FAYETTEVILLE — Those attending the Arkansas Razorbacks’ free admission, SEC Network televised Red-White intrasquad football game at1 p.m. Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock will be in fast company.
The fastest spring football game ever if new Razorbacks’ coach Chad Morris’ no-huddle, Spread offense operates as fast as he aspires in this spring game. It was moved to Little Rock while north end zone renovations at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville continue under promises all will be ready for the Sept. 1 season-opener against Eastern Illinois.
“Offensively you are going to see us playing fast Saturday,” Morris said. “Heck, I’m going to try and set a record in the most plays you can possibly run in a spring game. We’re going to play fast. We’re going to have fun.”
Now don’t get carried away presuming the “fun” will be filled with trick plays.
Morris wants to cater to the fan base as much as he can for the Hogs he inherited to put on a good show. But aside from not tipping his hand on film that his early opponents will thoroughly dissect before the games are played for real starting Sep. 1, spring football is basically all about getting better and that starts with evaluating and improving on the basics.
“We’re going to be very, very vanilla,” Morris said. “We’re going to be very generic. We’re going to do what these guys we feel have gotten good at. People have asked me, ‘How much of the playbook will be in?’ Not much. I do know that what we’re going to do is our base offense. We’re excited to see these guys play fast without coaching because the coaches will be off the field.”
SEC iconic defensive coordinator John “Chief” Chavis of Tennessee, LSU and Texas A&M past, coordinates an Arkansas defense in a game type setting for the first time.
“Defensively you’re going to see these guys as we have all spring taking the reins off them and letting them be very physical,” Morris told media. “You all have been out at practice. You’ve seen the energy level and bringing pressure. You’re going to see that Saturday.”
Though two of Arkansas’ NCAA allotted 15 spring football practice dates remain in Fayetteville after the Red-White game, the intrasquad game in Little Rock marks the last major film to evaluate how well individuals on defense are exerting the pressure and how well individuals on offense are attacking it.
While asserting he won’t name a starting quarterback until evaluating well into the August preseason, the Red-White game obviously presents an opportunity for either third-year sophomore quarterback Cole Kelley of Lafayette, La. and fourth-year junior Ty Storey of Charleston to get a summer leg up in their reportedly dead even battle to succeed 2017 graduated 2-year starter Austin Allen as Arkansas’ starting quarterback.
Storey has the edge on age but Kelley far more game experience tabbed as last year’s backup by the former Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema regime including four starts when Allen was sidelined by injuries.
Morris said it’s too even to declare a No. 1.
A brand new staff seems to have put Storey and Kelley on equal footing again after last year’s quarterbacks pecking order so obviously was Allen then Kelley then Storey.
Rather than drafting squads or matching the first offense vs. the second defense and vice-versa, Morris said it will be strictly offense as White and defense as Red including “good on good” during the first half of No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense.
“That’s what we want,” Morris said. “That’s what we’ve done all spring. We’re not going to change it up.”
Of course when it’s “good on good” it means every injury means a good one ailing. So expect some of the best players to start sitting in the second half even as Morris emphasizes, “My message is there is no position that’s in stone. Nobody signed a lifetime contract. So every position is wide open.”
Because of the offense vs. defense format providing the offense more frequent opportunities to score, the defense, in addition to any defensive touchdowns or safeties, will be awarded points for sacks and lost-yardage plays, three and out possessions, fourth down stops short of a first down and turnovers secured.