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.
The Hogs’ secondary will be adjusting to two new position coaches this spring. Mark Smith, who came with Morris from SMU, is expected to have a primary focus on the cornerbacks. Ron Cooper will work mostly with the safeties. He has previously worked with defensive coordinator John Chavis at LSU (2009-11) and Texas A&M (2017).
- Other positional spring previews: Quarterbacks | Special teams | Running backs | Tight ends | Wide receivers | Offensive line | Defensive line | Linebackers
As the defensive backs adjust to their new coaches, here are three things the Hogs secondary should look to accomplish during spring practices:
1. Trust the cornerbacks
There aren’t many positions on Arkansas’ roster with a level of depth that compares with the best in the SEC. Cornerback, however, is a spot the Hogs should be among the best in the conference.
Ryan Pulley is back for his senior season after a torn pectoral forced him to miss all but half of the season opener in 2017. He’s poised to get his NFL future back on track with a strong final season.
The loss of Pulley last season wasn’t nearly as tough as expected due to the play of Kamren Curl as a freshman. Curl held his own in a lot of man-to-man situations against talented receivers in his 11 starts, while showing promise for the future.
Now, Pulley and Curl are projected to be starting opposite each other. That is likely to be a difficult duo to throw on next season. Additionally, leaving them in 1-on-1 situations regularly should tremendously help the rest of the defense. This spring will provide a preview for the new coaching staff of how much the corners can help the defense if trusted.
2. Develop a nickel back
The status of Kevin Richardson, who started at nickel back as a senior last season, is unknown. SEC Country has been told he’s pushing for an extra of eligibility after he missed all but one game his junior season due to injury. It seems unlikely he’ll get it from the NCAA, though.
So, the Hogs should be looking at other options to fill the vacancy. It’s an important spot with Arkansas likely to feature a 4-2-5 defense often going forward.
Chevin Calloway and Britto Tutt, both corners, should be among the top contenders for the spot this spring. Montaric Brown, who redshirted last season and is viewed as a safety, could also be in the mix. It’s anybody’s guess beyond that who could push to fill the spot. There are several young, inexperienced defensive backs on the roster.
Whoever it is, it’d be a bonus for Arkansas to identify that player this spring. If not, incoming freshman LaDarrius Bishop, Joseph Foucha and Myles Mason could make a case this fall at taking the spot.
3. Find another safety
Santos Ramirez is locked in as a starter at one of the safety spots. The senior was a team captain a year ago and showed great strides in his progression. Who will play alongside him at the other safety spot is a mystery entering the spring.
Brown is a very strong candidate. The former 4-star recruit has a lot of talent. He even pushed for playing time as a freshman last season despite not joining the team until late August.
Whether it’s Brown or not, this spring is going to be important for the safeties looking to secure a spot. Foucha and Mason — both highly recruited players — are arriving this summer with the expectation of making an immediate impact.