FAYETTEVILLE — On Thursday during a Zoom conference, Sam Pittman talked about how the quarterbacks and offensive line have looked thus far.
The Razorbacks started five quarterbacks last season. This season, they have seniors Feleipe Franks and Jack Lindsey, sophomore John Stephen Jones, redshirt freshman KJ Jefferson and true freshman Malik Hornsby competing for the job. Franks brings obvious experience to the competition following a very good career at Florida. He was asked about how the quarterbacks are looking so far.
“Well, we haven’t been able to … anything full speed, we’re not allowed to do there,” Pittman said. “I’m not positive how they’re throwing the football, but how they’re running the offense, all of them have done a really good job. I’ve been really pleased with how KJ Jefferson has picked up the offense and sees where he’s supposed to go with the ball and things of that nature. Of course, we’re happy Feleipe Franks is here. He’s doing a really good job. You look at Malik and John, I think we’re doing pretty good up there, and Jack Lindsey. Kendal Briles’ offense is not that hard to learn, it’s just fast. You have to know the ins and outs of everything, because he’s going to snap the football and you need to understand where you’re supposed to go pretty fast.”
Pittman talked about how Franks has approached the practices so far.
“He’s approaching it like a guy who’s been an SEC starter for two-plus years,” Pittman said. “He’s a grown man. He’s mature. He’s approaching it like he’s been there before. I think that’s very important for us, especially because we didn’t have spring ball. But we have a guy on our football team that’s played a lot of football at quarterback and won a New Year’s Day bowl as the starting quarterback. We have a veteran guy and I think that’s important. I didn’t not just say that he’s won the starting job. How can do you do that in walk-throughs? But I did say that we’re awful glad that he’s on our football team.”
Some have speculated Franks could get another year at Arkansas if he applied for it though some sources have indicated to this reporter it’s very unlikely he tries for that.
“Possibly. I think if he has a good year, which we anticipate him doing, that he’ll be gone,” Pittman said. “In all honesty, I’m planning on him, if he wins the starting job, to have such a good year that we can’t keep him. That’s my plan.”
As far as the offensive line, Pittman did offer an interesting scenario possibly unfolding at center. Sophomore Ricky Stromberg started at offensive guard last season, but is competing with senior Ty Clary at center right now as well.
“Ty’s playing center for us, and we haven’t put the pads on, so,” Pittman said. “We’re trying to put the five best players on the offensive line, and then number six and number seven, all that. But you can’t have your third- or second-best player playing behind your best player just because he plays left tackle. I mean, doesn’t make any sense. So, we’re trying to find our five best, and the hardest place to play on the O-line is center, so we’re trying to develop at least three centers. If we can get more in the top 10, we would do that too, but we’re trying to at least be able to travel and three deep at center. Therefore, we started looking at Ricky at center, and he’s played a lot of it in these walk-throughs for us. And Ty obviously has played center, as well. So, I’m sure if that was the case that they both would stay at center, and they’d have a competitive battle there, and then you’d have to see if the one who didn’t win the center spot, is he in our top five to play for us.”
Pittman was asked about a timeline for knowing who the five best on the offensive line are and then the next five?
“Well, with your first five, you’d probably like to do that no later than two and a half weeks before your first game,” Pittman said. “The other guys, 6, 7, 8, they’ll always swing. Until you can get 10 good offensive linemen, you’ll have your third tackle and you’ll have your third guard and you’ll have your second center-guard combination. All those things. I’d like to settle in maybe two, two-and-a-half weeks before the first game with exactly what we’re going to do. And of course you know injuries disrupt all that. So therefore you have to have your third-best tackle that can play both sides and etc. I hope I answered your question.”
Pittman did have praise for two offensive linemen who redshirted last year. Noah Gatlin tore his ACL on the first day of preseason drills and Luke Jones transferred in from Notre Dame.
“Gatlin has done well,” Pittman said. “I’ve been impressed with Luke Jones. I don’t know if he redshirted; I think he was more of a transfer. He redshirted, he transferred.”
Pittman did say junior Dalton Wagner and senior Myron Cunningham have been good leaders on the offensive line.