Growing Pains Hit Even the Most Talented of Youngsters: Arkansas Football Practice Insights

Rashad Dubinion
Photo credit: @Shod161

FAYETTEVILLE — One of the biggest adjustments between high school and college for running backs has nothing to do with actually running the ball.

That part typically comes easy, but where even the great freshmen typically struggle is in pass protection and that was on display during the media viewing period at Tuesday afternoon’s practice.

On the same day Best of Arkansas Sports slated him second in the pecking order at running back, Rashod Dubinion struggled when he was asked to block linebackers in a drill inside Walker Pavilion. There were several reps in which the four-star freshman whiffed on the linebacker and ended up on the turf, with only a couple of stalemates.

On the flip side of things, sophomore Rocket Sanders looked like a seasoned veteran in the drill for which he now has a full year under his belt. On one particular rep, he destroyed walk-on Mason Schueck. Sanders hit the true freshman so hard that his feet left the ground and ended up on his back for a picturesque pancake.

Here are several other tidbits from the 15 minutes of Tuesday’s practice open to the media…

  • Even though storms had already moved through Northwest Arkansas by the time practice rolled around, the Razorbacks still practiced inside Walker Pavilion.
  • During a one-on-one period between receivers and defensive backs, Bryce Stephens got open on a slant route for what looked like an easy touchdown catch on a ball thrown by KJ Jefferson. That may not sound significant, but Stephens struggled with drops at times last year. On this catch, though, his hands looked very sturdy, and so far throughout fall camp.
  • It may not have been as nice of a play as his two-minute drill interception to end Day 1 of camp, but cornerback Hudson Clark made an impressive play on a one-on-one rep against Jaedon Wilson. He stayed on him the entire route and then got in front of the ball to knock it down. Perhaps it could have been intercepted, but it would have been a very difficult play. The pass breakup was a good play by itself.
  • True freshman Sam Mbake looks more physically imposing than his listed 6-foot-3, 202-pound frame. That was evident when he went up and came down with a 50/50 ball for a touchdown during the one-on-one period.
  • Warren Thompson also ran a nice route during that period, using a double move to create just enough space against Myles Slusher to come down with a perfectly placed pass from Jefferson in the end zone. The route was impressive, but the pass was even better.

Read our Day 3 observations here.

Check out our highlights from Day 5 of fall camp:

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Arkansas Football Injury Report

Here are a few injury notes on the Razorbacks based on what was observed during media viewing periods and things head coach Sam Pittman says in interviews. Best of Arkansas Sports will update this section throughout camp…

  • Although he’s “ahead of schedule,” according to Pittman, running back Dominique Johnson is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and will not be able to participate in practice for about a week or so.
  • He was held out of most of spring ball for precautionary reasons, as he’s still dealing with lingering back issues, but right tackle Dalton Wagner has been at practice the first few days of camp.
  • Defensive back Jacorrei Turner is still in a green non-contact jersey. Pittman told reporters that he is dealing with a shoulder injury that the Razorbacks are being cautious with.
  • For a third straight day, the only other player in green was offensive lineman Marcus Henderson. Pittman revealed after Friday’s practice that he’s dealing with a pectoral injury. It’s “nothing serious,” but he’ll probably be held out of contact drills for at least another week.
  • Wide receiver Jaquayln Crawford is back with the team after suffering a broken leg in a car accident over spring break that required a rod to be placed in his leg. “I thought Crawford did a nice job today, fighting through all of that,” Pittman said Friday. “He’s been cleared, I don’t know that he’s 100%, to be perfectly honest with you.”
  • After missing most of spring ball with an undisclosed injury, offensive lineman Terry Wells is back at practice. He is a redshirt freshman out of Wynne High School who appeared in only one game last season.
  • Despite being an early enrollee, linebacker Mani Powell missed all of spring ball as he recovered from a torn ACL suffered early in his senior season at Fayetteville High. He has been a full participant in fall camp so far.
  • Quarterback Kade Renfro is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered during Arkansas’ bowl practices last December. He is not expected to be back in action until the first or second game of the season, so he was left off the 110-man camp roster. He’ll be spending his time in the training room going through rehab.
  • In a bit of a surprise, one player who is on the 110-man roster is defensive tackle Taurean Carter, who is currently out with a knee injury that required surgery this summer. Pittman hasn’t said what the exact injury is, but did tell reporters that the staff thought it was important for him to go through meetings and attend practice during camp.
  • Another player missing from fall camp is redshirt freshman Chase Lowery, but it is not due to injury. He was just left off of the 110-man camp roster and will rejoin the team when classes start Aug. 22. Others left off the 110 are walk-ons: kicker Blake Ford, tight end Hunter Talley, long snapper Briggs Magee, wide receiver Kamron Bibby, punter Patrick Foley and defensive linemen Randall Dennis Jr. and Logan Horst.

Transfer WRs Standing Out

There is a glaring hole on the offense this year with Treylon Burks moving on to the NFL and one way the Razorbacks hope to fill it is with transfers.

They landed former five-star prospect Jadon Haselwood from Oklahoma and he was here in the spring, plus added Matt Landers — who began his career at Georgia — from Toledo in time for the summer.

Both players have gotten off to a solid start in fall camp, as they were the first players mentioned by defensive backs coach Dominique Bowman when asked broadly which wide receivers had stood out to him through the first four practices.

“Landers is a good player,” Bowman said. “He’s fast, he’s long, he’s big. He’s a good player. Haselwood has been doing a great job. Those guys have been two guys who have stood out and made plays in fall camp so far.”

Considering he was so highly regarded coming out of high school and got to Arkansas as a midyear enrollee, Haselwood is more of a known commodity at this point compared to Landers.

Although he didn’t produce much at Georgia, Landers came on very strong down the stretch last season at Toledo and finished the year with 514 yards and five touchdowns on just 20 receptions — a whopping 25.7 yards per catch. That kind of stat is made possible by his speed, which was the first trait cornerback Malik Chavis brought up when asked about him. Fellow cornerback Hudson Clark agreed with his assessment.

“He can create a lot of separation,” Clark said. “He’s got pretty big strides. He’s definitely a new type of receiver we’ve seen this fall camp, so he’s been good for us.”

Arkansas is Home for Bowman

Although his hometown is Memphis because he moved there when he was pretty young, Dominique Bowman was actually born in Forrest City. His parents, Dennis and Deshay, still live in Memphis, too, but the family is still primarily Arkansas fans.

That connection to the Razorbacks, in addition to it being his first Power Five job, made it that much more special for Bowman when he was hired away from Marshall to coach defensive backs this offseason.

“Razorbacks all day,” Bowman said. “I’m a basketball player at heart, so I grew up a Nolan Richardson fan, 40 Minutes of Hell, so Corey Beck, Scotty Thurman, all those guys, I (grew up) watching those guys play. … So when I got the job, I had 2 million phone calls talking about tickets and all that and I”m like, ‘I haven’t even gotten there yet.’”

Preseason Coaches Poll

For the first time in seven years, Arkansas landed inside the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, checking in at No. 23 in Monday’s release.

The ranking comes on the heels of a 9-4 season capped by a win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl — easily the Razorbacks’ best campaign in a decade.

Cincinnati, which comes to Fayetteville on Sept. 3 for the season opener, is just ahead of Arkansas at No. 22. Other opponents on the Razorbacks’ schedule that are inside the top 25 include Alabama (No. 1), Texas A&M (No. 7) and Ole Miss (No. 24).

Three more of Arkansas’ opponents are among the top six teams in the “receiving votes” section, with BYU, LSU and Auburn having the 29th-, 30th- and 31st-most votes. South Carolina also received five votes, meaning seven of the 11 FBS teams the Razorbacks play in 2022 were included in the preseason top 25 of at least one of the 66 coaches who took part in the poll.

The Associated Press (AP) will reveal its preseason poll next Monday.

Check out what WR coach Kenny Guiton and wide receivers Ketron Jackson Jr. and Jadon Haselwood said after Tuesday’s Arkansas football practice:

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More coverage of fall camp 2022 for Arkansas football from BoAS…

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