Help in the Pocket: Potential Swiss Army Knife Emerges from Hogs’ Freshmen OL Ranks

Insights from Day 13 of Arkansas football practice

Patrick Kutas, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — Ever since he signed with Arkansas last December, Patrick Kutas has been a freshman mentioned by Sam Pittman as a potential early contributor.

That’s tough to do that as an offensive lineman in the SEC. It’s even more tough when eschewing the mid-year enrollee route, as Kutas did, and missing spring ball. But it sounds like the Razorbacks are encouraged by what they’ve seen from the Memphis product.

Pittman told reporters after Arkansas’ first scrimmage of camp last Saturday that he believed that the 6-5, 305-pound Kutas, even after only eight practices, could make a serious push for the two-deep.

The media caught a glimpse of that during Friday’s viewing period at practice, as he got reps with the second-team offense during a couple of team sessions. Interestingly, Kutas was lined up at center. (Walk-on Josh Street, who has gotten a majority of the second-team center reps with projected backup Marcus Henderson dealing with a pectoral injury, was not spotted at practice.)

Previously, offensive line coach Cody Kennedy told reporters he was primarily working at right guard, plus reporters had seen him working at left guard, too — both with the third unit. Although he’s staying in the interior of the offensive line, that is a lot of moving around for a true freshman who didn’t even get on campus until this summer and starred on the defensive line at Christian Brothers High School.

“He’s a unique athlete, man,” Kennedy said. “He’s a very, very large guy that’s super strong through his hands. He’s going to have a really, really bright future here. … He’s doing a phenomenal, phenomenal job, especially for a kid that didn’t get the spring portion of grasping our offense and knowing what to do.”

Getting a look at him as a center is not particularly surprising considering Pittman’s philosophy that you can never have too many anchors on the offensive line. Henderson being held out of contact drills has allowed Street to get a lot of work and on Friday, with Street out, Arkansas football coaches opted to see what Kutas could do.

What they saw were some predictable ups and downs for such a raw player. Kutas, for instance, struggled to consistently get the ball back to the quarterback. Several of Kutas’ snaps were at Malik Hornsby’s feet, forcing him to bend down and receive the ball almost like an infielder fielding a ground ball in baseball.

Even when Henderson and/or Street return to action, it’s highly likely that the Razorbacks would end up shifting around their offensive line personnel if something were to happen to starting center Ricky Stromberg.

Top candidates to replace Stromberg in that scenario are right guard Beaux Limmer, left guard Brady Latham and left tackle Luke Jones, each of whom has snapped the ball in practice at various points of their careers. That would allow players like Ty’Kieast Crawford or Jalen St. John — guys who are believed to be Arkansas’ sixth- and seventh-best linemen — to get in the starting five.

Check out what Cody Kennedy had to say about his group earlier in fall camp:

Other Arkansas Football Practice Observations

Here are a few other takeaways from the 20 or so minutes of practice open to the media on Day 13 of fall camp…

  • After being in “shells” — helmets, shoulder pads and shorts — on Thursday, the Razorbacks were back in “spiders” for Friday’s practice as they prepared for their second and final preseason scrimmage. That means they were essentially in helmets-only, but with light padding under their jerseys.
  • During a team period, the Razorbacks’ first-team defense utilized a three-man front and dime package with six defensive backs. Interestingly, joining usual starting safeties Jalen Catalon and Simeon Blair were backup safeties Jayden Johnson and Latavious Brini. One of them was presumably the nickel, while the other was the third safety.
  • For the first time since Day 1 of camp, tight end Hudson Henry was seen by the media getting reps in a team setting. He was the third-team tight end instead of freshman Tyrus Washington and even caught a pass up the seam, drawing some loud praise from tight ends coach Dowell Loggains.
  • During a separate team period, the first-team defense was once again in a three-man front, but this time had three linebackers on the field instead of an extra defensive back — something the Razorbacks rarely did last year. Bumper Pool and Jackson Woodard lined up as the traditional linebackers, while Drew Sanders was lined up as a stand-up defensive end poised to rush the passer.
  • After a so-so spring, Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood has been brought up quite a few times during camp as someone who has really stepped up his game. However, he didn’t appear to have a great Friday. He had multiple drops with the media present, including one in routes-on-air and one in a team setting.
  • Freshman Quincey McAdoo is another wide receiver who has had an impressive fall camp and on Friday morning he probably made his best catch yet with media onlooking. With Khari Johnson in tight coverage, he managed to adjust his body and come down with a catch along the sideline. Check it out at the 3-second mark of this video from the UA:
  • On one play with the third-team units, quarterback Cade Fortin was pressured by freshman Nico Davillier and got rid of the ball by throwing it almost right at defensive end Dorian Gerald, who dropped the would-be interception.
  • The Razorbacks were working on the punt unit as the media left practice. Bryce Stephens was lined up at punt returner, while freshman Eli Stein was snapping it and Reid Bauer was the punter.

Click here to read out Day 12 observations from practice.

Check out some clips from Day 13 of fall camp:

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 — and others — have said in interviews. Best of Arkansas Sports will update this section throughout camp…

  • [NEW] As expected, starting nickel Myles Slusher was back at practice Friday, but did not participate in the team periods seen by the media. He was not spotted Thursday and defensive coordinator Barry Odom revealed afterward that he was limited because of soreness in the “hip/hamstring area.
  • [NEW] For a second straight day, redshirt freshman wide receiver Jaedon Wilson was not spotted at practice. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he’s dealing with a shoulder injury.
  • [NEW] As mentioned above, walk-on offensive lineman Josh Street was not spotted at practice Friday. It’s unknown why he was absent, but it allowed Patrick Kutas to get second-team reps at center.
  • Freshman Andrew Chamblee has been running with the second unit at left tackle because Devon Manuel has been out of practice with an undisclosed injury.
  • Defensive tackles Cam Ball and Taylor Lewis missed some time with concussions, but both returned Monday.
  • Defensive back Jacorrei Turner started fall camp in a green non-contact jersey because of a shoulder injury, but he ditched the green jersey and is full-go this week.
  • The only player still in green is offensive lineman Marcus Henderson. Pittman revealed after the first practice that he’s dealing with a pectoral injury. He said it was “nothing serious,” but he’s not been in green for the first two weeks of camp. 
  • Although he’s “ahead of schedule,” according to Pittman, running back Dominique Johnson is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and will miss at least the first week or so of fall camp. He tore his ACL during the Outback Bowl.
  • 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.

247Sports’ About-Face on KJ Jefferson

Last summer, 247Sports drew the ire of Arkansas football fans because one of its national writers ranked all 14 starting quarterbacks in the SEC and slotted KJ Jefferson dead last.

The first-year starter used that as motivation and established himself as one of the best signal callers in not only the conference, but in the country. As a redshirt sophomore, Jefferson completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards, 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions, while also leading the top Power Five rushing attack with 664 yards and six more scores.

It was an impressive performance and a major reason he is now considered a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate. Although it’s written by a different author, 247Sports has also changed its tune on Jefferson this preseason.

In a ranking of all 131 FBS starting quarterbacks, the Arkansas starter checks in at No. 4. He’s behind only reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young from Alabama, last year’s fourth-place finisher in Heisman voting CJ Stroud from Ohio State and a 2022 Heisman front runner in Caleb Williams from USC. Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker rounds out the top five.

Of course, not everybody – particulary those who have a vendatta against Eric Musselman – is buying into the Jefferson hype.

Check out what offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and quarterback KJ Jefferson said after Friday’s practice:

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