Jones, Ready for the Season
FAYETTEVILLE – Seems new Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman stockpiles centers like former Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema stockpiled tight ends.
So even with senior 3-year letterman, Ty Clary returning as the starting center the last two years under the Chad Morris Arkansas regime, and sophomore incumbent starting guard Ricky Stromberg working at center, too, former 2013-2015 Arkansas offensive line coach Pittman before Monday’s start to preseason practice touted guard Luke Jones’ potential doubling at center.
Little Rock native Jones, 6-5, 294, committed out of Pulaski Academy as the Willie Roaf Award top Arkansas high school offensive lineman of the year to the Bielema regime but upon Bielema’s November, 2017 firing opted in 2018 to sign with Notre Dame where he redshirted.
Opting to return to Arkansas, Jones had to redshirt again walking on with Morris’ 2019 Razorbacks.
Now he’s third-year sophomore on scholarship eligible for Pittman already touted for his versatility as displayed in the summer walkthroughs.
“Luke Jones has done an excellent job,” Pittman said last Friday. “I was surprised a little bit about how easy being a possible center was for him. It was kind of a natural for him. Obviously when you travel you want to be able to travel at least three centers. And I think he’d do a nice job if we put him in there. He’s not playing center right now but he certainly is capable. It brings a lot more value to the table from him.”
Pittman was asked for more specifics regarding Jones.
“Well, he has excellent feet,” Pittman said. “He’s quick. He’s very talented. He’s gained quality weight. He looks like an SEC O-lineman and he moves like one. He’s very smart, very intelligent. Just a really good kid who works hard.”
The boatload of tight ends that former Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. coached for Bielema through the two Morris years has dwindled.
Still, new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles thinks he has enough.
I feel good about the guys in that room,” Briles said. (Blake) Kern and (Hudson) Henry, those guys have done a good job. And then (Nathan) Bax is another player that we have that’s done a good job there.”
Scholarship freshman Collin Sutherland adds to the mix.
“All the walkthroughs you can see where guys fit and make sure they are executing but really it targets once you put on pads and do it in a physical manner,” Briles said. “That’s when you are going to be able to see who is going to hold gaps and move people. We’ll see who separates.”
For the multiple defenses that former Missouri Head Coach Barry Odom intends employing as Arkansas’ defensive coordinator, expect to find junior safety Joe Foucha most anywhere and everywhere.
Citing Foucha’s experience and speed, Odom said, “I look at the things you can do with Joe in coverage. You can move him down and put him in the run fit – in the box, so to speak. He’s multiple enough and has enough skillset to him in the pass game and run game that you can line him up in a bunch of different spots.”
KJ Jefferson, the redshirt freshman missing quarterbacking last season’s last game because of a shoulder injury requiring surgery, starts camp full go to challenge Feleipe Franks, the graduate transfer former Florida Gators starting quarterback.
“KJ, he’s healthy,” Briles said. “Looks really good. He has said that his shoulder hasn’t bothered him at all. His throwing motion has not impaired him at all in that way.”