In a move that has been discussed and rumored about for awhile, freshman Connor Noland will no longer try to play two sports and focuse on baseball for Arkansas.
He made the announcement Thursday morning on Twitter:
— Connor Noland (@cnoland_13) June 20, 2019
“My dad always told me that I wouldn’t be the one picking which sport I would finally focus on, he said the sport would pick me,” Noland said in the tweet.
That is now the case, despite his abilities in football where he won one of the two games the Razorbacks played last season and the coaches had liked his talent and capabilities there.
But baseball, he felt, was the best path for him, which Dave Van Horn liked.
Van Horn’s statement:
“We’re happy for Connor. We know this decision wasn’t easy, as his love for both sports has been apparent since we first met him. We’re happy that he was able to come to this decision on his own with his family. Thank you to coach Chad Morris for allowing Connor to achieve his dream of playing both football and baseball at the University of Arkansas. I look forward to working with Connor this summer and into the fall as we get ready for our 2020 season.”
You knew the baseball ability was there as he ended up with a weekend starting spot from the first series and appeared to improve after football spring practice.
Despite missing all of fall practice and having only a handful of intrasquad scrimmages under his belt, Noland earned a spot in Arkansas’ weekend rotation for the opening series of the baseball season.
He ended up making a team-high 19 starts and one relief appearance, finishing the season 3-5 with a 4.02 ERA, 55 strikeouts and only 14 walks in 78 1/3 innings. Only ace Isaiah Campbell threw more innings than Noland.
Those numbers aren’t spectacular, but he got a lot better down the stretch. It seemingly coincided with the end of spring football, as he attempted to pull double duty.
Against Vanderbilt the week after football practice ended, Noland couldn’t get an out and gave up five runs, then finished with 33 strikeouts and four walks in 45 innings the rest of the way with a 2.60 ERA.
As far as football, he feels he’s leaving the team in pretty good shape in a crowded room with Ben Hicks, Nick Starkel, KJ Jefferson, John Stephen Jones, Daulton Hyatt and Jack Lindsey on the roster now and Chandler Morris coming in 2020.
Chad Morris’ statement:
“We’re excited for Connor and his future in baseball. He’s a tremendous competitor, an outstanding athlete and a Razorback who will succeed in anything he does. I can’t wait to be in the seats at Baum-Walker next spring to watch him pitch.”
“The Razorback QB room is full of very talented players I will definitely miss being there with everyone,” Noland tweeted.
Noland and Jones were the only returning quarterbacks to throw a pass in a game last season. Noland was 12-of-41 with two interceptions and Jones appeared in three games, completed 2-of-8 passes.
Many thought playing time was likely to be difficult for Noland in football and he made the choice to stick with baseball.
Van Horn has said on a couple of occasions he felt Noland would be helped by playing baseball fulltime, particularly with his fastball.
Now there will be no more questions.