He's only been able to practice for two days, but Univesity of Arkansas true freshman cornerback Jerell Norton has thoroughly impressed Razorback defensive coordinator Reggie Herring.
Just how impressed?
"I can tell you right now that the little we have seen of Jerell Norton tells us he has special cover skills, that he is a mature kid for his age and that we are going to throw him in the fire," Herring said. "Don't be surprised if you don't see him work his way into the starting nickel position by Sept. 2. He has as good a cover skills as any corner we have got on the field."
Norton (6-1, 180, 4.4), a Texas prep star who shined on both offense and defense for Cedar Hill, had been having to sit out practices until Tuesday when his paperwork finally was deem suitable by the NCAA Clearing House.
He was able to dress out in shorts Tuesday and Wednesday, will be able to add shoulder pads for the next two practices and then be able to put on the full gear on Saturday.
"He is a very talented freshmen," Herring said. "The mental toughness remains to be seen, but as this point and time we are getting him ready to play against Southern Cal."
Herring said fans who come to the scrimmage Saturday night will get an eyeful of Norton, who actually rushed for 997 yards, passed 572 and had another 859 receiving while scoring a combined 32 touchdowns as a wideout, a running back and even three games at quarterback.
"He can put on the full pads Saturday night so you will see him playing with the (number) ones in a nickel position," Herring said. "That is the beauty of that position. It is a skill position. It is not one of those where yiu develop via reps, reps, reps. You can cover or you can't. You either have the skill or you don't. The only question is the mental toughness of the pace and that is what we don't know."
If Norton can fill that role, it would be a blessing considering senior Darius Vinnett was slotted for that role, but is out for five weeks with an injury.
"We are excited about him and his abilities," Herring said of Norton. "As soon as we get Vinnett back after five or six weeks, we will have a lot more depth at corner, but Jerrell Norton was critical timing for us at corner."
Norton's arrival comes at a time when the defense is practicing without a few of its parts in Vinnett, starting defensive end Anthony Brown and top back-up linebacker Weston Dacus.
"Right now there has been no changes up front as starters go and things are looking good with Anthony Brown with the recovery of his knee," Herring said. ""Weston Dacus has an ankle (injury) and we are being very cautious with that," Herring said. "We have got time and he is coming along nicely."
Herring noted that his troops have entered the dogs days of preseason camp.
"I don't think there is any doubt that we are in the middle of camp right now and we are getting a little dead-legged," Herring said. "I think that was the story of the day. We are being challenged mentally – who can focus the longest, who can compete. It is getting to be the grind part of the camp. You can see some guys out there who aren't zipping around like that used to."
Free safety Matt Hewitt continues to look strong as a back-up to Michael Grant at free safety while Dallas Washington has been solid as a reserve to starting strong safety Randy Kelly.
"We are actually working and trying to build our depth right now because we know who our starters are," Herring said. "So we are trying to hold them out a little bit and push these twos and threes."
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