Saturday, September 15, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Linton’s first start comes against ’Bama

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks are down to their last true fullback.

So that fullback, third-year sophomore walk-on Morgan Linton of Lonoke, rather than the offensive lineman, linebacker and tight end also practicing at fullback, is the first fullback that Arkansas running backs coach Tim Horton plans to use against Alabama.

Arkansas, 1-1, is minus injured fullbacks Kiero Small and Kody Walker as it prepares to meet the 2-0 reigning national champion Crimson Tide in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m televised opener for both teams at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Lack of proven fullbacks, with Small breaking his foot in practice last week and Walker breaking his leg against Lousiana-Monroe, perhaps contributed to the Razorbacks’ reluctance to run the ball as their 28-7 lead with 9:44 left in the third quarter withered to a 34-31 overtime loss against the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks in Little Rock.

Linton, practicing in a yellow caution jersey most of last week, was just minor role player last Saturday.

Now the sturdy 5-11, 240-pounder apparently is healed and ready to go.

“Morgan Linton is now our starting fullback,” Horton said after Wednesday’s practice, “and we’re taking a look at Grady Ollison (the redshirt freshman offensive lineman from Malvern) and we’re also taking a look at Austin Jones (the linebacker transfer from the Air Force Academy) from the defensive side of the ball.”

Austin Tate,the junior tight end from Harrison, who has played some H-back in the past, also has been discussed as a fullback possibility but as the team’s best blocking tight end he’s usually already in the game for obvious short-yardage running situations requiring a fullback.

Lead blocking for the tailback in short yardage is the obvious fullback priority.

But the fullback can be involved in a myriad of other blocking aspects including picking up blitzes, serving as a safety valve receiver and occasional ballcarrier and primary receiver.

“There’s a learning curve for Grady and Austin,” Horton said. “Obviously, Morgan knows what to do and he’ll step in and perform well. He’ll do good. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Morgan. But we sure don’t need to get anybody else hurt. We’re kind of running out.”

If want-to alone could do it, Linton would get it done for Arkansas.

Growing up in Lonoke he never can remember not wanting to be a Razorback. So much so that he paid his own collegiate way at Arkansas over offers for a full scholarship ride to some smaller schools.

“I had scholarship offers from a few smaller schools around the state,” Linton said during the August preseason. “But I am a lifelong Hog fan. It’s been my dream ever since I was a little kid to be a Razorback. To be able to come up here and run through the A and fulfill that dream has definitely been incredible for me.”