Feleipe Franks Could Face Nation’s Best Defense in Season Opener, Initial Razorback Start

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Photo Courtesy of Arkansas Communications.

FAYETTEVILLE — Feleipe Franks has plenty of experience going against Georgia since he previously played at Florida.

Franks is set to play his first game as a Razorback after transferring in January as a grad transfer from Florida. Sam Pittman was told that at least one media account has the Georgia defense rated the best in the nation.

“My thought would be whoever said they were, they’re correct,” Pittman said. “Monty Rice, their linebacker. They have a lot of really good players. Richard Lecounte runs that defense along with Monty Rice. Eric Stokes is such a great cover corner. They’re just really, really talented. But the thing that they do as good as anybody in the country is they run the football. And when they get there, they’re gonna let you know they’re there.

“We’re going to have to out strain them. We’re going to have to be physical. We’re going to all these things that they’re going to do. They’re going to come in here and intimidate us is what they’re going to try to do. I know that, because I’ve coached there for the last four years.”

Franks brings good credentials to Arkansas. At Florida, he rushed 189 times for 438 yards and eight touchdowns. He also completed 367 of 622 passes for 4,593 yards, 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Pittman, unlike the previous head coach at Arkansas, didn’t hesitate to know Franks would be the starter this season.

“He’s been running with the 1s basically ever since he got here,” Pittman said. “We don’t get up in front of our team and announce who the starting quarterback is, because we don’t announce who the starting center is. So, he’s been running with the ones for a while, it’s been quite a while that we think he was going to be the one that takes us out there and gives us the best chance to win.”

He will have a talented group of wide receivers to throw to in junior Mike Woods along with sophomores Trey Knox and Treylon Burks. Pittman was asked if that group can get separation from the defensive backs?

“We’re getting better in that area,” Pittman said. “Separation comes with speed, you know, and I think we’re a little faster football team than we were. But certainly, anybody who presses you, that’s the number one thing. Can we get away from this guy, can we get off of him? So we’ll see, but I think we’ve done a lot better the last couple of weeks of getting separation on one-on-ones than we were before. We’ll have to wait and see, but I know Stokes and Lewis Cine are really good corners and are great cover corners. We’re going to be going against some of the best, so we’ll see how it works out.”

Woods caught 33 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns last fall. Burks added 29 receptions for 475 yards and Knox hauled in 28 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns. Knox has impressed some at the SEC Network.

Arkansas’ linemen will have their work cut out for them as well facing the big Georgia athletes on both sides of the football.

“Their D-line starts with Jordan Davis,” Pittman said. “I mean, he is a big, athletic. Great guy, by the way. But just a big, athletic guy who’s hard to move. Their D-line with Devonte Wyatt and Malik Herring and Travon Walker and Azeez Ojulari, they’re really good. They’re really big. So we’re going to have our hands full. We’re going to try to find ways to double-team them. We’re going to have to. Then we’re going to have to at least get a stalemate on some one-on-one blocking situations and hopefully we can move them a little bit and hopefully we can tire them out. They’ve got a lot of guys that can move in and out of there, so very, very talented, well coached defensive line.

“On the O-line, even though they lost several starters, they have a lot of guys that’s played a lot of ball there, starting in the middle with Trey Hill. He’s probably as good a center as there is in the country. Then Jamaree Salyer has played a lot of ball. Really good player, draftable kid. Really good football player. And then Justin Shaffer is going to be at the left guard, probably, then Ben Cleveland, who started a lot of games who’s a freak of nature at 340 pounds. Then the right tackle, I don’t know exactly what they’re going to do at right tackle, but Owen Condon from over here in Oklahoma, Xavier Truss, somebody in there. They’re going to be as good as anybody else on both sides of the ball that we play.”

Franks and the Hogs went through a padded practice Monday and will do the same today.

“We’ll have full-padded practices today and tomorrow,” Pittman said Monday. “And then we’ll go in shells Wednesday and Thursday and have a walk-through on Friday. Each day, the time at practice will go down anywhere from 10-30 minutes, depending on the day. We’ll do our banging a little bit Monday and Tuesday and back off a little bit as far as physicality on Wednesday and Thursday.”

Arkansas and Georgia will kickoff at 3 p.m. Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

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