Razorbacks Working Hard in Spring Practices

FAYETTEVILLE – Two practices into the spring and Arkansas senior offensive lineman Luke Jones may already have to start filling the play about everywhere on the offensive line role that now graduated former Arkansas Razorback Ty Clary filled the last two seasons. 

Arriving to the Razorbacks’ Chad Morris regime as a 2019 redshirting freshman transferred from Notre Dame, Jones of Little Rock lettered for Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks in 2020 and 2021 as a reserve offensive guard also practicing at center.

With 2021 left tackle Myron Cunningham graduated to trying for the NFL draft, Jones works at first-team left tackle.

He may work some at center shortly. Starting center Ricky Stromberg sat on a table treated for an apparent  knee injury suffered during Tuesday’s second of Arkansas’ scheduled 15 spring football practices.

The severity of Stromberg’s injury was not known after Tuesday’s practice.

I’m prepared.” Jones said of devoting more time to center if needed. “I’m prepared to play all five positions. We have a couple other guys on the O-line that are working for those positions, too, that everyone’s moving around, getting work at different positions. We’ve got a good O-line, good depth.’

Third-year sophomore Marcus Henderson of Memphis worked second-team center Tuesday and advanced to the first unit in Tuesday’s practice in “spiders” pads but not full pads.

Henderson began his Razorbacks career as a tackle.

“Marcus is very athletic,” Jones said. “So it’s easy for him to adapt to different spots. I believe he could play guard, tackle or center and be one of those guys for us to go at each position. He’s a hard worker, great athlete.”

How has Jones adjusted to the left tackle spot he’s filled the first two practices?

 I’m comfortable at left tackle,” Jones said. “I was really close to Myron and before he left he taught me a lot of what he knows how to play that position so I’m very comfortable. “

Starting junior quarterback KJ Jefferson, media available post practice Tuesday along with Jones and on defense bonus senior linebacker Bumper Pool and junior safety Jalen Catalon, connected with a 55-yard touchdown pass to heralded receiver Jadon Haselwood, the transfer via the Oklahoma Sooners.

Can Haselwood be the difference maker with  2021 All-American receiver Treylon Burks turned pro?

“He can,” Jefferson said, “He’s big, physical guy. Has strong hands. Just being able to get him the ball in space. Also he can make guys miss and break tackles too. Just being able to get him the ball in space and let him work and be the athlete he is.”

Haselwood arrived with a work ethic, Jefferson said.

“He came in and got extra film work with the coaches and stuff to make sure he knows his playbook and plays and alignments,” Jefferson said. “I’m just extremely proud of him the way he’s come in and just each of the teammates bought into the account and we trust in him.”

Haselwood showed toughness Tuesday, shaking off a shoulder injury early in the practice to complete the workout with its biggest play.

“He’s a very smooth receiver,” safety Catalon said of working against Haselwood. “You always have to make sure you have your technique right. Because if not he can expose you.”

Ketron Jackson, the 2021 freshman receiver staying within the 4-game maximum to keep his freshman status in 2022, also  has impressed.

“Every day they take the field his confidence level is going through the roof,” Jefferson said. “We just have to continue to hold him accountable and watch him flourish.”

Pool, taking advantage of the extra eligibility option year granted to all who were in college ball during the covid interrupted 2020 season, practices for the first  time ever as a Razorback minus 2021 bonus senior linebackers Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry.

“First off it’s weird just not having your closest friends at practice,” Pool said. “But now that I’m an older guy it’s fun because I get to step into a leadership role. I’m doing my best to work on that and continue to lead these young guys.”

One of the new linebackers isn’t so young. Linebacker Drew Sanders lettered two years for national champion and national runner-up Alabama and was an Alabama starter until injured during the first half of 2021.

Sanders was an outside linebacker at Alabama and moved inside at Arkansas.

He’s extremely talented,” Pool said. He’s got a lot of intangibles and I think that he wants to be good and he works really hard. Whenever you put all those things together, you’re going to have a guy that’s going to be successful.”

First-team All-SEC in 2020, Catalon returns after a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery ended his 2021 season after six games.

Catalon did not favor the shoulder Tuesday.

Me moving around, me raising up, doing everything that involves my shoulder feels great,” Catalon said. “I’m getting after it just like last year and the year before.”

Backup quarterback Malik Hornsby missed Tuesday’s practice because of flu.

That created more reps behind Jackson for redshirt freshman Lucas Coley and Cade Fortin, the walk-on transfer formerly a scholarship quarterback at South Florida.

Fortin threw some good passes Tuesday.

Freshman defensive back Antony Brown posted an impressive interception picking off a Coley pass.

The Razorbacks practice again Wednesday then are off the remainder of this week and next with UA on spring break after Friday’s classes.

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