Chad Morris’ tenure in Fayetteville did not even last a full two seasons, and when you break down all that went wrong it is not hard to understand why. However, recruiting is about the only area Morris and (most of) his staff surpassed expectations especially considering the embarrassingly low win percentage.
The 2019 class ranked 23rd overall, and set a school record with eleven composite 4-star players including the top-rated receiving corps in the nation. While many of them saw playing time as true freshmen, there are still some left who are a sure bet to get their opportunity to maximize their potential under the new regime.
Here is a list of players to watch:
Devin Bush CB
Bush was an early enrollee after signing hit letter of intent in December of 2019 and was the 4th-highest rated player for the class. When the Hogs started 2-4 last season, he announced he was entering the transfer portal and it appeared his career in a Razorback uniform was over after only appearing in two games for a total of 10 snaps. When head coach Sam Pittman was hired and finalized his staff, Bush decided to return to the team. He can contribute at all positions in the secondary, but I expect to see him compete for the 2-deep at one of the corner spots or nickelback.
Jalen Catalon S
Catalon was another huge get for the secondary, but was slowed by injuries and was officially ruled out for the final two games of last season when Barry Lunney Jr. took over the interim head coaching duties. He appeared in four games totaling 6 tackles, a pass break up, and a forced fumble. Known as a bone-crushing hitter, Catalon is expected to compete for the starting strong safety spot taking over for Kam Curl who was drafted in the 7th round by Washington a few months ago.
Eric Gregory DE
After a season-ending injury to Dorian Gerald in the first game against Portland State, true freshman Mataio Soli started the remaining 11 games at defensive end. Eric Gregory was another first-year guy who was expected to see a steady amount of playing time before a high ankle sprain limited him to only participating in two games earning 4 tackles. Combining speed and power with his 6’4 frame, Gregory will be called upon to contribute for a defensive line that immensely underwhelmed in 2019.
Hudson Henry TE
This is a name we all know, but I added to the list because out of all the positions on offense I feel it is the most crucial for consistent production since there is minimal depth. Slowed by a concussion in fall camp, Henry caught 3 passes for 15 yards a year ago and behind him the combined total stat line is zeros across the board for the current tight ends on the roster. Blake Kern is a former walk-on who earned a scholarship, but has seen very limited time. The others vying for reps include incoming freshmen Blayne Toll and Collin Sutherland, along with walk-ons Nathan Bax and Jonas Higson.
Shamar Nash WR
Nash was one of the four dynamic receivers in the 2019 class along with Treylon Burks, TQ Jackson, and Trey Knox. Burks and Knox played significant roles in a struggling offense, Jackson entered the transfer portal landing at TCU, and Nash did not play a single down. Originally from Memphis, Nash graduated from IMG Academy and was the 46th-ranked player in Florida. He should be in the mix for a spot on the 2-deep.
Chibueze Nwanna OL
It’s now or never for Nwanna as he is entering his final year of eligibility after being a respectable talent for the JUCO ranks but not playing last fall. Former offensive line coach Dustin Fry was quoted as saying that one of the reasons he wanted to sign two JUCO lineman (the other being now starter Myron Cunningham) was to “piss off” the current players to buckle down and earn a spot. Nwanna has the body at 6’7, 325+ that Sam Pittman looks for to protect his QB and open up lanes so will he step up or will him coming on board be a project that did not work out?
Zach Zimos LB
It’s been a long time since the Arkansas defense has had consistent depth and production at linebacker. Three-time All-SEC player De’Jon “Scoota” Harris is now in the NFL and it’s looking like outside of assumed starters Bumper Pool, Grant Morgan, and Hayden Henry the coaching staff is looking for answers. He has received a high amount of praise from Coach Pittman during the workouts and practices that have been allotted during the pandemic. Zimos played in the final four games last season to keep his redshirt, but did not record any statistics.