FAYETTEVILLE — Junior cornerback Hudson Clark had one of the top highlights of opening day of camp for the University of Arkansas on Friday.
Clark, who was in cover against transferee Jadon Haselwood during a two-minute drill for top offense versus top defense, undercut a route and intercepted KJ Jefferson to end the drill.
“Hudson Clark made a really nice catch in the two-minute practice and intercepted a ball against them,” said Arkansas coach Sam Pittman. “He caught it and knew how to get to the bottom. There’s no reason to do anything with it, it’s game over at that point.”
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Jefferson said, “I threw into Haselwood on a curved route. He dropped back and made a great defensive game. For me it’s being able to read the defense and not being too greedy even in a two-minute situation. Just be disciplined.”
Safety Jalen Catalon was on the field for the key game.
“That play that he made broke Hudson on the ball,” Catalon said. “It was a great game. If I was a quarterback, I would have thought the route was open. But he came in, broke in and made a great game. Then, within two minutes, he fell, as he should.”
A reporter asked Sam Pittman what he thought of the new outdoor artificial turf the Razorbacks will be working on during camp.
Pittman said the Razorbacks didn’t do much work on it during Friday’s camp opener, but the players did summer conditioning on it and liked it.
“We know there’s some coolant or some sand in there where it’s not quite going to be [hot]’ said Pittman.
When the reporter mentioned that it might be “20 degrees cooler” on the new turf, Pittman got a laugh.
“Well I think it’s 20 degrees cooler than the old turf,” he said. “You know, if it were, I would be lying over there and laying on it. But I think it’s 20 degrees cooler than the old lawn, which was hot, hot.”
Pittman said the breeze outside made it more bearable, even in the sun, than inside the Walker Pavilion, which felt like hot air was swirling and muggy.
Redshirt center sophomore Marcus Henderson worked in a green non-contact jersey.
Sam Pittman said Henderson, who will likely be the No. 2 center behind Ricky Stromberg, has a chest injury and may not be able to hit full speed for a week to 10 days.
“Nothing serious, but certainly serious enough that we have to take care of him here for at least another week,” Pittman said.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Chase Lowery is healthy, Pittman said, but is not on the training camp roster.
Veteran defenseman Eric Gregory has the ability to play both inside and front at 6-4, 303 pounds.
At camp’s opener on Friday, Gregory partnered with senior Isaiah Nichols during the fastball start, while Jashaud Stewart and Zach Williams formed the ends.
“Eric is very valuable to us because he can definitely play end when we’re in our three-down row,” Sam Pittman said. “In a four-down configuration, he can certainly play indoors as well. So he’s very valuable there just because he’s worked so hard and he’s strong and he can run.”
Players returning from injuries are led by defensive end Dorian Gerald, who has been injured in each of his three seasons with the Razorbacks and has been granted a rare seventh game eligibility.
Gerald, now wearing the No. 23, ran with the third unit on Friday.
Landon Jackson, a sophomore from LSU who missed spring while recovering from ACL surgery, ran with the second unit on the defensive end.
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Senior slot receiver Jaquayln Crawford was in full swing after breaking his leg during spring practice.
Redshirt junior Zach Zimos, who sustained an ACL injury against Arkansas-Pine Bluff last year, was back working on third-team safety.
Offensive lineman Terry Wells also returned as a reserve interior lineman after suffering a back problem in the spring.
Arkansas is looking for a new kickoff man with Vito Calvaruso’s transfer to Wisconsin. Calvaruso has had 96 touchbacks on 122 kickoffs over the past two seasons.
“Vito was valuable now,” said coach Sam Pittman. “Totally valuable when you don’t necessarily have to defend another team’s kickoff return.”
Jake Bates, a fifth-year senior transfer from Texas State, will compete with sophomore Cam Little for the kickoff job.
Pittman said special teams coordinator Scott Fountain would prefer Bates to win the kickoff job so Little can focus on placekicking.
Little made 20 of 24 field goal attempts and all 46 of his extra points last year.
Bates, who played football for two seasons at the University of Central Arkansas, had 63 touchbacks on 113 kickoffs over the past two seasons.
“Whoever wins that spot is going to be whoever kicks it furthest and highest and with the most consistency,” Pittman said. “I think they both perform 6, 7 [yards] now on average low.”
Arkansas’ 24-10 win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl gave little impetus because Calvaruso had already announced his transfer.
The Razorbacks’ grantees, who have arrived since late spring, wear a variety of jersey numbers, including the 0 worn by freshman defenseman Nico Davillier.
The remaining freshman jersey numbers in numerical order: 3 Matt Landers, 14 Jordan Domenick, 16 Isaiah Sategna, 17 Sam Mbake, 75 Patrick Kutas and 99 Terry Hampton.
New numbers for veterans are 11 LaDarrius Bishop, 23 Dorian Gerald and 33 Isaiah Nichols.