FAYETTEVILLE — Kendal Briles is set to begin his first season as offensive coordinator at the University of Arkansas.
One of the first things for Briles and new head coach Sam Pittman to try and settle on is a starting quarterback. The Razorbacks started five different quarterbacks in 2019 and thus one of the reasons for an inconsistent offense and 2-10 mark for second year in a row.
Pittman is anxious to see the quarterbacks on Monday when preseason practices start.
“We’ll see how good we are at quarterback,” Pittman said. “At every position. But the quarterback drives your football team.
“I want to see how we can run to the football. I want to see how tough of a program we are. I want to see how disciplined we are. We’re going to put them through tough practices, and I want to see how we react. I feel like I know how we’re going to react. That we’re going to dig down and come roaring back the next play. But we have to test our football team in practice to see what we have. We can’t wait until Saturday to find out.
“We believe in this football team. We believe in our players. They’ve given us no reason not to, to be honest with you. But I want to put us in some adverse situations so we can figure it out before we go out there on Saturday.”
Briles was asked if he has seen Feleipe Franks throw in the walkthroughs?
“It wasn’t disappointing,” Briles said. “No, we haven’t been able to do that 11-on-11. We’ve had some individual where we’ve been able to throw and work some drills, but yeah did not disappoint at all. Watched him on tape. I figured he was going to have a real live arm, and he does. Thing I’ve been impressed with is how he’s been able to get the ball out of his hand and just really consistent with all his throws. Not a lot of wobble in the ball. I think he’s going to be really, really sharp once we get going on Monday, so excited to see him and the rest of the guys. I’ve been very pleased with all the quarterbacks, watching them throw because it has been a long time being able to see that.”
Franks transferred to Arkansas from Florida at midterm. With the Gators, Franks completed 367 of 622 passes for 4,593 yards, 38 touchdowns and only 17 interceptions. He also rushed 189 times for 438 yards and eight touchdowns.
The other scholarship quarterbacks are redshirt freshman KJ Jefferson, senior Jack Lindsey, sophomore John Stephen Jones and true freshman Malik Hornsby.
“KJ, he’s healthy,” Briles said. “Looks really good. He rehabbed back home during most of the time when we were quarantined. He has said that his shoulder hasn’t bothered him at all. It feels really good. All of his movement skills appear to be really good. His throwing motion has not impared him at all in that way. I think he’s full go.
“Malik’s head’s spinning just a little bit. Knew it would be, and to be honest Bob we’ve put quite a bit on him, and that’s kind of by design. We wanted to, basically, make him fail. We wanted to put a lot of information on him, that way they’d seen it. Then once we bring the information back up, schematically, then at least they’d seen it. So, his head’s been spinning a little bit, but his want-to is there, so that’s a big part of it.”
Is there a chance another quarterback rotation could be coming?
“I think it’s going to take a couple of weeks to figure out exactly which guy we feel like can lead us to victories,” Briles said. “You’ve got to get in the fire. You’ve got to go in scrimmages and obviously we’re going to protect our quarterbacks, so they’re not going to get hit. But we have guys like Feleipe who have game experience. And, shoot, really all of them. Jack and John and KJ, all of those guys have played. That doesn’t bother me.
“As far as identifying, I don’t think there’s a set time when you do it. I think it’s a feel, a feel with myself and Coach Pittman, and frankly the entire staff. Everybody’s got to have a feel for the guy who’s going to be touching the ball every single play. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to be the person who makes that decision. I want us all to feel good about it. I feel like I’m going to have probably a pretty strong opinion, but hopefully Feleipe will be what we think he is. There’s still going to be competition, but I would say it’s going to be his job to lose.”
Despite much work being virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions, Briles feels progress has been made and likes what has seen from Hornsby in that regard.
“Obviously, for everybody, whether it’s us in sports or business, it’s just been different,” Briles said. “We’re doing this Zoom call right now, so. I feel like, where we’re at, I feel really good, and the attention that our players have. Talked earlier about Malik and his want-to. I think that’s one of the biggest things that I see from this football team is that their eager to do right, they’re eager to please, they want to learn, they want to get better. They’re easy to coach because they’re wanting to be successful. We’re going to help to allow them to do that.”
With preseason practice starting Monday, Briles was asked how he feels about the install for the offense?
“We’ve probably got about 75% in,” Briles said. “We’re going to dial back just a little bit first week. We feel good about what we have in, like I said almost 75%, and we’ll be able to keep moving forward from that. So, really good about what we’ve got in. And as we continue to go and assess the personnel and figure out what guys do well, that’ll determine how much more we decide to do.”
Briles also talked about what he’s looking for heading into these practices?
“There’s a lot,” Briles said. “We haven’t put a ball down there yet. There are so many things that come with that. Ball protection is going to be No. 1. That’s going to be the biggest thing we have to make sure we’re preaching as coaches and our players are going to have to police it themselves. But that’s going to be the biggest thing.
“Right now there’s really no contact with the walkthroughs. Really no high-speed collisions. We won’t have that that first week. That’s going to be the biggest thing being able to execute. There are some repercussions to what you’re doing. Right now you can run freely and know nothing’s going to happen to you. That changes. And the guys have been expecting that their whole life. But when you haven’t done that for so long it may is going to take you a little bit. So that’s the biggest thing. Just make sure we’re able to protect the football.
“I felt like our team how we mechanically want to be on offense, I think we’re right where we need to be right now. I don’t think that any of us on entire coaching staff would say that we didn’t get spring ball so we got behind. Not at all. I feel we’ve had 19 really good practices. I feel Coach Pittman, the leadership he’s given us as coaches and put together a schedule to have what we’ve done with the weights and our meeting time and taking advantage of all the time we’ve been allotted has been excellent. So he’s done a great job and we have great coaches and we’re all for ready for Monday.”
Arkansas will also practice Wednesday and Friday this week in addition to Monday. The practices will start at 2:45.