Spring football practice draws to a close Saturday as part of the Woo Pig Weekend Festivities that are being held on campus Friday through Sunday with five Razorback sports competing in some form or fashion on campus.
Gates open at 11 a.m. for the scrimmage that will be the Hogs’ final practice of the spring. If you can’t be there in person, ESPN +/SEC Network + will be televising the event. The Arkansas Radio Network will also broadcast the scrimmage with Chuck Barrett, Quinn Grovey and Geno Bell offering play-by-play and commentary.
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said the scrimmage will pit the first teams against the second teams for two periods, the third teams against each other for a period, followed by periods of the starters against each other, the backups against each other and another round of the third teams against each other.
After that, the Razorbacks will move into situational periods focusing on third down, and deep and shallow Red zone work. Kicking and punting will be mixed in with the scrimmage work, with the goal of getting nine attempts of each in.
Pittman said the Hogs would “get after it” in the workout, but fans likely should not expect extended workloads by proven veterans like quarterback K.J. Jefferson and running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders. They will get their work in, but Pittman will also be smart with them and not overextend them.
It will be a new look for fans this year as Dan Enos directs a multiple offense with more pro-style tendencies than what former offensive coordinator Kendal Briles — now at TCU — deployed.
Opponent: Spring Scrimmage
When: 12 p.m. Saturday, April 15
Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville
Likewise, the keep-everything-in-front-of-you approach on defense utilized by departed defensive coordinator Barry Odom — now the head coach at UNLV — has been replaced by an aggressive attack-the-football style of the Hogs’ new defensive coordinator Travis Williams.
Speed and quickness seems to be an asset with Arkansas stocked well with talent at defensive end and cornerback. Depth up front on the interior line is not ideal, although Arkansas did garner a commitment from former Maryland defensive lineman Anthony “Tank” Booker Jr. (6-4, 320) Thursday to bolster its front.
Depth at safety is also a question mark as is experience at linebacker. Only Chris “Pooh” has much playing experience with the Razorbacks going into next season. Antonio Grier, a South Florida grad-transfer, has fit in nicely at linebacker. His experience has been a welcome addition from the transfer portal.
Offensive line coach Cody Kennedy and Pittman have played musical chairs up front, attempting to find the best fit at each spot. Pittman said earlier in the week that he and Kennedy have a good idea who those five are, but earlier this spring, Pittman said he was not in favor of issuing a public depth chart in order to keep competitors on their toes and to discourage players for making a rash move into the transfer portal.
Brady Latham (6-5, 310) is a returning starter at left guard, and Beaux Limmer (6-5, 306), who started at the other guard position last season, has successfully moved to center to take over from Ricky Stromberg, who is expected to be selected in the NFL Draft later this month.
Sophomores Devon Manuel (6-9, 310) and Patrick Kutas (6-5, 303) appear to be frontrunners at the two tackle spots with Joshua Braun (6-6, 341), Ty’Kieast Crawford (6-5, 317), and E’Marrion Harris (6-7, 297) waging a three-way battle at right guard.
Pittman also said a pecking order is developing among Arkansas’ receivers and tight ends. Arkansas has a talented corps of receivers, but they are as yet unproven on the SEC level.
Inside receivers Isiah Sategna and Bryce Stephens have earned plaudits from Pittman, while transfer wide receivers Andrew Armstrong and Isaac TeSlaa, who each stand 6-4, have been credited with big plays and have made moves as of late in spring drills.
Veteran Nathan Bax is steady at tight end and true freshman Luke Hasz has all the skills but needs to gain strength and size to be a competitive in-line blocker in the SEC. Ty Washington, who caught a touchdown pass in the Liberty Bowl victory over Kansas, continues to improve.
The Razorbacks have seven scholarships to use on talent in the transfer portal. Pittman indicated the Hogs would be looking to add a quality tight end who can block and catch. Safety and defensive tackle would be other positions in which Arkansas is seeking to add depth, but good fits at other positions are always possibilities.
Pittman said next week will be key for him and his assistants in re-recruiting their current roster with the transfer portal opening on Saturday. Pittman said he wants each of the players to remain with the Razorbacks, and that he thought that they would.
However as we have seen in the recent past, surprises are always possible when the transfer portal comes into play.