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calling_the_hogs Offline
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Talk Turns To Hogs And QBs
Sunday, July 7, 2002
Column By Harry King

Arkansas News Bureau/RazorbackCentral

Maybe it's the excess number of football magazines in the grocery or just the heat. For whatever reason, Razorback fans are already talking football, and quarterback is at the heart of almost every conversation.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt says he would feel good if he only had Ryan Sorahan or Matt Jones or Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. Instead, he has all three.

"You can win with each of those guys," he said. "If we stay healthy, we're going to be better offensively. It starts with the quarterbacks."

Obviously, his confidence comes from more than cold statistics. Although Jones made plenty of big plays running the ball as an alternative to Zak Clark, his production tailed off at the end of the season. Some will argue that Oklahoma had a month to prepare to stop Jones' running in the Cotton Bowl. Others will say the Sooners' defense might have been the best in the country. Both are valid points.

Still, Jones will not be a surprise to Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn and other Southeastern Conference teams.

Last year, he was second on the team in rushing with 592 yards, but he netted only 23 yards on 15 tries in the 10-3 loss to the Sooners and managed to produce 1 yard on a half-dozen attempts in the second half against LSU.

Throwing, Jones was 12-of-27 for the regular season. Mostly, his passes against Auburn and Mississippi were a surprise. In the final two games of the season, he suffered three interceptions in 16 attempts against Mississippi State and LSU.

The strong-armed Jackson has even fewer numbers and Sorahan has been almost forgotten.

Before receiving a medical hardship, Jackson completed 3-of-9 in three games.

Sorahan was instrumental in the season-opening victory over Nevada-Las Vegas, but he suffered a bruised back in the third game of the year and later was unable to break up Clark-Jones.

After the spring was over, the depth chart listed Jackson or Jones or Sorahan as the starter. Quarterback was the only position on offense with an either-or and many interpreted the alphabetical list as a motivational tool for Jones who missed some of spring practice because basketball put him behind. To catch up, he started throwing on campus a couple of weeks earlier than Jackson or Sorahan this summer.

The day after the Cotton Bowl, Nutt said he wanted one quarterback to run the entire offense, including the option. He still believes that is feasible.

If Jones had Clark's wherewithal, he would be head and shoulders above the others. He must be able to check into the right play, get the play called on time and move a receiver who is out of position without wasting a timeout. Much of his success last year was improvisational — a reaction to something that happened.

Jones is so appealing because of his ability to make a big play running and that means the defense must account for him. Still, quarterback coach David Lee wants Jones to stay in the pocket and check all potential receivers instead of bolting if the primary receiver is unavailable.

Nutt says Jackson can run the option although he is noticeably slower than Jones. Jackson is strong and people fall off of him, Nutt says.

If Jackson wins the quarterback battle — and that is not as far-fetched as some might believe — it's difficult to imagine that the Razorbacks wouldn't have some plays for quarterback Jones. With Jackson at quarterback, Jones could supply much-needed speed at wide receiver.

As far as Sorahan, the depth chart could be more politics than anything else. As a backup, he would be more than adequate.

Two-a-days begin Aug. 15 and Nutt plans a major scrimmage, probably two weeks before the season opener Sept. 7.

"After that first scrimmage, you sit down and you go with one of them," he said.

Just one?

"I'm going to try to. I'd much rather have just one."

If that's the case and Arkansas loses a couple of games, the quarterback on the bench is going to be extremely popular.
07-08-2002 09:22 AM
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