FAYETTEVILLE - As receivers together at Gulfport, Mississippi, Community College, Brandon Martin, listed at 6-4, 219, and Jonathan Nance, 6-0, 182, both signed with the Razorbacks last December for January University of Arkansas enrollment.
However, after the five preseason practices going into Wednesday’s workout, Nance ranks higher on the Razorbacks’ pecking order.
Big receiver Martin reported too big to suit receivers coach Michael Smith.
“I'd like to see him be in better shape,” Smith said before the Razorbacks practiced Tuesday. “I had a concern with his weight over the summer. But you know he's working on that, trying to get that down. I also want him to know the playbook. He had a whole summer, and I don't feel he's where he needs to be. But again, that's my job to get him there. I’ve got him upstairs right now. He's doing the things that necessary to get it, we've just got to get it done.”
Reasons abound why Martin was a consensus-rated a Top 10 junior college recruit, including by some as the No. 1 junior college receiver.
“Got to keep bringing Brandon,”Smith said. “I don't think he's where he needs to be yet, but I have some high expectations for him, and I know he'll come around and get it done for me.”
Meanwhile, Nance gets it done at a first-team rotation rate with sophomore letterman Deon Stewart of Hardy, sophomore T.J Hammonds of Pulaski Robinson and deep-ball-catching redshirt freshman Jordan Jones of Smackover.
“Jonathan Nance has been lights out,” Smith said. “I mean he's played very, very well. You could tell he had a really good summer, learned the playbook and is doing some really good things.”
Smith also lauded Stewart, Jones and Hammonds.
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema has put similar pressure on Arkansan La’Michael Pettway of Nashville, who, like Stewart, is a third-year sophomore.
“I want him (Pettway) to take a step forward,” Bielema said when addressing media before Monday’s practice “He is just like those guys that are in their third year. You are in your third fall which means you’re on the other side, you are past Hump Day. So you are in that position where you need to start getting going or someone needs to come on and get going in place of you.”
Smith said Tuesday that Pettway is responding.
“La’Michael is in the mix,” Smith said, noting Pettway caught two touchdowns during Monday’s practice.
Since Tuesday, the receivers have been catching passes under the pressure of a defense hitting them in full pads.
After just-in-case apprenticing at tight end, sophomore Hayden Johnson of Columbia, Missouri, has resumed as the backup fullback to junior Kendrick Jackson of Haynesville, Louisiana.
“Hayden is back with the running backs,” running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said. “We wanted to dual train him. So in the spring and early in camp he was with the tight ends Now we’re going to get him back at fullback and take the load off Kendrick a little bit. If we need to get him back at tight end he has the base that he could go back.”
Jackson apparently has performed well enough to cause Bielema and offensive coordinator Dan Enos consider implementing the fullback more often.
“Kendrick has been great,” Mitchell said. “From last year at this time to now, he’s 100 percent better. He is playing with better pad level. He’s physical and he has good on the ball skills. So we are really pleased with Kendrick.”
Considered the “Swiss Army knife” of linebackers, since he can play all four linebacker positions, senior Dwayne Eugene has impressed outside linebackers coach Chad Walker in the wake of temporarily losing senior first-teamer Karl Roesler to a hamstring injury and likely losing sophomore second-teamer Jamario Bell of Junction City (broken foot) for the entire season.
This week Eugene has run at first-team Razor outside linebacker, switching Randy Ramsey from first-team Razor to first-team Hog outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads’ 3-4 scheme.
“Mr. Eugene, by the way, has done a heck of a job this camp so far going after the football,” Walker said Tuesday.