FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas will conduct its first major scrimmage of camp today with the results sure to impact the depth chart on both sides of the ball.
The workout, closed to the media and the general public, is the Razorbacks’ eighth of training camp. It is scheduled for a 10 a.m. start on the practice fields outside Walker Pavilion. Coach Chad Morris is hoping to hold the second major scrimmage on Aug. 17 inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium after the new grass field has a week to take hold. The grass was installed this week, starting on Monday, and needs a week to settle into the underlying matrix.
Arkansas, preparing for Year 2 under Morris, conducted a light walk-through in shorts on Friday to rest up for the heavy hitting today. In last year’s first scrimmage of camp, the Razorbacks ran 140-plus plays.
After a day with scattered rain across Northwest Arkansas on Friday, the chance for rain is expected to be slight for the scrimmage, with temperatures moving up from about 79 degrees into the mid-80s during the workout.
“Really what we want to see is consistency,” Morris said of his anticipation for the scrimmage. “We want to see what we’ve been seeing in practice.
“We want to see the mistakes that were made in practice not being made again on Saturday, and that’s really what we’re after — guys making plays, protecting the football.”
A list of the hottest position battles in camp would start with quarterback, where senior Ben Hicks and junior Nick Starkel lead the way. Both have thrown interceptions in recent days.
Senior tight end Cheyenne O’Grady, the top returning pass catcher with 30 receptions for 400 yards and 6 touchdowns, will be under scrutiny after being dropped down to third teams for part of this week’s work.
While the offensive front would appear to have a likely starting five in Colton Jackson, Austin Capps, Ty Clary, Shane Clenin and Dalton Wagner, from left to right, the backup slots have a large handful of candidates, particularly after the loss of potential starting tackle Noah Gatlin to knee surgery.
The receiving corps has a large number of players vying to make the game-day rotation, so every live rep carries extra meaning for that corps.
Junior slot receiver De’Vion Warren described today’s work as big.
“It’ll be our first time really going live all day,” Warren said. “It’ll be the first time that the defense won’t be able to really see what we’re doing like consistently. … It’ll give us a chance to mix it up. It’ll be fun to get a little competition going.”
None of the Arkansas quarterbacks has done interviews since media day last Saturday. Morris said the quarterback battle has been going just as he anticipated.
“I’ve been very impressed with all of them and their decision making is so much better than it was a year ago,” Morris said.
The defense has been ahead of the offense through the first week of camp, with multiple takeaways in team periods on most days.
“I think the defense created three turnovers again today, which is big,” Morris said on Wednesday. “That’s our goal. We have to protect the football offensively.”
Defensive players say there has been a lot of installation this week.
“We’ve put in a lot of stuff and our coaches just want to see us execute the things we’ve put in,” senior end Dorian Gerald said. “We’re trying to make minimal mistakes.”
Senior linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris wants to see a continuation of what has taken place through the first week of practices.
“I’m hoping that the defense will turn it up a notch,” Harris said. “I’m expecting to see a couple different things from the offensive side. It should be a good scrimmage, good on good.”
Harris, who is recovering from off-season foot surgery, is expected to have a limited run today, to help keep him healthy and to give less-experienced players behind him more game reps.
Defensive end Gabe Richardson said the more physicality to today’s work the better.
“As D-linemen, we like to bang, but we’re going to bang regardless of whether we’re in shirts, jerseys, shoulder pads,” Richardson said. “We can be out there in the parking lot. It doesn’t matter where we’re at, we’re trying to bang.”
Senior defensive tackle McTelvin Agim said he needs plenty more live action.
“I’m far from where I need to be,” he said. “I understand I’m a veteran, but I still need to perfect my craft. I’m not upset if I get thrown in there. So I want to practice.”
Morris said he’s detected a noticeable difference in the team’s toughness factor from last year.
“You have to play with a toughness, an edge, and that’s something that was set in January and we’ve kept working on that edge and that toughness,” Morris said. “It’s been noticeable.”
Safety Joe Foucha said the live work will help players on both sides of the ball get better.
“It’s very big because you know we’re going to be live,” Foucha said. “The scrimmage Saturday is going to have us running around, head on fire, stuff like that.”