Practice notes and observations - 8/19

Arkansas went through its 12th practice of the preseason on Thursday, splitting time in the indoor facility and the grass field outside. Here are some notes and takeaways from the 20-minute period open to the media:

• Players in green no-contact jerseys: Jalen Catalon, Kevin Compton, JT Towers, Ricky Stromberg and AJ Green. Catalon has been in green three of four days this week. Green was back in the mix after missing three consecutive days.

• Did not see Trelon Smith, TJ Hammonds or Ryan Winkel today. Dalton Wagner was present and ran with the first team at right tackle in the Fastball Start, but he got some extra stretching in with a trainer as the offensive line worked with Cody Kennedy afterward.

Ty’Kieast Crawford, a guy who Sam Pittman said after last weekend’s scrimmage would be in the 2-deep at tackle, bumped up to first team during position drills while Wagner was being tended to. Marcus Henderson backed up Crawford.

• A scout/rep from the Minnesota Vikings was in attendance today. That pushes the number of teams represented during camp to at least 12.

• Here is a look at how the depth shook out 1-3 during the quick start to practice:

OFFENSE

QB
KJ Jefferson
Malik Hornsby
John Stephen Jones

RB
Raheim Sanders
Josh Oglesby
AJ Green

TE
Blake Kern
Hudson Henry
Nathan Bax

WR1
Kendall Catalon
Ketron Jackson
Darin Turner

WR2
De’Vion Warren/Jaquayln Crawford
Bryce Stephens
Harper Cole

WR3
Tyson Morris
Warren Thompson
Jaedon Wilson

LT
Myron Cunningham
Jalen St. John
Devon Manuel

LG
Brady Latham
Luke Jones
Cole Carson

C
Ty Clary
Shane Clenin
Austin Nix

RG
Beaux Limmer
Drew Vest
Terry Wells

RT
Dalton Wagner
Ty’Kieast Crawford
Marcus Henderson

Notes: No need to be alarmed about Treylon Burks and Trey Knox not participating. Jefferson threw incomplete on all three of his attempts. He missed high for Jaquayln Crawford on his first pass then had a deep ball broken up by Simeon Blair. Warren was the target on a slant on the second attempt. Sanders carried once between the tackles for no gain.

Hornsby went 1 for 3, completing a swing pass to Stephens. It would have been blown up by Hudson Clark in a full-contact setting. Trent Gordon broke up a pass intended for Stephens, and a slant for Jackson sailed high. Oglesby carried up the middle on the first play for a short gain.

Jones kept the ball on an RPO once for a short gain, bobbled the ball on the exchange with Green then completed a short pass to the freshman tailback for a modest gain — maybe the biggest of the segment. Green had one rush for a short pickup.

DEFENSE

DE
Markell Utsey
Dorian Gerald
Eric Thomas Jr.

DT
John Ridgeway
Isaiah Nichols
Eric Gregory/Taurean Carter

DE
Tre Williams
Zach Williams
Mataio Soli

LB
Grant Morgan
Andrew Parker
Jackson Woodard

LB
Hayden Henry
Bumper Pool
Deon Edwards

CB
LaDarrius Bishop
Devin Bush
Nick Turner

CB
Montaric Brown
Hudson Clark
Khari Johnson

Nickel
Greg Brooks
Myles Slusher
Jacorrei Turner

S
Jalen Catalon
Malik Chavis
Nathan Parodi

S
Joe Foucha
Jayden Johnson

S
Simeon Blair
Trent Gordon
Zach Zimos

Notes: Defense looked pretty standard today minus the third-team defense switching to a 4-down look after the top two units went 3-man. No changes of note in the secondary. Edwards was back for the second consecutive day after missing the first two practices of the week. Eric Thomas got some more work with the third team. Jashaud Stewart, who I figured would factor into the rotation at end, has not participated in the Fastball Start the last two days.

Is the passing game becoming a major concern at this stage of Fall pre-season practices?

Notes from Barry Odom’s availability on Thursday:

• On a lot of guys being back defensively: Anybody that has been able to watch us or listen to our team talk, they’ve talked about the experience coming back. It’s valuable for us. They’re a year older and another year in the system, and they’re speaking the same language. We’ve got real competition at some spots and we have to get that nailed down in the coming days.

• On Markell Utsey and Tre Williams: They’ve been able to maybe pick things up quicker based on me having been with them in the past. John Ridgeway has impressed me with his knowledge base and his football IQ.

• Kendal Briles and the offensive staff have gotten our number plenty of times throughout practice. They’ve got some talented guys over there.

• Joe Foucha is much more consistent in every area than last year. He understands where he fits in the scheme and what his role is. He’s made as many plays as anybody on the field.

• On Michael Scherer: We’ve been together quite a while now and have been through battles together. He was a great player and a great athlete. He was a great player in this conference because he prepared and understood the scheme, and played with tremendous grit. In a short time, he’s been able to get his guys playing fast.

• On cornerback: LaDarrius Bishop has great short-area quickness and change of direction. My guess is he and Hudson Clark will be in competition throughout the season.

• There’s not a lot of guys who can go from safety to corner and Myles Slusher is one of them. He’s had a good camp. He is able to give us some versatility and he could probably play all five spots for us. He can help us in a number of areas.

• On linebackers: I don’t know if everyone in the room is game ready, but they’re close. There is depth. Our guys understand the urgency of what we need to do to get there.

• Tre Williams has shown some things in his pass rush, but he’s become an every-down player, which is a great benefit for us. For a while he was a third-down specialist. Credit him for that and the work he’s done to see improvement.

• Today was our most physical day of camp so far. I thought there was great competition. The great thing right now is Sam Pittman puts the plan together and the guys just go do it. It’s a good group to be a part of.

• Jalen Catalon has made a lot of plays and had a good camp. He’s put last year behind him. He knows he has to up his game over last year. He wants to be the best there is at his position and he will work to get there.

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I think it needs to be pointed out that the defense has an advantage IMO bc they know the sets and plays off them so they are reacting very quickly bc they pretty much know what’s coming but QB’s not throwing slants very well is just not good no other way to say it.

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Sam Pittman tightly controls media access to fall practices and scrimmages, which I understand completely. The media gets to hang around for the first twenty minutes of practice. I don’t think a full set of stats for the first scrimmage was released. I believe the scrimmage Saturday is closed as well.
Almost all the people who aren’t on staff who get to watch a practice keep their mouths shut or won’t talk to reporters on the record about what they are seeing.

The fall camp reporting is fun to read and speculate on, but if SP has his way we really won’t have much of an idea about what’s good, bad or indifferent about this team until the Rice game.

It will be particularly interesting to me to see how playing time works out at a number of positions. Who plays in what packages- a very difficult thing to determine based on what we know about fall practice. Does the staff really believes depth has improved enough at some the places that were paper thin last year to play more guys?

I spoke to a LB’s dad last week (who knows the game and knows coaches) and he raved about Scherer. Said he was one of his favorite position coaches and he had several at 2 different P5 programs. Thinks he will climb the ladder, which matches the reporting we have seen, here.

Interesting comment on Catalon considering how good he was in spite of the numerous ejections. He has potential to be one of the best players in the country—something we have sorely missed at the back end of the defense for several years.

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