FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas Razorbacks junior incumbent starting left offensive tackle Colton Jackson of Conway and recently granted sixth-year season eligibility senior nickel back Kevin Richardson of Jacksonville open the preseason season injured and not in September’s season-opening game plans, Arkansas Coach Chad Morris said Monday.
Jackson aggravated a back condition requiring surgery two weeks ago, and Richardson requires surgery from injuring his foot while moving furniture, Morris said as he and his staff met with media Monday at the Paradise Valley Country Club leading into Friday’s start of preseason practice prepping for the Sept. 1 season-opener against Eastern Illinois.
“Colton Jackson is battling a back issue that has been with him for quite some time,” Morris said. “It really flared up on him I guess two weeks ago. We went ahead and chose to do surgery on him. He’ll miss probably the first six games. So we hope to get him back, hopefully by the first of October. We’ll see. His rehab and progress is coming along well. He’s been a part of team functions but right now unable to work out in any way.”
Morris said Richardson phoned him Sunday that his foot was injured.
“That wasn’t a phone call I wanted to get yesterday afternoon,” Morris said. “He was moving, changing into a house and stepped a certain way, did something and hurt his foot. “He’ll have surgery today (Monday) and go in and put a screw in his foot. He’ll be out six weeks. We’ll have Kevin back for sure for the start of conference play.”
Previously it was disclosed that incoming freshman offensive lineman Ryan Winkel of Memphis Christian Brothers required surgery from a weight-lifting injury ruling him out of the August preseason drills.
Winkel likely will redshirt.
Offensive line coach Dustin Fry acknowledged losing Jackson on a depth-thin line can’t be minimized.
“It’s a blow,” Fry said. “That’s a guy who has played a lot of football when you’ve got depth issues a little bit already. But optimistically we hope to get him back late.”
On the plus side, Jackson’s likely replacement, 6-9, 302 redshirt freshman Dalton Wagner, was the summer star of strength coach Trumain Carroll’s weight room.
“The biggest gainer throughout this offseason process first of all would be Dalton Wagner,” Carroll, who came in December from SMU with Morris, said Monday. “We met him in January at 275 pounds. He’s walking around today at 302. He’s feeling good and looking good and has got more confidence than anybody in this room.”
Fry also has been impressed.
“I’m excited about Dalton Wagner,” Fry said. “He’s worked his tail off. He’s taken ownership of it. He’s excited. I know that kid is going to work and work and do extra and whatever it takes to earn that spot.”
Fry believes Wagner is the right man for the job though moving left.
“It is changing sides for him, going from right to left,” Fry said. “But I have the utmost confidence in him. I told him it’s going to be a process. I’m going to coach you hard and we’ll do extra time, extra work, whatever we need.”
Starting senior right tackle Brian Wallace remains on the right, Morris and Fry assert.
“He (Wallace) is comfortable there,” Morris said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence there. So as it stands today, knock on wood, our plans are just to leave him there.”
Richardson, a senior captain for former Coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks last year granted a sixth year this summer by the NCAA after redshirting as a 2013 freshman and missing the final 12 games of 2016 with torn pectoral muscles in the season-opener and rehabbing an injury that limited him to noncontact drills last spring, had barely time to celebrate before bitten by the injury bug again.
“Obviously my heart goes out to the kid,” defensive coordinator John Chavis said. “We wanted him out there. No question about it. And there’s a good chance that hopefully by midseason he may be back. We’ll work toward that but what we’ve got to do now is get the next guy ready.”
With Richardson limited last spring D’Vone McClure and Derrick Munson were the next guys at nickel last spring and obviously are again.
McClure, a former Jacksonville high school teammate of Richardson’s, took a convoluted path to Morris’ Razorbacks after playing pro baseball in the Cleveland Indians organization, playing Razorbacks football for Bielema as a 2016 freshman receiver, withdrawing from football in 2017 then returning on defense last January.
Munson, a sophomore from New Orleans, lettered on special teams as a true freshman in 2017.
“I think they are ready to play but we’ve got to keep improving every day,” Chavis said Monday. “I think McClure is a guy with a big upside because he’s older and he’s mature. He’s not an 18-year-old kid. He’s a 23-year-old man. That makes a difference.”
Sophomore Hayden Henry of Pulaski Academy, lettering on special teams last year, also is a candidate for the hybrid nickel/Sam outside linebacker position as well behind senior Dre Greenlaw at weakside linebacker in Chavis’ 4-3 scheme.