’s offense held the defense back from being great. That’s not the case, but it held them back from being as consistent and solid as they might have been if they had not been stuck playing with their backs against the wall game in and game out.
Inexperience will be a hurdle for this defense behind the starters on the defensive front and at every spot in the two-deep of the secondary except for Curl’s safety spot.
That has to be daunting for the Arkansas coaching staff. What’s scary, though, is that many of these players did throw in the towel against Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Missouri last year.
When it gets tough this year — and it will get tough — will these players fight or flop?
Despite some nagging negative thoughts, I’m optimistic enough today to believe this squad has enough in it to go 6-6 in the regular season if the team stays relatively healthy. While that might not be enough to get anyone excited, it would be tremendous progress from last year.
It would mean two SEC victories, which would be significant for a team that went 0-8 last year.
It would mean a bowl game, which is needed for the extra practice time and publicity for recruiting.
It would show improvement to fans who’ve become disheartened and disillusioned in recent years.
It would be a signal the football program is alive, improving, and most importantly that better days are ahead.
It would generate hope, which has been in short supply for too long.
Who’s Gonna Start at QB?
Will it be Hicks or Starkel at quarterback? It’s the million-dollar question. We’ll know next week, but here’s my thoughts.
Knowing coaches are generally risk-adverse, Hicks seems to be the logical choice. Morris and Craddock know him and trust him from previously coaching him at SMU. They know what to expect, and they obviously trust him, or they wouldn’t have recruited him as a transfer. It’s the prudent choice.
That said, if Starkel is named starter, then we can assume the decision wasn’t all that close. If the choice is close, the only logical decision is to go with the quarterback you know best.
If Morris’ decision is Starkel, it speaks highly of not only the young man’s skill, talent, and ability, but the trust he was able to build with the coaching staff and players in a relatively short time.
Morris has said being named starter for the first game isn’t a long-term contract, but I hope whichever one is named takes the job and never looks back.
Saturday is Fan Day for the Razorbacks, tentatively scheduled from 3 to 6:30 p.m. The time is tentative because of the weather.
The event is scheduled to start with a mock game at 3 p.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium and then move to the Walker Indoor Practice facility from 4:30-6:30 p.m. for autographs with the team and coaches.
However, rain could push the mock game inside the practice facility where there would not be enough room for fans to attend the practice. Rain or shine, the Razorbacks plan to sign autographs beginning at 4:30 p.m. To make sure as many fans as possible can be accommodated, the UA is limiting each fan to one item to be signed by the players and coaches.
The Chad Morris show
The 2019 edition of “Razorback Football with Chad Morris” debuts this Sunday on channels across the state with its preview special. KFSM and its sister station KXNW will air the show on Sundays at 10 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. respectively. KATV will also air the show at 10:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Chuck Barrett is back as host, and he and Morris will recap the previous Saturday’s game and introduce a number of features spotlighting players and different aspects of the Razorback football program, as well as look forward to the next contest.
There will be no shows on Oct. 6 or Nov. 17 following the Razorbacks’ open dates, and there will be no show following the Missouri game, according to a scheduler released by the UA.
Florida vs. Miami
While the rest of the world waits, Florida and Miami fans are gearing up for game day. The No. 8 Gators and the Hurricanes kick off the season at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.
Dan Mullen’s Gators broke through with a 10-win season last year hope to chomp at the heels of the Georgia Bulldogs for SEC East supremacy this season.
The Hurricanes are transitioning from Mark Richt’s retirement after a 7-6 season, with defensive guru and Miami native Manny Diaz, who twice served as Mullen’s defensive coordinator at Mississippi State, as their latest head coach.
This is the programs’ first meeting since 2013, and Miami has won five of the last six meetings dating back to 2002. History— even recent history — has little bearing on the outcome of this game.
The Gators are favored by 7.5 points, but anything can happen in an opening game. The Hurricanes are expected to be stout defensively, but are an unknown quantity on offense. The question is will Miami be able to slow down what is expected to be an improved Florida offense enough to be in the game in the fourth quarter?
Sounds like a great matchup to prime the pump for what hopefully will be an outstanding college football season.