FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas will go through its first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The scrimmage will be open to media, so SEC Country’s Jason Kersey and Trent Shadid will be there to provide full coverage.
Here’s a look at what we’ll be watching.
From what we’ve heard from both players and coaches — and seen during the portions of practice that have been open to media so far — sophomore Rawleigh Williams III seems to be the pretty clear favorite at this point to be the Hogs’ main ballcarrier in the season opener Sept. 3.
Senior Kody Walker likely will be more of a short-yardage and goal-line specialty back, with junior Duwop Mitchell also potentially getting some carries.
Highly touted true freshmen Devwah Whaley and T.J. Hammonds are also going to be in the mix, although they are still learning the system and adjusting to the speed of the college game.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about watching the running backs Saturday is this: The scrimmage will be the first time that defenders will tackle to the ground.
Williams is coming off a scary neck injury. Walker is coming off a broken foot. Whaley and Hammonds have yet to be tackled to the ground by college defenders.
Saturday could be where we really start to see some separation among the running backs, and if that happens, I’m betting the fact that they can be tackled plays a part in it.
— Jason Kersey
Obviously, we know that junior Austin Allen will be the starter. He won the battle to replace his big brother Brandon — one of the more prolific QBs in school history — during the spring.
There is no reason to believe Austin will be on a short leash once the season begins, but it will be important for the Razorbacks to figure out his backup, and soon.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Enos insisted during a news conference earlier this week that none of the quarterbacks behind Allen have separated themselves from the pack. The favorite to end up in that QB2 spot has long been sophomore Rafe Peavey, but if coaches aren’t ready to say it yet, maybe he’s struggling or really being pushed by redshirt freshmen Ty Storey and Ricky Town or — possibly — even true freshman Cole Kelley.
How Enos divvies up the snaps Saturday should be telling.
— Jason Kersey
The most-discussed area of concern with three starters being replaced entering fall camp, the offensive line will be under a microscope.
The Hogs have apparently found their favorite combination — Brian Wallace (RT), Zach Rogers (RG), Frank Ragnow (C), Hjalte Froholdt (LG) and Dan Skipper (LT) — but that could change if the group underperforms on Saturday. Thursday’s practice was an ugly one for all of the offensive line combinations, as the defense frequently put pressure on the quarterbacks and smothered the running game with ease.
A dominant offensive line is essential to success in this pro-style, run-first system. If the unit can’t come together quickly and be ready for the start of the season, Arkansas will be in trouble, especially with a tough non-conference test at TCU now less than a month away.
— Trent Shadid
The defensive backs were without question the most criticized group on the team last season when the Razorbacks finished last in the SEC in opponent passing yards per game (275).
This season, the group returns most of its key contributors and has been shaken up a little bit by new defensive backs coach and former Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads.
Jared Collins remains a starter at cornerback while Henre’ Toliver has supplanted DJ Dean as the starter at the other cornerback spot. Collins and Toliver were both impressive during Thursday’s practice. Santos Ramirez (SS) and Josh Liddell (FS) have been the other starters to this point.
The growth of the unit appears to be headed in the right direction, but that will have to be seen consistently in order to put the fans at ease with this group.
— Trent Shadid