By Nate Allen
Special to the News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - The 2018 end of the University of Arkansas’ summer school semester this afternoon only hours precedes the official beginning of the Razorbacks preseason football practice.
The Razorbacks of new coach Chad Morris start tonight and Saturday with practices NCAA mandated to be no pads and no intentional contact until gradually adding equipment Monday after Sunday’s off day.
The first full week’s preseason pace peaks with the first preseason full scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 11.
With Morris, new strength coach Trumain Carroll and nearly an entirely new coaching staff starting fresh (tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. and defensive tackles coach John Scott Jr. are the lone full-time coaching returnees from former coach Bret Bielema’s 2017 staff), Morris has accelerated the timetable on some that flashed enough talent during spring drills for him to believe they should have produced more in the past than they have.
Fourth-year junior defensive end Jamario Bell of Junction City and fourth junior receiver Arkansas native La’Michael Pettway of Nashville are among several that Morris named of whom he said the clock ticks.
Bell and Pettway were emphasized particularly because for spring drills both finished with a flourish.
Bell’s five tackles during the Red-White game included two sacks. And he forced a fumble.
“Jamario Bell is a young man that you saw flashes, saw some good things out of him in spring ball,” Morris said. “But he and Pettway are a lot on the same category. Consistency is the key. It’s time. You’ve been here long enough, now let’s go. Let’s put some work in and let’s make some progress.”
Bell, a fourth-year junior redshirted in 2015 and wasted in 2016 being moved from the defensive line to an already stacked group at tight end, did make a big move in last year’s summer preseason only to break his foot.
He wasn’t fit to play until the season’s final two games. He certainly is deemed fit now, joining first-teamer junior and Hope High graduate McTelvin “Sosa” Agim and senior first-teamer Randy Ramsey, an outside linebacker last year, Gabe Richardson and Michael Taylor, both used some as reserve junior college transfers last year, and incoming JC transfer Dorian Gerald.
Defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell wants them all fit to play in a rotation that both keeps them fresh and allows Agim sometimes to slide inside to a tackle.
“We have some depth,” Caldwell said. “The thing is we don’t have much experience. So we just have to keep those guys working.”
Pettway’s six catches for 91 yards led all receivers at the Red-White intrasquad game closing spring drills in Little Rock.
“I think you saw what La’Michael Pettway did during the spring game,” Morris said. “That was his best day. Our word to him all summer long has been consistency. We have to see consistency on the field, consistency in the weight room, just consistency all across what you do.”
Pettway did his weight room part, Carroll said, losing five pounds like few ever lose it.
“LaMichael Pettway dropped from 224 to 219,” Carroll said. “His body fat, however, went from 11.3 percent down to seven percent. So he’s a guy that really transformed his body and he was already a good-looking guy to start off with.”
Though the Razorbacks have been attending summer classes and working out in Fayetteville, Thursday night marked their official reporting date weigh-ins for the 110 commencing preseason practice before the practice roster increases with the Aug. 20 start of fall semester classes.
“We’ll have a big weigh-in and do it by position and have meetings that (Thursday) night,” Morris said. “Friday we’ll start this thing out and it will be more scheduled kind of like if we were in school that first Friday.”
It should be a warmup for Saturday, also a warmup including the Saturday afternoon media day session of interviews and photos, for a busy next week.
“Our Saturday is really the first day in camp in my opinion as far as the tradition and style of camp where you are there for the most part all day,” Morris said. “We’ll practice Saturday and be off on Sunday. Now you can have two-hour meetings with them on Sunday. Then we’ll step in and Monday through Thursday we’ll step in on them pretty hard. We’re going to bear down on them and we’ll get to some live work. Friday we’ll scale get a little bit and get into Saturday with our first scrimmage.”