With it being a bye week and a few coaches being on the road recruiting, Arkansas had a developmental practice with its younger players on Tuesday.
One of those developing players is speedy true freshman Korliss Marshall (6-0, 200, 4.3), who has practiced at safety, but seen his only game action as a tailback and kick returner.
So will the former Osceola standout be a tailback or a safety in the long run for head coach Bret Bielema?
"It is hard to answer because I am comfortable in both positions," Marshall said after Tuesday's workout. "I would just say that I am an athlete and it is hard for me to play just one position because I am so used to being all over the field. When it comes to picking between the two, it is kind of hard so I will just say both."
In fact, maybe both is the right answer per Marshall.
"That would be one thing I could say – play me at both," Marshall said. "You could put me anywhere on the field and I guarantee you I could play that position no matter what it is."
Marshall began the year practicing at safety, but moved to tailback to provide depth behind sophomore Jonathan Williams (783 yards rushing this season) and freshman Alex Collins (946 yards) when some injuries hit the position.
He has carried the ball five times for 66 yards – including a 30-yard dash against Ole Miss – and returned 14 kicks for 302 yards, including an 87-yarder against Auburn that helped raise his average to 21.6 per return.
Marshall was at safety for most of Tuesday's practice.
"I was working a bit at safety today, getting the feel back," Marshall said. "I did individual with the safeties, basically just getting drills in and breaking on the ball...Just recently I decided I wanted to get the feel back of safety so I moved back over there."
He was asked how he could help the secondary if he becomes a fixture over there.
"I know that I am going to bring effort – that's one thing for sure," Marshall said. "The one thing the coaches tell us is that 'if you mess up, mess up while going 100 percent.' That is one thing I guarantee even though it is not something I want to do. I want to try and avoid mistakes."
He doesn't think he should play safety the last two games this season.
"It will take some time," Marshall said. "I'd really have to hit the playbook and would have to get into some more things with (defensive coordinator) Coach (Chris) Ash because I haven't been as active as I was when I first got here. Some of the information may have slipped so I got to get refreshed with the memory that I obtained when I first got here."
Two guys that will likely lobby to keep Marshall on offense are offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and running backs coach Joel Thomas.
"He is a talented young man and you can see that on the field," Chaney said. "It shows up quite a bit.
"As a staff I think we see the same thing in Korliss – a certain amount of physicality and also has good speed about him," Chaney added. "He likes to play the game and has a good passion about football. Whether he plays on offense or defense – well, we will let Coach (Bielema) make those decisions, I don't get too much into that. I just know he is a good football player and I am glad he is with us."
Thomas notes that Arkansas has given Marshall plays where he can just go all out this season.
"We have found a way to strategically put him in there and have a little success," Thomas said.
"The things he has shown on Saturdays are things he has sparked us with practice and of course with two-a-days a little bit here and there. We've got two pretty good ones in front of him, but he offers a different element of speed out there.
"It's almost that fright or flight syndrome that you see," Thomas added. "I mean he gets the ball and he just goes as fast as he can straight ahead. He just does a really nice job of it. He has shown that on the kickoff returns and he has shown carrying the ball the hand full of times he has. We have just got to keep being creative and find different ways for him to get the ball this season.
"At the end of the season, I am sure we will address where his heart is as far as playing on this football team," Thomas said.
The developmental practice was a way to get lightly-used or redshirting players a tune up during this off week.
"We wanted to let these young guys go out and have some fun," Chaney said. "We want to make sure our guys that are playing have an adequate amount time to rest and get ready for the next two ball games. I feel like we are doing that with the schedule that Coach (Bielema) has put together. We are comfortable with those two things.
"Tomorrow we might look at a little bit of the stuff that we are putting together for the Mississippi State ball game, but I don't know how much Coach wants to get into," Chaney added.
Chaney noted that its fun to see the excitement of the young kids.
"We played with all the young kids, the ones that haven't been playing a lot," Chaney said. "They got a lot of reps today and so it was good to see them. We will be able to watch tape of them tomorrow and critique them and coach them a little bit better than we have been able to as we have been preparing for ball games. That's exciting."
Arkansas has no hope to make a bowl now and will play this last two games against Mississippi State and at LSU just for pride.
"There is never a throwaway ball game," Chaney said. "Every ball game counts, every play counts and I do believe our kids understand that. We'll go to work when the varsity gets back out here tomorrow and have a good energy about us and go play.
"I think we have shown improvement down at Ole Miss and we need to continue to show that throughout this week so we can have a lot of confidence when we head down to Little Rock to play State," Chaney added.
Chaney noted that he is happy with the play of several true freshmen in Collins, guards Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland and tight end Hunter Henry.
"I think Alex has played well as a freshman and I think we have had several of those freshmen play well – such as both the guards and Hunter has stepped in there and played," Chaney said. "We are tickled with what they have been able to do."
Redshirting true freshmen quarterbacks Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell got a lot of work in Tuesday's practice.
"I think that today they threw a lot of balls today and I am sure their arms are going to be a little tender tomorrow because they haven't been throwing as much as they did today," Chaney said. "They got in the huddle and they are unsure on some plays. The ones they are sure of, they did them with confidence. The ones they were not sure of, they were a little lost.
"It remains to be seen where they are at," Chaney added. "I haven't spent a lot of time studying them, but I like both of those kids and I like how they are developing. We have just got to see how it plays out as we get them through the winter and get into off-season workouts with a lot of studying, put them in spring ball and see what happens."
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