Arkansas’ practice on Tuesday had 10 scholarship offensive linemen practicing on Tuesday and it didn’t go unnoticed by Coach Chad Morris.
On Tuesday, both junior Colton Jackson and redshirt freshman Shane Clenin practiced. Injuries hit the offensive line in the summer and preseason.
“Shane was back full speed yesterday,” Morris said. “Yesterday was our very first day since I’ve been here that we had 10 scholarship offensive linemen to be able to have practice and be able to have that rotation, which was really encouraging and exciting to see.
“Colton Jackson, we’re anticipating Colton to possibly get in there and play a few series and see how it goes. He got in yesterday full speed and full contact and did a great job. Just trying to get his legs back underneath him. That’s the biggest challenge for Colton right now. It was good to see him in there. He actually got in some scout team work.”
Clenin was moved to center to back up Hjalte Froholdt and Jackson will compete with true freshman Noah Gatlin at left tackle. On the SEC Teleconference on Wednesday, Morris talked about the job that Dustin Fry has done with the offensive line considering all the injuries.
“I think everybody’s handled it as good as you possibly could,” Morris said. “They understand that, look, there’s some things we can’t control and that was one of them. The only thing that we can control is how we respond. I think Coach Fry has done a fabulous job of cross-training guys to try to maximize the depth that we did have. I’ve been very pleased with that. I think the players have handled it incredible, with an Austin Capps and Deion Malone saying, ‘Coach, whatever I need to do to help,’ and being able to make that transition over from defense to the offensive side of the ball. They recognize it, they see it.
“Your walk-ons, Tyler Hall and Audry Horn have done a great job of coming in there and helping out, especially when you’re trying to get guys reps, but yet not overdo them. Those guys have been able to come in. So it’s been a collective effort. I’ve been very pleased with their attitude.”
Gatlin got the start at Colorado State last Saturday. What if he has to start this week too?
“I’m really excited,” Morris said. “He is going to have a great future here obviously, a true freshman that is going to make mistakes. He made mistakes the other night. That’s going to come with playing any freshman at any position. But there’s going to be some good that comes out of it. He’s getting some valuable game experience that only will pay off in the future. If he has to start this Saturday, he’ll be be better than he was last Saturday.”
Morris also addressed the status of injured players outside of the offensive linemen.
“Well, right now we’re still day to day with (linebacker) Dre Greenlaw and a little bit more promising yesterday,” Morris said. “(Defensive end) Randy Ramsey worked out yesterday and we anticipate him being able to play. We’ll see how today goes. (Defensive end) Dorian Gerald will be very questionable right now.”
The Arkansas coach was also asked if the fourth-quarter leads disappearing are more mental or physical?
“Well, I think to be really honest, Nate to be honest with you it’s the ability to handle success,” Morris said in response to question from Nate Allen. “That was probably one of the biggest things. We had things going our way and just the ability to stay focused, to stay in the moment and just to keep doing what we keep saying over and over about the little things. It’s the ability when you have someone down to put them away.
“It’s more mental than it is anything physical right now. And so just having a complete mindset, that’s from a staff standpoint, from a players’ standpoint. And believe me that’s something we talk about every day. We talk about it right before the start of the fourth quarter. I call all the team members up and obviously we’ve got to continue to address it. I addressed it again with the staff yesterday. If we see anything that’s taking our focus off the moment in that fourth quarter, then we all have to be on point and have to address it.”
Arkansas will be back at home on Saturday to host North Texas at 3 p.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Alternate Channel.