FAYETTEVILLE — You can tell how Dre Greenlaw is recovering from past injuries by looking at his coach, Greenlaw’s coach told media Thursday.
Vernon Hargreaves coaches the Arkansas Razorbacks inside linebackers. They include junior two-year starting weakside Will ‘backer Greenlaw of Fayetteville. This week, Greenlaw has practiced the most extensively Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and linebackers coach Hargreaves have said since breaking his foot during last December’s Belk Bowl after breaking it the first time during last season’s Alabama game and missing the next five games before the bowl game.
"You see me smile?’ Hargreaves said, smiling. "He’s showing me what he can do. He’s that guy at that position that can run and go make tackles. I feel really good about him."
It’s still not announced if Greenlaw will scrimmage Saturday, but Bielema and Hargreaves seem increasingly optimistic that Greenlaw will play in the Aug. 31 season-opener against Florida A&M in Little Rock and certainly by their Sept. 9 game in Fayetteville against the TCU Horned Frogs, Arkansas’ most highly regarded nonconference opponent for 2017.
In the meantime with Greenlaw, also injuring a thigh during the early portion of preseason drills which began July 27, mostly limited until this week, walk-on sophomore Grant Morgan of Greenwood has practiced plenty at first-team weakside linebacker and practiced at first-team middle Mike linebacker since sophomore De’Jon "Scoota" Harris was injured during last Saturday’s scrimmage.
Even if Greenlaw and "Scoota" Harris both scrimmage, Morgan should get plenty of time in Saturday’s second scrimmage of preseason after eight tackles, including three for lost-yardage, in last Saturday’s scrimmage.
Redshirt freshman reserve weakside linebacker Giovanni La France, also made eight tackles, including three behind the line, last Saturday.
"Obviously Grant Morgan has done an outstanding job," Hargreaves said. "I like where he is. Some guys have a really good knack. The difference between a guy like and Gio (La France) and Grant is that Grant is a little more consistent than Gio is."
On offense it seems that sophomore Devwah Whaley had been coronated Arkansas’ No. 1 running back since Rawleigh Williams, a 1,3600 rusher last season, suffered a career-ending neck reinjury last spring.
Whaley still assertively looks No. 1. but David Williams, the graduate student transfer from the University of South Carolina, and true freshman Aaron Hayden, are giving Whaley a little run for first-team status that obviously got his attention.
"I think the applied pressure of David Williams and Chase and Maleek (Williams, also a true freshman) has made him realize, ‘Hey, I’m not the man all by myself.’ coach Bret Bielema said. If I want carries, I’ve got to earn them.’ So he’s been really, really good and has been locked in. Been phenomenal since fall camp started."
All the running backs help each other, Bielema and running backs coach Reggie Mitchell say, in part because they need each other to share and weather season’s physical grind.
Place-kicker Cole Hedlund isn’t kicking again just to prove he’s over a nagging groin injury but because freshman walk-on Blake Mazza, five for five on mediumrange field goals last Saturday, challenges for the place-kicking role.
"Blake Mazza has had a nice camp," Bielema said. "So I’d say him and Cole are battling it out for the field goal job. Mazza’s consistency day to day has been very good. And then Connor Limpert (the kickoff man incumbent)n and Mazza are battling it out for the kickoff job."