FAYETTEVILLE – Barring injuries, quarantine causing positive COVID-19 tests or quarantine cause from COVID-19 tracing of those closely associated with others who have tested positive, the Arkansas Razorbacks starting lineup appeared all but set Monday for their season opener against the Georgia Bulldogs.
At 3 p.m. Saturday on SEC Network television at Reynolds Razorback Stadium Coach Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks and Coach Kirby Smart’s nationally No. 4 Bulldogs open their entirely SEC 10-games entirely schedule.
Other than either-or listings at tight end between redshirt freshman Hudson Henry and surprising moved from the defensive line freshman Blayne Toll, right offensive tackle with fourth-year junior Dalton Wagner and third-year sophomore Noah Gatlin, and a defensive tackle between graduate transfer Xavier Kelly of Clemson and returning third-year sophomore letterman Isaiah Nichols of Springdale, Pittman’s depth chart posts definite starters and backups.
The offensive backfield starts via University of Florida graduate transfer Feleipe Franks at quarterback and returning senior 1,133-yard rusher Rakeem Boyd at running back with redshirt freshman quarterback KJ Jefferson and Trelon Smith, the transfer running back from Arizona State, the top reserves.
At the three wide receivers position in offensive coordinator Kendal Briles’ attack, sophomores Treylon Burks and Trey Knox and junior Mike Woods start with Southern University transfer Kendall Catalon and seniors De’Vion Warren and Helena native/Fayetteville High grad Tyson Morris the top reserves.
The offensive line starts sophomore center Ricky Stromberg, redshirt left guard Brady Latham, redshirt freshman right guard Beaux Limmer, senior left tackle Myron Cunningham and the either-or Wagner and Gatlin at right tackle.
Gatlin of Jonesboro also is listed the backup to Cunningham at left tackle.
Senior Ty Clary is the backup center and junior Shane Clenin and sophomore Ryan Winkel the backup guards.
Defensively after much competition at middle and weakside linebackers, senior Grant Morgan of Greenwood and junior incumbent Bumper Pool held their first-team status they had going into preseason camp.
Up front, junior college transfer Julius Coates and senior Dorian Gerald start at defensive ends with senior Jonathan Marshall at one tackle and either Kelly or Nichols starting at the other.
The starting secondary features via Arkansas State graduate transfer Jerry Jacobs and junior incumbent Montaric Brown of Ashdown at the corners, incumbent junior Joe Foucha and emerging redshirt freshman Jalen Catalon at the safeties and sophomore incumbent Greg Brooks at nickel.
The No. 2 secondary sports two true freshmen, safety Myles Slusher and cornerback Khari Johnson, and veterans Jarques McClellion at corner and Myles Mason at safety and LaDarrius Bishop at nickel.
Levi Draper, a graduate transfer via the University of Oklahoma, and sophomore letterman Andrew Parker respectively back Pool and Morgan as linebackers.
The backup defensive line, aside from the Kelly and Nichols either-or, includes redshirt freshman tackle Taurean Carter and sophomore ends Mateo Soli and redshirt freshman Eric Gregory.
Pittman was asked about his true freshmen on the 2-deep, tight end Toll and defensive backs Slusher and Johnson.
Toll of Hazen was recruited as a defensive end. During the summer was moved to tight end, then briefly back to defensive end and finally permanently tight end as Pittman and tight ends coach Jon Cooper searched for depth.
“I think we’ve got the game plan where he’ll know what to do.” Pittman said. “He does have a lot of speed. He’s probably al little bit faster than Hudson would be. Hudson’s really had a good couple of weeks, so I’m feeling better and better about that tight end room.”
Regarding defensive backs Slusher and Johnson, Pittman said, “Very talented and very mature.”
“In order to get on the field early as freshman you have to be mature, you have to be smart, you have to understand the schematics of the game,” Pittman said.
A 24-point favorite with a head coach who had now first-time major college head coach Pittman as his Georgia offensive line coach from 2016-2019, Smart wields an on paper advantage about everywhere.
Except running back, Boyd is second-team Preseason All-SEC, and quarterback.
Pittman has believed from the January day Franks arrived that he would be starting quarterback.
Georgia has been quarterback scrambling since 2019 junior starter Jake Fromm turned pro and Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman opted out to concentrate on the 2021 NFL draft.
They’re gone but Pittman insists it’s still a long week for Arkansas’ defensive staff. They doubly prepare for Smart starting either redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis or via the University of Southern California transfer quarterback JT Daniels and perhaps using both.
“With JT. Daniels, you can go back and watch the (USC vs.) Fresno State game from last season,” Pittman said. “I mean he’s just throwing darts and any angle. He’s a shortstop, he’s a right-fielder. He can do anything he wants with the football. And of course D’Wan I was there at Georgia with D’Wan and we know what kind of arm he has. But he would be maybe a little bit more of a double threat because he certainly can run. He can actually fly.”
The Razorbacks’ closed practices after Sunday’s off day include full pads Monday and Tuesday tapering Wednesday to “shells” and shorts.