Preparing a cheat sheet for Arkansas’ opener, heed the man in the know and include jersey numbers 8, 10, 2, 9, 3, 81, 85, and 18.
Those belong to linebackers De’Jon Harris and Randy Ramsey, running back Chase Hayden, wide receivers De’Vion Warren, Koilan Jackson, and Cabot’s Jarrod Barnes, and tight ends Cheyenne O’Grady and Jeremy Patton — all identified by head coach Bret Bielema as lesser known players likely to “jump out” when the Razorbacks play in Little Rock on Aug. 31.
The subject came up Monday when Bielema said in a news conference prior to his Little Rock Touchdown Club appearance that the Florida A&M game could well be the “kickoff to a very, very special year” and mentioned players who might surprise. Asked for names, he cited the group above.
It is a bit disconcerting that Hayden and the wide receivers are freshmen and that the only defensive players on the list are linebackers, but that might simply mean other likely playmakers are more familiar to fans.
Bielema told the media the amount of playing time available for the freshmen receivers depends on the junior college receivers.
Primarily because Jared Cornelius and T.J. Hammonds have been sidelined for weeks, the entire group has had opportunities galore with more available vs. the Rattlers.
Bothered by a sore back, Cornelius returned to practice Monday, but Arkansas doesn’t need him to beat Florida A&M. Ditto for Hammonds, a maybe for Little Rock who suffered a knee injury in early August.
Subtract 65 catches by Drew Morgan, 44 by Keon Hatcher, almost 30 more by other seniors, and 32 by Cornelius, and 2016 production totals three catches by returning wide receivers Deon Stewart and La’Michael Pettway.
With Cornelius and Hammonds gone, Jackson, Barnes, and Warren — none of whom participated in spring practice — have been on the field often. The same goes for JC transfers Jonathan Nance and Gary Cross and Pettway.
Influenced by hype, I always assumed Brandon Martin would be a starter this fall. After all, Martin was identified as the No. 1 junior college receiver in the country and owned all the right stats, including 6-foot-4, 220 pounds.
But, there have been a couple of niggling developments, including position coach Michael Smith mentioning Martin’s need to lose some weight.
In both the news conference and his speech to the TD Club, Bielema referred to the great demeanor and work ethic of this team. Positive-plus as usual during his overview, Bielema said nothing that qualified as breaking news.
He told the crowd that center Frank Ragnow might be the best in the country at his position and that quarterback Austin Allen had an awesome fall camp. He said Allen had been extremely accurate, very productive, and had come to realize the difference between losing yardage on third-and-4 at the 50 vs. minus yards on third-and-4 at the 16.
He also reiterated that running backs Devwah Whaley, South Carolina transfer David Williams, and Hayden are 1a, 1b, and 1c.
Bielema touched on the schedule, noting that four teams had bye weeks before playing Arkansas in 2016 and that none of the Razorbacks’ opponents enjoy extended prep time this year. On the other hand, Arkansas plays 10 weeks in a row and Bielema called South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn, and Ole Miss in October a grind.
He also revisited his decision to change defensive coordinators and move from the 4-3 to 3-4, declaring the players’ reaction to the promotion of Paul Rhoads “very profound.”
Bielema choked up talking about his last visit with former athletics director Frank Broyles, touted his players’ academics, reasoned that some Arkansas recruits would have been more highly recruited if playing in Dallas, and included some spontaneous and humorous personal asides.
Despite Bielema’s best efforts, enough with the talk. Blame aging or fall practice beginning in July or knowing no answers to the questions on a long list will be available until at least Sept. 9, I’m ready for football.
Sports Columnist Harry King can be reached at: email@example.com