FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas’ roster includes seniors at virtually each position allowing Sam Pittman to have some experienced players to lean on this fall.
One impressive thing about the job Pittman did when arriving at Arkansas is not culling out a large number of players. The fact Pittman wants to proceed forward with these players and add his with each new class caught the attention of redshirt freshman safety Jalen Catalon.
“It’s definitely a transition, but I think that’s what builds us so strong is you have the older guys who have been through it before to give us some guiding points and lead us through it all,” Catalon said. “I think the staff came in and coach Pittman did a really good job of just emphasizing what he’s about and making sure we understand that he loves every single person on the team. He wants every single person to be a part of this. There wasn’t no weeding out or nothing like that. He wanted to make sure he established the point on making sure we bond as a team and come together as one and make sure that everyone is in this together, so it’s been a great transition.”
As far as the seniors on the squad, here’s a look at each position and what kind of contributions could be made at each by players in their final year in Fayetteville.
Quarterback — Florida grad transfer Feleipe Franks is set for his one season at Arkansas. Franks brings vast SEC experience to the Razorbacks. His 2019 was cut short with the Gators when he suffered a season-ending injury against Kentucky. But in 2018, he had comparable stats to LSU’s Joe Burrow. In 2018, Franks completed 188 of 322 passes for 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns with only six interceptions. He also rushed 110 times for 350 yards and seven touchdowns. Jack Lindsey who started the Missouri game last season also returns. Lindsey, a former walk-on recruit from Springdale, is also the holder for the placements. In action against LSU and Missouri, Lindsey completed 13 of 30 passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing seven times for 80 yards.
Running Back — Rakeem Boyd opted to return for his senior season instead of opt for the 2020 NFL Draft. That was great news for Pittman, Kendal Briles and Jimmy Smith. Boyd rushed 184 times for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019 along with catching 19 passes for 160 yards. Boyd should be one of the better running backs in the SEC this fall. Boyd redshirted at Texas A&M as a freshman and then played the 2017 season at Independence (Kan.) Community College. T.J. Hammonds will be a fifth-year senior for the Hogs. He has battled injuries and suspensions that have prevented him from showing what he’s capable of on the field. In five games in 2019, Hammonds rushed eight times for 65 yards and caught four passes for 10.
Wide Receiver — Arkansas will have two seniors in 2020. They are Tyson Morris and De’Vion Warren. Morris is a former walk-on who is the son of Isaiah Morris, a former basketball standout at Arkansas. In 2019 in 11 games, Morris caught 13 passes for 155 yards and one touchdown. Chad Morris put Morris on scholarship and he has proved very worthy of it. Warren battled injuries last fall and played in only nine games. He caught four passes for 19 yards and rushed five times for 51 yards. It’s a kick returner where Warren really excels. He brought back 16 kickoffs for 326 yards last season. He has proven to be one of the better kick returners in the SEC when healthy.
Tight End — Blake Kern is also a former walk-on player who earned a scholarship under the previous coaching staff. Kern lends good size, 6-4, 266, to the tight end position. He didn’t catch a pass in 2019, but that could change in 2020 since three players who saw action at tight end last fall are gone now.
Offensive Line — The Hogs have Ty Clary, Chibueze Nwanna and Myron Cunningham as seniors on the offensive line. Clary has played each season since he arrived on campus and not redshirted. That despite coming to Arkansas without a scholarship the first semester on campus. Clary has seen action at both center and guard. Though he was at center in 2019, it appears he’s a candidate to play guard or center this season. He is Arkansas’ most experienced offensive lineman. Cunningham played both guard and tackle in 2019. Pittman has high expectations for Cunningham, but wants him to add more weight. He and Nwanna came to Arkansas from junior college. Cunningham was a key member of the line last fall. Nwanna is listed as a senior on the online roster.
Defensive Line — Arkansas has Clemson grad transfer Xavier Kelly, Jonathan Marshall, Dorian Gerald, David Porter and walk-on Elias Hale as seniors on the defensive line. Kelly got 87 snaps last fall for the Tigers. He had nine tackles, 0.5 sack, two pass breakups and recovered a fumble. He will get a chance for an expanded role with the Hogs. Marshall played in all 12 games in 2019 though he didn’t get any starts. He finished with 17 tackles, including eight solo, 4.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sack, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. When Arkansas is in a base defense with a four-man front, Marshall and Kelly could be the two inside players. They are both expected to play inside this fall. Gerald was injured in the first half of last season’s opener. He had a tackle and pass breakup in that brief action. He’s expected to contend for a starting spot at end this fall. Hale and Porter didn’t have any stats in 2019.
Linebacker — Arkansas has Grant Morgan, Hayden Henry and Deon Edwards as seniors on the team this fall. Morgan and Henry both came to Arkansas without a scholarship. Henry, like Clary, was awarded one after a semester. Morgan earned his after two years. Morgan played in 12 games though he didn’t start any last fall finishing with 39 tackles, including nine solo, three for loss and one sack. Henry is the younger brother of Hunter and older of Hudson. He played in 10 games before giving way to an injury. He also didn’t have any starts. He finished with 31 tackles, 16 solo, 2.5 for loss, one sack, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Edwards also saw action in 11 games with no starts. He had five tackle including two for loss. All his tackles were solo ones.
Defensive Back — Arkansas has Arkansas State grad transfer Jerry Jacobs and Micahh Smith as seniors. Jacobs played for Rion Rhoades at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College before heading to Arkansas State. He can play cornerback or safety. His 2019 season was cut short due to an injury suffered against Georgia. He had 21 tackles, 16 solo, one tackle for loss and two pass breakups. He’s expected to play a key role for the Hogs this season. Smith saw action in 11 games in 2019 with no starts. He still managed 22 tackles, 13 solo, two pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and recovered a fumble. Smith has spent most of his time at safety though he did play some cornerback last fall.
Specialists — Duke grad transfer kicker AJ Reed is the likely replacement for Connor Limpert this fall. Reed enjoyed a very good junior season at Duke. He kicked 15 of 18 field goals with a long of 51, was perfect on 34 point after touchdowns and scored 79 points. Reed has a strong and accurate leg.