FAYETTEVILLE — A college football team opening preseason drills loaded with position battles either seems loaded with questions or loaded with depth.
Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman opens preseason drills this week hoping the depth will hold and develop over what his Razorbacks held and developed last season.
“I think there’s going to be battles all the way up to the first game,” Pittman said during the Razorbacks July 22 session at SEC Football Media Days in Hoover, Ala.
Pittman started on the offensive line at guard with third-year sophomore Beaux Limmer pressing fifth-year senior incumbent at right guard and fourth-year junior via Notre Dame transfer Luke Jones vs. third-year sophomore incumbent Brady Latham at left guard.
“Beaux right now currently is behind Tyler Clary,” Pittman said. “And on the other side, Brady Latham is behind Luke Jones. That’s on paper depth chart. To me, they’re 1 and 1A, whatever it may be. Competition will make you better.”
There’s no pretense that anyone but third-year sophomore KJ Jefferson is No. 1 quarterback and fourth-year junior returning leading rusher Trelon Smith the No. 1 running back.
But behind them?
“I think we’ve got to find out who No. 2 is at running back,” Pittman said. “I think that’s a big spot there. KJ Jefferson is our quarterback. Now, does he have competition? You’re dang right he’s got competition, but he has proven that he can play well in the Southeastern Conference in a game. He started one game, but he played well during that game.”
Malik Hornsby, the redshirt freshman finishing spring drills as No. 2 quarterback, played one series in one game last season.
There are obvious starters like Preseason All-SEC receiver Treylon Burks but plenty of qualified applicants at the three positions needing a constant rotation while trying to find depth behind incumbent tight ends Blake Kern and Hudson Henry.
Preseason All-SEC Jalen Catalon obviously will start at a safety but even returning secondary starters Joe Foucha, Montaric Brown, and Greg Brooks can’t relax.
“In the secondary you certainly have some good battles there,” Pittman said. “And then there’s battles everywhere on the D-line. I think we’re pretty much figured out the linebacker spot with I think we’ll play at least three of those guys on the regular with (Hayden) Henry, Bumper Pool and, of course, (Preseason All-SEC) Grant Morgan.”
Other than deep snapper Jordan Silver, nobody seems especially entrenched on special teams.
“We’ve got battles all over the place in punter, kickoff man, and field goal kicker,” Pittman said. “A lot of times you have battles that you might not be very good at that position. I think we’re good there, I think we’ve just got to figure out who the starter is.”