One of the keys to being a successful head coach is being able to adjust quickly and that’s exactly what Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman is doing with his Razorbacks this weekend.
Instead of having a full-pad practice on Friday and a mock game/dress rehearsal on Saturday, Pittman is flipping that script with several of his players battling nagging injuries.
“We are beat up a little bit and we wanted to buy another day and hopefully we can get some guys back,” Pittman said after his team’s 18th preseason practice. “So tomorrow will be our mock game with situations and having the new guys understand how we stretch on game day and just alignment on the sidelines, here’s where they are going to sit and just take the anxiety out of it like running through the A on a game day, all those type things.
“With that will be thing like back up punting, kickoff after a safety and things of the nature that we have to be prepared for as well. But not a lot of physicality.
“Then that way we are going to come back Saturday in full pads on what is a Tuesday-type practice. Some guys are a little beat up and hopefully will be back by that time.”
Among those banged-up Razorbacks are a pair of starters in guard Brady Latham and wide receiver Jadon Haselwood as well as wideout Jaedon Wilson.
“I really believe that both of them (Latham and Haselwood) will be back,” Pittman said. “I feel strongly that they will be back for the game. I am just not positive the day. Our goal would be to get them back no later than Monday, but of course, we have got to just wait and see on that.
“I really think that Brady could probably practice now, but we are just trying to buy another 48 hours.”
Wilson (shoulder) is going through drills, but wearing a green non-contact jersey as is offensive lineman Marcus Henderson.
“Jaedon’s practicing,” Pittman said. “I think he’ll be fine. We’ve just got him in the green because we don’t want to hit him. But he practiced all day yesterday and today and he’ll be ready.
“Marcus Henderson is another story. He hasn’t been in there banging yet. So I don’t really know. Right now I probably wouldn’t count on him for next Saturday at this point.”
Injured tailback Dominique Johnson (knee) finally got to practice on Monday for the first time although he is also wearing green.
“I don’t know, I mean I really don’t,” Pittman said when asked if there was a possibility Johnson might play against Cincinnati. “I think at some point we are going to need to put him in versus (the) scouts (team) and let him get popped around a little bit. I don’t see that happening until at least Monday.
“But if we can do that, where he gets dinged and popped around a little bit and see how he feels. The great thing is that he hasn’t had any swelling. He hasn’t done a whole lot, but he had done full indi(vidual) and he hasn’t had swelling on it.
“Hopefully it continued that way after today’s practice and we can get him out there and move him around a little on Monday.”
With Latham out, junior Ty’Kiest Crawford is working at right guard while guard Beaux Limmer has moved to the left side on offensive line coach Cody Kennedy’s first squad.
“I told Coach Kennedy that anytime you have an injury – as long as it is not a season-ending injury – it should benefit somebody on the team and this certainly has Ty’Kiest,” Pittman said.
Ketron Jackson has stepped in for Haselwood this week.
“Yesterday was his first day at slot,” Pittman said. “ I pulled him aside and told him I thought he did a really good job there. We had a meeting in case Haselwood’s not able to play, who are our three top receivers and where do we need to put them to have the most success. Ketron has probably played as much ball as any of them. We know he knows that position, so I think we’ll be fine there as well. But certainly hope we get Haselwood back.”
Arkansas officially started its prep for Cincinnati on Thursday with an hour and 40-minute workout.
” I thought the kids were locked in well and excited to get going on them,” Pittman said.
He also noted that Hudson Clark, LaDarrius Bishop and LSU transfer Dwight McGlothern are three guys that still have a sot to start at the two cornerback positions.
The problem with the corners has been nagging injuries. If we were healthy, you know, you probably have a pretty good idea of who’s your top two corners, but we just haven’t. None of them has been healthy, you know, groin pull here, hamstring here, quad here, just things that’s taken them out of practice.
“And nobody’s really Wally-Pipped anybody yet. So we’ll just keep going. They’re all healthy right now. So hopefully in the next day or two, we’ll make a decision.”
Pittman was asked about wide receiver Jacqualyn Crawford and junior college defensive tackle Taylor Lewis entering the NCAA transfer portal in the last week.”
“I feel like if they don’t want to be here, they need to get in the portal, and I have no problem with it,” Pittman said. “If you don’t like it at the University of Arkansas, then you go someplace else, and that’s what the portal is for, and we’re not for everybody.
And you got to practice, you know, weights. You got to do, you know, it’s hard. If you don’t like it, that’s who we are, we’re not changing, then go in the portal.
“Would I have liked it to be earlier where we could keep our scholarship and all that kind of stuff, absolutely, because the guys that are on the team are earning their scholarship? But that’s the rules. But I really feel that way. And that’s anybody.
“We do our stuff the way we do it, and I think we’re more than fair with kids and how we handle them and how we talk to them. And for whatever reason, whether it be depth chart, it’s too hard, whatever reason it may be, they choose to go in the portal, we wish them luck and we’ll help them. We’re not for everybody, so that’s how I feel about it.”
Pittman joked that new assistants Dominque Bowman and Deke Adams were both learning Arkansas game day activities themselves.
“They both have family in Arkansas,” Pittman said. “Just really glad they’re here. We’ve got to take the anxiety of game day out of them, too. Tomorrow is just going to be a calming day for all of us. ‘This is what we do here, this is what we do…’ Deke and Dominique had as many questions as the freshmen athletes are going to have. So, really proud of them and glad they’re here.”