Shout out to Tucker Partridge from Arkansas Fight for taking the time to talk to me and enlighten us on some of the nuances of a Razorback squad that most of us have paid little attention to. Go check their website out soon for the other half of our Q&A.
1) How’s the fancy new transfer QB in Nick Starkel working out? 7.1 yards per attempt and only 3 sacks are pretty nice numbers, but the sub-60% completion rate and 7 interceptions aren’t so good. What are your thoughts on him, and what is the fanbase’s general opinion, if those are different things?
It’s been a weird year at quarterback. I’m not even sure that Starkel will be the starter for the Bama game. It very well could be Ben Hicks. That’s been the issue this year: consistency at the quarterback position. Both have different strengths and different weaknesses. Hicks doesn’t turn the ball over very often, but he doesn’t have as big of an arm. Starkel has a great arm, but he’s a bit of a gunslinger, which leads to the 7 interceptions. Frankly, I’m not sure how well any quarterback could do behind an offensive line like ours, which has struggled tremendously this season, both with injuries, and outright poor play. I don’t think the fanbase cares who plays as long as we start seeing improvement.
2) Devwah Whaley seems like he’s been the #2 back at Arkansas for a decade. Has he shown anything in his senior year that he hasn’t in his first 3 seasons? And how does the team split using him and Rakeem Boyd in the rushing game?
This is definitely more of a “feel” thing, but it feels like he’s been more efficient this year. That isn’t saying much, because unfortunately, running opportunities, especially for a second stringer have been limited due to our poor play. Rakeem Boyd is far and away the best back on the team, but he’s had some durability issues over the course of the season, as he’s been playing with a hurt shoulder. If he stays healthy, he’ll see the bulk of snaps simply because he’s the better option.
3) Who are Starkel’s favorite passing targets, particularly on 3rd down?
One of the few bright spots on this offense has come from the pass catchers. We’ve got two absolute stud freshman receivers in Treylon Burks and Trey Knox. Burks is one of the best young receivers I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something considering how poor our offense has been. Knox is 6’6” and is one of the most impressive physical receivers I’ve seen. Mike Woods is a sophomore who always seems to be open at opportune times, but the pass catcher of choice, especially on third down will be tight end CJ O’Grady. He’s playing his way into getting drafted in the first couple of rounds, and has almost single-handedly been our offense in some games. Both Hicks and Starkel love him.
4) What can you tell us about the Arkansas defensive scheme? What position group is the strength there?
It’s a pretty standard John Chavis defensive scheme. It has not, however been a pretty standard John Chavis defense where performance is concerned. You’ll see a lot of blitzes of varying effectiveness. McTelvin Agim is really good. He’s a strength. Something different seems to break on defense every week, so I hesitate to point out a position group for fear that they will break.
5) Are there any players you haven’t mentioned yet that we should watch out for having an impact this week?
The pass catchers are the best group on the team. Scoota Harris is a solid linebacker, and Kam Curl is a good cornerback. I’m just not sure how they’ll look against 5 star athletes...
6) What’s your score prediction?
With Tua out, the line dropped from 45 to 30 last I checked. That’s exciting. ESPN gives us a 1.1% chance to win, so I’ll go against the grain and say that this game is a close 38-10.
7) Finally, what’s your prediction on how the rest of the season goes for Arkansas, and will Chad Morris still be the coach next year?
Very few wins look possible for the rest of the year. Western Kentucky should be winnable, but their starter is a transfer from Arkansas, so I’m sure he’ll have a revenge game. Missouri lost to Vandy, so I guess they’re beatable, but truly, we won’t be favored in any game for the rest of the year save for WKU. If Morris loses to WKU I think he’s gone, but otherwise, I think he’s got one more year. If we can somehow pull off an SEC win against Mississippi State, Missouri, or God willing, LSU, he’ll be guaranteed one more year.