I read what others think they see and some have some real ideas. This is not to put down their vision or thoughts. They could be right. But it’s probably not exactly what I think is happening in a 1-3 start to Arkansas football.
First, the most important position on the field is quarterback. When you are not sure who you should play at quarterback, there is trouble at the heart of the team. And, I don’t think anyone knew or understood exactly what should have been done at the top position on the team. And that is just now starting to work out.
Was it Cole Kelley or Ty Storey? Most thought it was Kelley from reading this site the last 10 months or listening to some on the street. I thought it would be Storey. But I wasn’t sure. Clearly, it’s going to be Storey now, until something happens to make that wrong, injury or poor play.
Unfortunately, there are other issues within this team that are going to prevent Story from playing with a full deck. The offensive line is still undermanned and in poor shape because of depth. That’s just plain poor recruiting.
I’d say it’s poor recruiting at quarterback, too. You might say that running back is a case of poor recruiting, too, although I’ve just taken that approach lately. It’s easy to see after four games that Rakeem Boyd is the best of the running backs and it was one of the big gets late in the recruiting for Chad Morris.
There cannot be an offensive line that had to practice this August camp with only eight players on scholarship, as Arkansas did. Line coach Dustin Fry should get a medal for trying to mix and match just to get through a practice, much less a game.
What do you do if you don’t have 10 offensive linemen for a practice? Do you ask some to practice with both the ones and the twos? Do you just sit down and rest them for a bit? That’s only a stretch by a little bit.
That’s fewer players than most high schools in the state of Arkansas can put on the field for a practice and they can’t even recruit. It’s almost impossible to practice with just eight offensive linemen.
So anyone – anyone that knows one thing about Power 5 football – can say this team has some talent and I’ll just laugh in their face. You can’t have a football team without talent at quarterback and offensive line. You can’t.
Chad Morris and his recruiters know they need more scholarships given to offensive line talent. That’s the mission now. Morris said this summer that he wants at least 15 to be on scholarship in the offensive line. I might up that one or two.
But he said you can over sign in the defensive line and convert some of those players to the offensive side of the ball. Many good defensive linemen play both ways in high school so it’s not a stretch to do that.
Defensively, there is more ability there than in several years, mostly because there were a few more hits in evaluation. Dre Greenlaw, Scoota Harris, Randy Ramsey, McTelvin Agim, Derrick Munson, Kamren Curl, Santos Ramierez, Ryan Pulley, Dorgian Gerald, Michael Taylor and a few others have true ability. Is it at the top level of the SEC? Probably not, but there is more here than on offense.
Then, here is the crux of the talent void? The bottom of the roster is not good enough to field a proper group of special teams without playing a lot of walk-ons. Starters on defense (and the best are coming off injuries) must help there when they should not have to because of conditioning. Greenlaw and Ramsey could or would play on special teams, but can’t right now.
There is lack of talent with the kickers. Connor Limpert is the best, but it’s really not close. None of the other punters/kickers are even remotely close in ability. Limpert does not have the ability to kick it deep into the end zone. The punters are horrible.
Yes, protection was bad against Auburn, but had it been good, the punting net average would still have been in the low to mid 30s. It was a great night to punt with a cross wind, something that carries the ball. But the Arkansas punters were just lucky to get a punt in the air against the rush. They need better protection with more top line athletes to help I maintain that’s lack of team athletic ability.
Great ability at placekicker and punter would correct some of these faults and must be addressed. Find great kickers. It has been done for 50 years at Arkansas. If you don’t know how to find them, go talk to Ken Turner, the best of the UA special teams coaches now in retirement near Bryant.
I understand the decision of Jonathan Nance. The passing game isn’t good enough to consistently target any wide receivers. It wasn’t that they did not want to throw to him. You have to protect and also have consistency at quarterback. That hadn’t happened yet, but it did seem to be better against Auburn because of Storey’s willingness to compete.
It doesn’t surprise me when a junior college player bails. He hasn’t been here long enough to know what he should do or have a loyalty to anyone. I will say that he wasn’t the most heralded juco receiver in that recruiting class. I think there should be some appreciation that Arkansas did want him. If I remember, his first college stop was Southern Miss and the coaches there thought he was a cornerback.
There is good news in all of this. Chad Morris and his coaches are working to get top effort on the field each week. That’s the top item in coaching. Most think it’s about drawing fancy plays. No, it’s about effort. I saw good effort at Auburn and that’s a good sign for the future. It’s also clear that he’s working hard and getting some positive results in recruiting. Recruiting better talent – along with coaching effort – should get Arkansas on the right track.