FAYETTEVILLE — On his radio show Wednesday night, Arkansas coach Sam Pittman announced two fifth-year seniors, one third-year senior and the graduate transfer quarterback who didn’t arrive until last January have been voted the Razorbacks 2020 captains.
Linebacker Grant Morgan of Greenwood, defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall of Shepherd, Texas, third-year junior college transfer running back Rakeem Boyd and former Florida Gators starting quarterback Feleipe Franks are the player voted team captains, Pittman said.
Franks’ impact, especially since the coronavirus pandemic canceled the spring practice opportunities quickly to establish himself on the field, speaks volumes, Pittman said.
“First of all I think it’s as high an honor as you can get by your teammates voting you a captain,” Pittman said. “For Feleipe to be voted a captain and he came from Florida and we didn’t have spring ball. And for those players to think that highly of him, I thought was outstanding. Feleipe was emotional. It meant a lot to him and I’m very happy for him.”
Morgan, originally a walk-on who earned an athletic scholarship while majoring in kinesiology, is the verbal fireball that at least one captain needs to be.
“Grant is the vocal guy,” Pittman said. “I mean he’s an emotional guy. He’s probably been in the gym ever since he was born. Grant Morgan, an Arkansas kid who came up and just kept working, working, working and they voted him.”
Franks “would be the next guy that talks,” Pittman said of vocal captains.
Boyd, originally a redshirted Texas A&M Aggie transferred to Independence (Kansas) Junior College then to Arkansas as a 2018 sophomore.
He has led the Razorbacks in rushing both seasons, last year with 1,133 yards earning him a spot on the Doak Walker Award Preseason Watch List.
Boyd almost declared for the 2020 draft before Pittman convinced him he could improve his draft stock all-round returning to the Razorbacks not only as their best player but best example.
“Rakeem, obviously I was pleased for him,” Pittman said. “He’s got a hard work ethic.”
He’s not previously been vocal but when he talks, they listen, Pittman said.
“Rakeem is starting to get that way (more vocal) now,” Pittman said “But he’s more of a guy who is ‘I’m going to talk with my pads. I’m going to talk with my actions.’ And then Jon Marshall, he doesn’t say anything. I asked him if he wanted to talk to the team and he said, ‘coach, you know I don’t talk.’ And I said, ‘You don’t have to say anything.’”
Marshall 6-foot-3, 317 pounds, speaks volumes without talking in the weightroom. He’s the team’s strongest player and in the classroom already achieved his UA degree.
While Morgan is a captain, it’s a six-way battle for the usual two linebackers in defensive coordinator Barry Odom’s scheme, Pittman said.
Morgan and third-year sophomore Andrew Parker contested for middle linebacker and junior Bumper Pool, senior Deon Edwards and graduate transfer Levi Draper via the University of Oklahoma and also a middle linebacker candidate and senior Hayden Henry vie at weakside linebacker.
Henry, who has practiced well this week, is the top choice, for Sam outside linebacker Pittman said whenever the Razorbacks employ three linebackers instead of a nickel back in a five-man secondary.
Regarding the week’s closed practices, Pittman said Tuesday’s was the best of preseason and Wednesday’s was fine but shorter concentrating on situations.
The Monday through Wednesday workouts finished the preseason part of the practices that began Aug. 17.
After Thursday’s off day, the Razorbacks on Friday for the first extended time specifically work against the nationally No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs, their 3 p.m Sept. 26 opponent at Reynolds Razorback Stadium kicking off an entirely SEC 10-game schedule.
“I think we’re ready to start Georgia prep on Friday,” Pittman said.
Pittman knows Georgia well.
Following his 2013-2015 tenure coaching Arkansas’ offensive line for former Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema, Pittman coached the Bulldogs offensive line from 2016-2019 for Georgia coach Kirby Smart.
Special teams coordinator Scott Fountain and strength coaches Jamil Walker and Ed Ellis accompanied Pittman from Smart’s Georgia staff to Arkansas.