FAYETTEVILLE — New Arkansas coach Chad Morris and his new offensive and defensive Razorbacks staffs finally have scrimmage football film to evaluate.
There will be much to compare from now to spring drills’ conclusion next month, Morris said after Saturday’s two-hour scrimmage.
“I thought we competed well,” Morris said. “A lot of good things we saw and there's a lot of things we've got to improve on, don't get me wrong. But it was definitely a great starting point for us. That's what it was. It was a chance for us, when they stuck their face in the fan, to see exactly where they were They had to think on their own. They had to respond on their own.”
And respond from fatigue on both sides of the ball as Morris stresses a fast-paced, hurry-up offense contrasting to the huddle-up, take your time offense of preceding former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema.
“I thought that we got tired early after that initial surge,” Morris said. “It hit us all, offense, defense, everybody. But I was really pleased to see them push on through. So that was promising. A long way away from where we need to be. But definitely doing a lot of really good things right now in a lot of different avenues.”
Some of the different avenues have altered paths that seemed set after the 2017’s finish.
Third-year sophomore quarterback Cole Kelley, the only returning quarterback who has started a game, currently operates co-first team with fourth-year junior Ty Storey of Charleston, a career reserve thus far but taking Saturday’s first scrimmage snap.
Morris explained planning to start the scrimmage on seniority but added “I will say Ty works his ever-loving butt off. He's always in the film room. He's in the indoor on his own, going through his reads, going through his progressions. It's fun to watch the battle right now. They're each taking advantage of the opportunity they've been given.”
Both Storey and Kelley and all the quarterbacks including redshirt scholarship freshman Daulton Hyatt, and walk-ons Austin Aune, a former minor league baseball player, and returnees Jack Lindsey and Connor Proctor are “consistently inconsistent” at this stage, Morris said.
The coach didn’t seem surprised with all the adjusting in schemes and said all “did some good things.”
Kelley completed 10 of 13 passes for 137 yards and four touchdowns while Storey completed 8 of 13 for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Proctor threw a 8-yard touchdown on his lone pass, and Lindsey completed a 35-yarder to Tobias Enlow on his lone pass.
Aune completed 3 of 27 for 38 yards and Hyatt 2 of 6 for 17 yards.
Walk-on junior college transfer wideout Tyson Morris led receivers with two catches for 60 yards and a touchdown but got brushed with much of the consistently inconsistent tag that Chad Morris applied to the quarterbacks though none of the quarterbacks threw an interception nor did the offense fumble to the defense.
“Tyson Morris did a couple of good things early on, made a couple of guys miss, caught a ball in traffic,” Chad Morris said. “But he needs to finish through the goal line. he let up early and that's not what we're about. He'll continue to get better on it. Tobias Enlow did some good things but he got tired. We’ve got to push through that.”
Chad Morris praised tight ends Will Gragg of Dumas Jeremy Patton and Cheyenne O’Grady for catching a touchdown each.
Sophomore receiver Jarrod Barnes of Cabot also caught a touchdown during goal-line drills.
Redshirt freshman running back Maleek Williams, eight carries for 72 yards, led all rushers with sophomore Chase Hayden, 8 for 68, also explosive.
Both “ran exceptionally hard,” Morris said.
As a combo runner-receiver, junior T.J. Hammonds led with two touchdowns among his 17 rushing yards and logged 51 yards receiving on 4 catches but didn’t get a free pass on his pass protection.
“Nobody’s going to play unless they can pass protect and run the football and that goes for everybody, Morris said.
Defensively, starting senior end Randy Ramsey, a sack among his two tackles, netted the most praise and fourth-junior reserve end Jamario Bell the gaudiest stats with a scrimmage leading three sacks, including one dislodged from the quarterback and blown dead before Bell could be credited with the recovery.
Of Ramsey, John Chavis, the new to Arkansas defensive coordinator but thoroughly SEC veteran former Tennessee, LSU and Texas A&M coordinator, volunteered, “ He’s a natural. He has a chance to be special.”
Ramsey bounced around at linebacker and situational end in previous Arkansas schemes but obviously is the end with this staff.
“Randy Ramsey has found a home,” Morris said. “There’s no doubt about that. This guy is freaky athletic. He needs to write coach Chavis a thank you note for what he’s doing right there because this guy here is doing some really good things. He’s extremely difficult to block as he comes off that edge. You know Sosa (Agim, the junior defensive end from Hope with a sack Saturday) is another one with his motor always full throttle.”
Morris volunteered praise for Bell.
“Jamario Bell, think he had a strip sack, scoop and score or whatever it might’ve been,” Morris said. “He keeps showing up and it’s good to see.”