Practice notes and observations - Oct. 15

Arkansas practiced outdoors under an overcast sky Tuesday afternoon, continuing its preparations for No. 11 Auburn. Here are a few notes from the 20-minute viewing window:

  • The Razorbacks did not do a team thud period, so there are no depth chart items to report. But, as we were walking off the field, Ben Hicks was running with the first team offense against the scout team defense. Chad Morris said on Monday that Hicks and Nick Starkel will split first-team reps this week. Whoever performs best in practice and gives the team the best chance to win Saturday will get the starting nod, he said.

  • Senior left tackle Colton Jackson was present at practice today and appeared full go. Jackson, who did not take part in practice on Tuesday or Wednesday last week and did not travel to Kentucky due to being in concussion protocol, looked to be working with the first-team offensive line alongside (L–>R) Austin Capps, Ty Clary, Ricky Stromberg and Dalton Wagner.

  • Running back Chase Hayden was in a standard red jersey today. He, too, has been dealing with concussion-like symptoms. He did not travel to Kentucky either, and has not played in Arkansas’ last two games. He has run the ball 12 times for 45 yards this season, and returned two kickoffs for 22 yards. Morris said on Monday the staff will continue to monitor his health to see if he will be able to return to the field against Auburn.

  • All three players who suffered season-ending injuries - Noah Gatlin, Deon Stewart, Dorian Gerald - watched practice today. Gerald has not been a stranger to visiting the practice fields throughout the season, but I had not before today seen Gatlin or Stewart on their feet and walking around. Stewart was not wearing a knee brace, but Gatlin was. I guess I had forgotten just how thin Stewart is.

  • Starkel really struggled hitting the easy throws - what Jordan Rodgers on Saturday called “layups” - at Kentucky, and he looked a bit shaky again today. He threw short and at the feet of a tight end on a throwback against air, behind Rakeem Boyd on a wheel route and there was miscommunication between him and Trey Knox on a flag route against air, too.

  • Each day at practice, the Razorbacks blare music from large speakers near the doors leading from Walker Pavilion to the practice fields. One of the songs played today was “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Injuries

  • One offensive player and one defensive player wore green no-contact jerseys Tuesday. Rakeem Boyd, who just ran for a career-high 134 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats on Saturday, wore green. Boyd announced in postgame interviews that he sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder. He had his left shoulder surgically repaired this offseason. I watched him for a good 2-3 minutes straight when running backs and tight ends caught passes from all quarterbacks against air. He was really favoring the right shoulder. A couple of times, including once after he had to turn his body to catch a ball from Starkel, he doubled over in pain, but kept pushing.

  • Free safety Joe Foucha was the other player in green. We do not know what his status is or what is ailing him. I did, though, in rewatching Saturday’s game, see him get his legs taken out from under him near one of the sidelines. He was slow to get to his feet there.

  • Freshman defensive end Mataio Soli continued to play without his right hand in a club. And Freshman receiver Shamar Nash was also in yellow and did not participate in practice.

Absent

WR Jordan Jones (high ankle sprain; likely out vs. Auburn)
WR Shamar Nash (unknown)
OL Noah Gatlin (torn ACL; out for season)
WR Deon Stewart (torn ACL; out for season)
DE Dorian Gerald (strained artery in neck; out for season)

That explains a lot.

You could tell he was frustrated in that Kentucky game after his injury. He kept playing, but you could see he wasn’t feeling really good. He is such an outstanding back…he just has not been durable. It was similar to the Ole Miss game. He had over 100 yards in the first quarter and got hurt. His injury could have cost us both games.

Is he going to be ready for Auburn? How do you play football with a sprained shoulder?

I’m working on a Rakeem Boyd feature for HI, and going back through some quotes I found my Jason Brown interview file from last spring. The one question mark he had about Rakeem was his durability. That’s been about his only hiccup here to this point. Chad Morris said today on the SEC teleconference that he will transition from a green jersey to a standard red soon and be ready to go for Auburn.