By Nate Allen
Special to News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - New Arkansas offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Joe Craddock began Friday night’s first practice of the Razorbacks’ August preseason searching for what he sought in the Razorbacks’ first practice last spring.
He seeks a quarterback standing out from the crowd to be the in control No. 1 starter without question.
What is it that he seeks separating the two who have played, third-year sophomore Cole Kelley and Ty Storey, the fourth-year junior from Charleston?
Or if not one of them what would he seek from redshirt freshman Daulton Hyatt, brand new freshmen Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones and returning third-year sophomore Jack Lindsey?
“Really just consistency,” Craddock replied Monday when Coach Chad Morris and his staff met with media. “One (between Storey and Kelley) would go up one day and be OK and then it would be completely the opposite the next day. So just getting in a rhythm, getting hot and putting our team in the end zone with consistency is what we’re looking for. We can’t have a guy that is three and out, three and out, three and out, score then three and out, three and out, field goal. We have to be able to push the ball down the field and put our team in position to score touchdowns.”
Kelley is known to have the big arm that Coach Chad Morris and Craddock crave for the deep passes from their Spread offense.
Has Storey progressed on the deep ball?
“He’s progressed great,” Craddock said. “He’s worked on his mechanics and he’s got a strong arm as well as Cole. And watching on film Connor and John Stephen do as well. And Daulton Hyatt showed a strong arm in spring as well. They all know out of spring we didn’t name a starter and the job is wide open so I think every single one of them has taken that and really worked to make themselves better.”
If Morris and Craddock don’t deem one quarterback truly ahead of the others at the preseason’s close, would they extend the competition to play multiple quarterbacks in the Sept. 1 season opener against Eastern Illinois at Reynolds Razorback Stadium and perhaps into the Sept. 8 and Sept. 15 nonconference games at Colorado State and again at Fayetteville against North Texas before the SEC opener Sept. 22 at Auburn?
“I’m not opposed to it at all,” Craddock said. “If nobody emerges at fall camp that’s definitely an option. But I’m going to be pressing on those guys pretty hard to get somebody to emerge. But if we can’t, then we’ll play a couple of them that first game and see how they do in live situations.”
Going live is the ultimate test for all positions but particularly quarterbacks who aren’t supposed to be hit at all during practice let alone like they get hit during a game.
“In practice you’ve got that anthracite jersey on that says you can’t hit us,” Craddock said. “It makes it easier to stay in the pocket. But when the bullets start flying you’ve got to make a decision about when that ball leaves your hand. So I could see us playing a couple of guys that first game.”
Whenever the decision naming No. 1 is named, Craddock said it’s the utmost for the other quarterbacks to accept they aren’t the starter but never accept failure to compete or fail to realize they could be one play away from being first team.
“If a guy is named, our guys have to believe in us as coaches that these guys know what they were talking about,” Craddock said. “That this guy is better than me and I’ve got to keep working and stay ready for my next opportunity.”
Craddock recalled situations from his time with Morris at SMU when circumstances dictated the backup quarterback be the starter.
And it happened four times at Arkansas last year with Allen injured and Kelley starting.
“We’ve got to find a guy for sure,” Craddock said. “But everybody has got to be ready go.”
The Razorbacks didn’t practice until Friday night so players could conclude their final day of UA summer school.
Fall semester classes don’t commence until Aug. 20 when the practice roster expands beyond the current 110.
The Razorbacks have NCAA mandated noncontact drills for their practices Friday night and today and start adding equipment during preseason practices after Sunday’s off day. On Aug. 11 they wage the first of their two successive Saturdays major preseason scrimmages.