Photographs by Ben Goff
Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock, left, talks with quarterback Ty Storey during practice Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
FAYETTEVILLE -- Joe Craddock wants the Arkansas Razorbacks' offense to play much faster when training camp opens in early August.
After untold hours of film study on the uptempo Spread offense of head Coach Chad Morris and Craddock -- plus 15 spring workouts -- top quarterbacks Ty Storey and Cole Kelley made strides, but they are still ill-equipped to move at the preferred pace.
Craddock, the offensive coordinator, was asked after the April 7 Red-White game how close the tempo in that 109-play scrimmage came to the ideal speed.
"Oh man, I would say about 60 miles an hour and we want to be 100, you know," Craddock said. "It wasn't quite there. That's one thing coming out of spring I told coach in a staff meeting that we've really got to work on."
Craddock explained how each unit on offense could pick up the pace.
"The offensive line's got to find the ball and line up, and the receivers got to get the call quicker, and they've got to line up quicker as well," he said. "Sometimes the quarterback wants to snap it, and he's waiting. Again, it's a new offense with new signals. It's all that and the receivers are having to find the signal, find who the signal guy is -- the live guy -- get the call, get lined up. Once they learn that, I think we're going to play a lot faster."
Morris said the offense would be working on a more elementary level in the Red-White game, which was televised on the SEC Network for all opponents to record and study. Craddock explained just how simple the Razorbacks kept their schemes, jokingly referencing defensive coordinator John "Chief" Chavis.
"Yeah, I didn't want to make Chief mad at me, man," Craddock said. "I've got to keep Chief on my good side.
"No, we didn't want to do a whole lot. Some of the stuff we worked on all spring, we didn't run that. We wanted to stay very basic, and Day 1 and Day 2 install was really about all we called. We didn't want to show a whole lot, but we also wanted to give our guys plays that we felt like they could go execute."
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville exited spring drills feeling good about the running backs -- a group led by Devwah Whaley, Chase Hayden, T.J. Hammonds and Maleek Williams -- but wanting to see more from the large array of receivers who are vying for spots in the rotation.
"We feel like we know who is going to be in the starting rotation," said Craddock, who earlier mentioned Jonathan Nance and La'Michael Pettway emerging as leaders in the group to pair with fifth-year senior Jared Cornelius. "But again, we've got a long way to go, a lot of work to do at that position. Even from the quarterback position, throwing the football, we've got to get a lot better in the passing game.
"I think we have some guys we can go win with. They're going to have to get a lot better, to me, really working on mastering their craft and catching deep balls and catching 50-50 balls.
"I think you saw a little out in spring, we struggled a little bit in that. But those 50-50 balls are crucial for us. When you get 1-on-1 coverage out there, you have to win, so we're always going to look for the guy that can help us win those 50-50 balls and win the 1-on-1 matchups."
Craddock estimated the Razorbacks installed between 35 percent to 40 percent of the playbook, which is about the figure they had targeted.
"We tried to get really good at our base stuff," Craddock said. "I think we were able to do that. Again, I tell them all the time, I stress to them, we can only put in so much that you guys can understand. If they don't understand it, we can't run it.
"It's really just depending on how hard guys really study and how they really develop themselves this summer and through meetings and all that kind of stuff."
Craddock said Storey and Kelley had both taken ownership of the offense and that several other players are being asked to step outside their comfort zone and become more vocal.
The final two practices of spring last week largely were devoted to presenting the structure Morris would like to see in summer workouts, which will be player driven.
Neither Craddock nor Morris ruled out the possibility of freshman quarterbacks Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones coming in over the summer and competing for playing time.
"If those guys come in and they're picking up the offense and doing the right things, they'll compete for the job just like everybody else," Craddock said. "We had Deshaun Watson. He played a lot as a true freshman, took over about game 4 or 5 as a starter. So it's very realistic. It's just a matter of if those guys want to come in and put the work in that these other guys have all spring."
Craddock said he did not talk to Noland before he made a public announcement early last week -- intended for Major League baseball clubs -- that he was fully committed to playing football and baseball at Arkansas.
"I didn't talk to him before, but I sure sent him a message after and just told him that we were really excited to have him," Craddock said. "To be honest with you, I was really worried that he was going to be drafted and go on and we'd never see him.
"For him to come out and make the statement he made really shows his love for the Razorbacks. I can't wait to get him here and work with him."
Sports on 04/15/2018
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