Arkansas football is set to begin its first spring workouts this week under new coach Chad Morris. The Razorbacks are scheduled to practice 14 times between March 1 and April 9, though another date could be added, with the NCAA allowing up to 15 practices. The spring game will be played April 7 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
During the spring, no position battle will be of more interest than quarterback. With two-year starter Austin Allen gone, the competition to be his replacement is getting underway.
Here are three things Arkansas should be doing at quarterback during spring practices:
1. Find a capable starter
Arkansas doesn’t necessarily have to name a starting quarterback this spring. In fact, it might be a good thing for growth if the competition extends into fall camp.
But, obviously, the Hogs would prefer the competition stays open because players are performing well. If Arkansas comes out of spring practice wondering what to do because of the quarterbacks’ inability to run the offense, that’s a problem.
That’s not likely to be the case, though. Morris’ offense is known for being quarterback-friendly. Once the quarterbacks he’s inheriting adjust, there’s enough talent here that someone should seize the role of clear starter.
The most likely candidate is sophomore Cole Kelley. He’s the most experienced returnee after starting four games — three in SEC play — after Allen went down with a right shoulder injury last season. By all accounts, he’s extremely excited about the opportunity to play for Morris. Kelley also seems to be far more comfortable in a spread, up-tempo scheme than the system of the previous staff.
Ty Storey, a junior who backed up Allen in 2016, may be down to his final chance at becoming a starter for the Hogs. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if he does not win the job. Redshirt freshman Daulton Hyatt is also very comfortable in a spread offense and shouldn’t be ruled out in the competition. Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones, both 2018 signees, won’t be on campus until this summer and are likely to redshirt.
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2. Keep tabs on Connor Noland
Speaking of Noland, who also plans to play baseball at Arkansas, this spring will be incredibly important for his future. Though he won’t go through spring practices at Arkansas, he will be someone to keep an eye on in his final season pitching for Greenwood (Ark.) High School.
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If Noland sees his professional baseball draft stock rise enough, the Hogs could be in danger of never getting him on campus. It’s not so much a question of could the right-hander get drafted, it’s how high. He and his family have made it clear he won’t be skipping college unless he’s offered the type of signing bonus that is typically only seen within the first two rounds of the MLB draft. It seems unlikely that becomes an issue, but it’s still something to monitor heading into the draft in early June.
3. Get Grant Gunnell on campus
Though spring practices will be in full swing throughout March, recruiting never stops. Arkansas has plans to host several top recruiting targets during the month.
Quarterback target Grant Gunnell is at the top of the list when it comes to getting recruits on campus. He’s a consensus 4-star prospect from St. Pius X High School in Houston, and is considering Arkansas among several major programs. For the Hogs to have any chance at competing with the schools on his offer list, they need to get him on campus. A visit next month during spring practices would provide some optimism.
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