FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas fell to 2-10 in 2018, but senior linebacker Scoota Harris doesn’t see a repeat of that in 2019.
Following Tuesday’s practice, Harris talked about why the season that opens on Saturday will be different than the one in 2018.
“I think it’s just the commitment and the buy in to the program that we did this off-season,” Harris said. “It’s just a difference. We’ve got a point to prove as a whole program. I feel like that’s kind of why we’ll be a better team in Year 2 than Year 1.”
While Harris chose to return for his senior season his goals for 2019 are still the same.
“The goal is the same as it is every year,” Harris said. “Just go out there and just do what I do. Just do anything that it takes to make this team better, to keep on winning games, try to win more games than we won last year basically.”
For Harris doing what he can do is actually a lot. In three years, he has 270 tackles, including 19.5 for loss, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, six quarterback hurries and seven pass breakups. He has played in 36 games in those three years with 24 starts, including each of the 12 the past two seasons.
How was Tuesday’s practice?
“It was good,” Harris said. “We had a couple of mess-ups here and there. You expect that for the first day. But I think, overall as a team we came out there with high energy, a great game plan we executed today. I felt like today was a great day for the first day.”
With Harris at the Mike and sophomore Bumper Pool at the Will expect to see the Razorbacks use a Sam linebacker more in this game than many they will play according to John Chavis. That means Hayden Henry and Deon Edwards, a pair of juniors, will get to see a lot of action.
“Yeah, we’ll be in base probably the first three weeks this year,” Harris said. “Just to get Hayden and Deon, those guys out there to get them more reps before we get into SEC play. But Chief is right, you never know what this group is gonna do. They get in third and 2 and pass the ball, and then run the ball on I guess second and 12. Like Chief said, you never know what they’re gonna do.”
Arkansas will use some backups particularly early in the season due to the heat. Harris talked about what he has seen from the second-team defense.
“The backups are fine,” Harris said. “The majority of those guys that are backups played a lot of reps last year, and they took a lot of strides this year. So, it shouldn’t be that much of a downfall with the 1s and the 2s, really.”
Among the second-team defense is junior Grant Morgan behind Harris.
“Grant has played a lot of ball here,” Harris said. “He’ll be fine. We trust in Grant, and Grant he believes in us that we trust in him that he’ll go in there and do the right things all the time.”
Which freshmen have caught your eye in the preseason?
“I feel like (free safety Jalen) Catalon had a pretty decent camp as a true freshman just coming in,” Harris said. “He’s a ballhawk, always around the ball. He’s understanding things. Same thing with Malik Chavis. Malik Chavis has a bigger frame out there at cornerback, so we can do a lot of things with him. I think those guys will be fine. They’ve just got to keep getting better every day. We’ve just got to keep helping them.”
Last fall, senior Dre Greenlaw was injured some and missed a few games. That allowed Pool, who was then a true freshman, to get action in 10 games including four starts. He finished with 29 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, returned a fumble 60 yards, one quarterback hurry and four pass breakups.
“It was big, though, because we know we had to crosstrain Bumper when we brought him in last year as a Mike and we moved him to Will,” Harris said. “We didn’t really need that depth at Mike, we just needed depth behind Dre. And it just so happened that Dre got hurt early. It kind of benefited us that Bumper got those reps early into his freshman season.”
How much better can Bumper be this year?
“He’s still got to get better with his reps, don’t take anything for granted,” Harris said. “He works hard every day, so we’re not going to worry about him slacking or anything, so he’ll be fine.”
For anyone worried that Arkansas will overlook Portland State looking ahead to Ole Miss the following week Harris said that isn’t an issue.
“No, no, no,” Harris said. “You don’t worry about anybody [else], especially after losing to North Texas last year. So, I really don’t overlook anybody now. I know we always say that, but I guess you just take it more serious when something like North Texas actually happens to you, so no we’re not overlooking anybody.”
Arkansas and Portland State will kickoff at 3 p.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.