Arkansas names Jones as starter

Wednesday, August 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ Matt Jones showed he could score touchdowns, and that was what it took for Arkansas coach Houston Nutt to name him the starting quarterback for the Razorbacks.

Jones, who lost time in the spring because he played basketball and has been slowed by a shoulder injury of late, won the nod from Nutt on Tuesday.

Jones had strong performances in a pair of scrimmages, and beat out Tarvaris Jackson and Ryan Sorahan.

``I've said all along the guy who gets this team in the end zone the most and is consistent will be the No. 1 guy,'' Nutt said. ``Well, Matt Jones has done that.''

``Matt knows what to do under the lights,'' quarterbacks coach David Lee said after practice Tuesday. Arkansas opens its season Sept. 7 at Fayetteville against Boise State.

Jones, who is still nursing his sore shoulder, said he entered fall drills expecting to win the job.

``You've got to think that you're the guy,'' he said.

The team was expected to name a starter Wednesday, but coaches told the players about the decision Monday evening and released the news after practice Tuesday.

Jones took the most snaps in Tuesday's practice _ the first time that has happened since two-a-days started two weeks ago.

Nutt said Jackson edged out Sorahan for the second-team spot, but he did not drop Sorahan to third-string. Neither backup will play on the scout squad and the two are more like ``2-A and 2-B,'' Nutt said.

``Either one of those two could lead this team,'' Jones said.

Sorahan and Jackson were not available for comment, but Jones said the three handled the competition in the right spirit.

``It was a friendly competition,'' he said. ``We all wanted everyone to do good, so it wasn't like we were over there talking 'I want him to do bad.'''

Jones played basketball last year for Nolan Richardson's final Razorback basketball team and Lee had said previously that it affected the way Jones played.

Nutt said having the chance to play basketball made Jones choose Arkansas over Oklahoma. The Razorbacks coach said Jones knew playing set him back when he came out for spring drills.

``I'm all for him playing basketball,'' Nutt said. ``I think he realized when he got back from basketball that he was behind.''

Zak Clark started most of the Razorbacks' games last year, but Nutt gave Jones much of the credit for the team's six-game winning streak last year.

Jones often provided an offensive spark and became the fan favorite after leading Arkansas in the fourth quarter and through seven overtimes in its 58-56 victory over Mississippi in the longest game in NCAA history.

Clark transferred to Central Arkansas after the 2001 season.

``Throughout two-a-days and the scrimmages, Matt Jones moved ahead,'' Lee said.

``He clearly was the most consistent in moving the ball to the end zone,'' Lee said.

Jones said his shoulder is still sore but that resting it Sunday and Monday helped.

``I'm ready to get out there and get this thing started,'' Jones said.