FAYETTEVILLE — Two points of emphasis that Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman addressed in his Monday pre spring football practice press conference were addressed to media made available linebacker Grant Morgan and running back Trelon Smith after the Razorbacks practiced Tuesday for the first time.
Both Tuesday and Thursday’s first two of 15 spring practices are mandated to be with no pads but that didn’t stop the Razorbacks from practicing crisply for their second-year head coach’s first-ever spring practice with them.
The Razorbacks never practiced last spring because of the COVID-19 shutdown of all 2020 spring sports but caught up and then some last summer and last season winning three SEC games after successive 0-8, 0-8 SEC campaigns under the previous Chad Morris regime.
“We know what to expect,” Morgan, the extra senior year All-SEC linebacker from Greenwood said. “We know where to go because we’ve been through it before. This isn’t our first time doing it. It’s our first spring ball but it’s not the first time doing it with these coaches. It’s really shown for everybody.”
It was addressed Tuesday that Pittman demands a considerably better pass rush than the Razorbacks amassed last season.
Did he notice the emphasis Tuesday?
“Yes, definitely,” Morgan said. “As a defense we have to put pressure on the quarterback It doesn’t matter if we’re rushing three or one. We have to get somebody there and get pressure on him and make him move around. Last year we didn’t do it good enough so we have an emphasis on it now. We have to have guys step up and play better than last year. They know that and they are going to do it.”
Morgan said Pittman liked their Tuesday effort.
“I don’t think we could have started any better,” Morgan said. “Today we had a really good practice. We went really fast. He called us up on inside afterwards and he was just congratulating us on how great we did and saying ‘You all really had the best inside period I’ve ever seen without pads.’
Smith said also practiced enthused.
“Oh man, first day of spring was exciting,” Smith said. “I was happy to be out there, the offense was happy to be out there. It was just fast-paced today and up-tempo as well. Coach Pittman coming into this spring passionately speaks on tempo. He wants us to move. He wants everything to be fast, on and off the field.”
Pittman definitely, the coach asserted Monday, wants himself and play-calling offensive coordinator Kendal Briles confident to call a run on third and three instead of nearly always a pass which occurred last season.
“We definitely take that as a challenge,” Smith said. “We want to be a powerhouse football team. We want to be a smash-mouth football team. In those type of situations, third-and-2, third-and-3, we want to be able to hand the ball off to the back and go get those yards the dirty way. I’ve talked to my O-line, they’ve talked to me. We want to be able to let Coach Briles know, ‘Hey, on third-and-2, third-and-3, you don’t have to go in the air. You can just hand it off and we’re going to get it for you. That’s our main focus and we’re doing pretty good.”
Asked about specific big offensive plays Tuesday, Smith cited quarterbacks KJ Jefferson and Malik Hornsby and former Razorbacks track sprinter become running back Josh Oglesby.
“Malik Hornsby had a good throw today down the field (to receiver Kendall Catalon) in the two-minute drill took us to the five-yard line I want to say,” Smith said. “Josh Oglesby (coming back from a preseason injury sidelining him for 20200 on outside zone ended up scoring the touchdown for us in the red zone. I broke on a few plays. I saw (leading returning receiver) Treylon Burks on the other side of the field making good catches in the one-on-one drills. The O-line busting their tail. Defense working. But I really just like what I'm seeing across the whole board. KJ Jefferson (the starting quarterback) was looking good today as well. He looked comfortable in the backfield.”
The Razorbacks are off Wednesday and practice Thursday and Saturday this week.
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