Arkansas Razorback Football

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Sam Pittman presumed after Arkansas’ offense was defensively dominated in last Friday’s Razorbacks scrimmage it would take sufficient offense to practice much better this week.

According to fourth-year junior right  offensive tackle Dalton Wagner after Tuesday’s practice, Arkansas’ offense verified the head coach’s presumption.

The offense, we came out swinging,” Wagner said. “We knew what our standard was. We knew that the scrimmage on Friday wasn’t our standard and isn’t what our expectation level is and it’s not what we want to put on film.  Everyone came out wanting to get that bad taste out of your mouth.”

Wagner believes last Friday’s flop provides a long run boost.

“It was a learning lesson for us to see who we are and see how we can dig ourselves out of that hole,” Wagner said.  “I think we learned a lot from that scrimmage. This week, I think the offense has been doing a great job.”

Arkansas’ defense suffered the short of end of the scrimmage stick the previous Friday then was inspired to bounce back last Friday.

“I think we just got better the next week,” Arkansas defensive tackle Xavier Kelly, the graduate transfer from Clemson, said Tuesday night recalling the defense’s regrouping.  “We had a chance to look over the film from our first scrimmage  to correct some mistakes. And the second scrimmage, we applied what we went over during the week. We just got better. We had more energy and probably got more in shape, as well.”

Junior safety Joe Foucha implied both units have learned preseason lessons regarding avoiding complacency post success.

“We should not get satisfied by what happened Friday,” Foucha said of being part of coordinator Barry Odom’s defense dominating the scrimmage.  “Coach Odom told us moving forward we should focus on one day at a time and getting better every day as a defense.”

As an offensive tackle, Wagner appreciates what he’s up against in practice trying to block starting defensive ends Dorian Gerald, the third-year junior college transfer healthy again after hardshipped in 2019 because of a since healed bruised neck artery, and new JC transfer sensation Julius Coates.

“Julius has made us so much better at that  (offensive) tackle spot,” Wagner said. “Man, can’t tell you the invaluable experience he brings to us. He goes so hard every single play. Every third down, every 1-on-1 rep we’ve got, it’s unbelievable. The kid is just an animal out there. The fact that we get to go against a D-end of his caliber – Dorian, too  – they make us so much better every single day.” 

Apparently there have been some epic battles with the defensive  ends and sometimes defensive tackles Kelly and Jon Marshall, vs. senior left offensive tackle Myron Cunningham.

Asked if he had to single out one Arkansas offensive lineman, Kelly replied, “I would say definitely Myron.  He’s a great offensive lineman. We  definitely make each other better.” 

Wagner, battling third-year sophomore Noah Gatlin for the right tackle spot, cited freshman center Ricky Stromberg (6-4, 311) and Cunningham (6-7, 325)  considerably stronger than last season, as O-line leaders.

“Those guys have stepped up everything,” Wagner said. “From their nutrition to their game and their focus on everything. Definitely the anchors of the O-line.”

Off his 13 catches for 155 yards last year, senior Tyson Morris should be in the thick of it for wide receivers time behind Arkansas’ Big Three of wideouts Treylon Burks, Trey Knox and Mike Woods.

However the Helena native who moved north  graduating from Fayetteville High has been  sidelined by a broken hand.

Seniors De’Vion Warren, most impactful on kick returns, and T.J. Hammonds, a combo running back-receiver, have drawn Pittman’s attention.

De’Vion Warren and Hammonds  are the guys behind the first three that I can think of that have made plays,” Pittman said after last Friday’s scrimmage.  “We’re a little thin there right now,  but those two  are the guys that to me have stuck out.”

True freshman offensive tackle Marcus Henderson Tuesday became the latest tried at tight end.

Blayne Toll, recruited as a defensive end, is the first that Pittman moved from another position to tight end, a position that Pittman has said remains wide open.

The Razorbacks are off Wednesday and next practice Thursday night, their first night practice of the preseason.

For their  entirely SEC 10-games schedule, the Razorbacks open Sept. 26 at 3 p.m. against Georgia at Reynolds Razorback Stadium then play their first night game, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at Mississippi State.

Photos courtesy of CRaven Whitlow, CW3, Sports Action

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