FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas' coordinators felt a lot better Wednesday than they did after a ragged workout Tuesday that marked the first practice with school in session.
"[Tuesday] wasn't very good," offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said. "We had probably one of our worst days since we've been here. I had to grab a couple of guys' attention."
Craddock speculated there was a lack of focus Tuesday because classes started.
"There's a lot of distractions outside the facility, and we had to reel them back in real quick and get them refocused on football, and I was very proud of the way our guys responded today," he said. "We had a really, really good day today. One of our better days of camp and to this point since school started."
Defensive coordinator John Chavis griped about poor tacking Saturday.
"[Tuesday] was not bad, but it was better today," Chavis said. "The tackling and the tracking and the simulated tackling was better, much better, today."
Linebacker Grant Morgan said he noticed a better vibe Wednesday.
"[Tuesday], I think the coaches had to start and kind of lead us," Morgan said. "But today I thought we really brought the juice. We had the energy. We came out there with a passion, and it really showed, and I think the coaches bought into it as well."
Chad Morris received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of about 300 when he was introduced at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Wednesday.
"I appreciate that," Morris said. "It's amazing what happens when you're undefeated."
Morris said he grasped the excitement level from fans at Friday's kickoff luncheon in Springdale, at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday and again Wednesday.
"There's a hunger level in this state to see the Razorback football program get back to the top," Morris said. "I was telling the players at practice, 'You can just see it, you can feel it, you can smell it on campus.' "
Chad Morris said he talks to his father, JB, two or three times a week.
"He's wanting to know about the game plan, and 'Who's the quarterback going to be, Chad?' And who's this and who's that?" Morris said. "I'm like, 'Dad, look, I don't know.' Then he wants to know what are we going to run on the first play."
Morris said he talked to his father when the Arkansas job came open in November.
"My dad called me when all this was coming into play,' " Morris said. "I said, 'Listen, that's the one.' I said, 'Dad, I'll walk backwards to Fayetteville.'
"This program is a sleeping giant. This program is a gold mine."
Ty Storey operated with the first unit on offense to start Wednesday's standard move-the-ball drill. The first receivers were Jared Cornelius, Jonathan Nance and Mike Woods, and the top running back was Devwah Whaley.
The first offensive line consisted of Brian Wallace and Johnny Gibson on the right side, Hjalte Froholdt at center, and Kirby Adcock and Shane Clenin on the left side.
Woods appeared to make a contested catch in a battle with Chevin Calloway on the left flank, though the replay booth might have taken a look at it as Woods went to the ground. Woods also caught another pass on the series and had a good day.
"I think Mike Woods had by far his best day today," offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said. "I was really proud of how he practiced, how he attacked the football in the air."
Cole Kelley was at quarterback with the second unit. The group's best play was a long pass from Kelley to LaMichael Pettway down the left sideline vs. cornerback Britto Tutt. Kelley's lofted pass was wobbly but it did the job.
On the mend
Arkansas' offensive line might get a boost in time for conference play.
Injured left tackle Colton Jackson is progressing quicker than expected after undergoing a surgery on his back last month, Arkansas Coach Chad Morris said Wednesday during his radio show.
"The prognosis on him is really looking good," Morris said. "We hope to have him back in about three weeks."
On July 30, Morris said Jackson could miss as many as six games because of the injury, but the latest timeline suggests he could return sometime around Arkansas' SEC opener at Auburn on Sept. 22. The Razorbacks play three nonconference opponents to open the season, beginning with Eastern Illinois on Sept. 1.
The Razorbacks have struggled to find a clear leader at left tackle since Jackson, the projected starter, was injured. Redshirt freshmen Dalton Wagner and Shane Clenin, and true freshman Noah Gatlin have spent the most time manning the position through three weeks of preseason practice.
Wagner, who had drawn praise from coaches for his play at both tackle positions, is expected to miss at least the opener as he recovers from an appendix removal last week.
The Razorbacks devoted roughly 60 percent of Wednesday's work to Eastern Illinois, their opponent in the season opener on Sept. 1.
The Panthers finished 6-5 last season, their fifth under Coach Kim Dameron, the former Arkansas wide receiver. They lost 38-10 at Northern Illinois in their only game against an FBS opponent in 2017.
"We've turned the page, and we're looking at fully game planning for Eastern Illinois," offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said.
Sophomore Briston Guidry has been back in the defensive tackle rotation after missing time early in camp to rest a knee injury. He got significant work in Saturday's scrimmage.
"I'm feeling great," Guidry said Wednesday. "It feels good to be back, and I feel like we've got a great group of guys. So depth's pretty good."
Defensive coordinator John Chavis has said he feels good about playing five defensive tackles.
"That's going to benefit us a lot," Guidry said. "It's going to be a long season. It's the SEC, so the more depth the better it is."
Offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said left guard Kirby Adcock bounced back with a good day Wednesday after he did up-downs Tuesday after an early false start.
"One of the things I've noticed about Kirby since the spring is he's gotten a lot more confidence," Craddock said. "He was one of the guys I had to refocus [Tuesday], but he really responded today and had a good practice. He's done a really, really good job at this point and looks a lot different physically, and mentally understands a lot more of what we're trying to do than in the spring."
Chad Morris named safeties Joe Foucha and Myles Mason when asked Wednesday which freshmen have impressed him.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis agreed.
"They've impressed us all, there's no doubt about that," Chavis said. "They're both talented young men. They've been quick to learn.
"They're freshmen right now, and we've just got to keep growing them. We knew they were talented when we had the opportunity to recruit them. Certainly I think both of them will be really, really fine players in the SEC."
Jordan Jones said the 99-yard pass he caught in Saturday's scrimmage would have counted in a real game.
"I think it counted," Jones said. "They blew the whistle a little early, but I think it counted."
Jones said he turned an option route into a deep pattern to reel in the catch from Ty Storey.
He has gotten several mentions from Coach Chad Morris and coordinator Joe Craddock recently.
"I'm just trying to give better effort in practice," Jones said. "They always stress that you don't earn your playing time on game day, you earn it during the week. So just for me, knowing what to do and coming to practice every day with good energy."
• Among the players in green Wednesday were tight ends Jeremy Patton and Grayson Gunter, linebacker Kyrei Fisher and offensive lineman Ryan Winkel. Defensive end Randy Ramsey did not participate in the workout. The players in yellow jerseys were not on the practice field Wednesday.
• Former Arkansas basketball player Isaiah "Butch" Morris, the father of walk-on receiver Tyson Morris, was at practice Tuesday.
WholeHogSports staff writer Scottie Bordelon contributed to this report.
Sports on 08/23/2018
Print Headline: Coaches say Hogs rebound