FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas head football coach Sam Pittman touched on a wide variety of topics Friday during a 50-minute teleconference.
Here’s three tidbits from the teleconference.
Most Impressive During Offseason Drills?
“I can tell you that the secondary, I’ve been really pleased with that group,” Pittman said. “Jalen Catalon has really had a good offseason along with (Devin) Bush and (Jarques) McClellion. I think that’s probably been the most surprising group. I don’t know if surprising is the word, but we’re pleased with the depth there. (Myles) Slusher has come in and done well. Simeon Blair is a guy that works crazy hard. The O-line group has been, right now with (Ty) Clary and (Noah) Gatlin and (Dalton) Wagner, they’re all on a pretty limited basis. The guy in that group that has stood out work ethic, they all work hard, but Shane Clenin and Ricky Stromberg have really done some things. Ricky’s gained, I don’t know maybe 25 or 28 pounds. He’s right at 300 right now. Clenin looks really good right now. Of course, Myron Cunningham is getting up around that 300 mark. Those guys are gaining a lot of strength. Feliepe Franks, certainly that ankle has healed. I don’t know if he’s 100 percent yet, but he may be 90 or 95. He’s looking really good. KJ Jefferson is the same way. There are several guys that stick out at the receiver spot, but. Mike Woods works his tail off. Treylon Burks, for being a big kid can really run. He has some good hips. I’ll tell you, Blake Kern at tight end, he’s a workaholic now. That group with him and (Hudson) Henry, we’ve moved Blayne Toll over there. Those guys have performed really well. At running back, of course you have Rakeem. But Trelon Smith has stood out. I mean, he’s done good, along with (A’Montae) Spivey, and (T.J.) Hammonds has too. So we’re pleased with a bunch of areas. The linebacker group, you know they’re a little beat up with (Hayden) Henry and (Bumper) Pool being out, but Grant Morgan and Deon Edwards, they have probably put on 10 or 12 pounds apiece and are moving really well.
“The D-line group, the guys that are standing out there No. 1 is probably Jonathan Marshall. Dorian Gerald has had a good off-season. And (Mataio) Soli, we’re still trying to get more weight on Soli. He’s a very good athletic player. We’re trying to get some there. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Zach Zimos. He’s had some weight gains. He’s probably 10 to 12 pounds heavier than what he was. We’re looking forward to working with him. We think he can do some things because he can really run. Then the last one would be Andrew Parker. I think he’s had a really good offseason as well.
“Really pleased with the offseason and really thankful to have Jamil Walker here as the strength coach and then Ed Ellis as his No. 2 guy. We were able to do some different walk-throughs and things with the players in the offseason. So we got a little bit, since the last time we talked, we know. We feel like we know quite a bit more about our players than what we did before.”
How Important to Get Offensive Linemen Bigger?
“Huge,” Pittman said. “That’s a huge deal as you know. And most of you know I like big, athletic guys. I don’t know who wouldn’t. But we put a heavy emphasis on strength, on gaining weight. Obviously gaining the right type of weight. And we’re trying to do that in recruiting. When I first got here, maybe seven years ago now, whatever it was, we weren’t a very big offensive line then either. And we changed that fairly fast.
“So we’re trying to change it on our team. But like (Myron) Cunningham, if he can get up to 310, 315, he’d be … I think he’s got a lot of talent. But it’s going to be hard to set on a bull at 285 pounds. Especially when the D-end weighs 275 pounds. You know it is in this league. I just don’t think you can survive without big people on the offensive line or the defensive line. This is a big-person league, basically. It starts up front with both sides of the ball.”
Update on Injured Razorbacks
Bumper (Pool), he had a back, a back surgery. He’s progressing well. I think he’ll be ready… Well, I know he’ll be ready by the time the season starts. Hayden Henry had a shoulder and he’s progressing well. Let’s see… Who’d you say? I’m sorry. (Noah) Gatlin had a knee. (Dalton) Wagner, he had a shoulder and he’s progressing well, too. He’s done modified weights, but all the running, all the conditioning and we feel like he’ll be ready by the fall. Ty Clary, he also had a shoulder – all of those were labrums, I guess – so he’s progressing. He’s getting walk-through reps. Our situation with those guys you just asked about, we were going to have them in walk-throughs and things of that nature, non-contact things, condition them at different points of time in practice when the coach thought that learning wasn’t as valuable as the conditioning. Then whenever we felt that learning was more valuable than conditioning, they were going to be with the team. But they were going to be in every walk-through that we had. We don’t see anybody on our team that won’t be ready at least by Aug. 1.
However, we felt like if we were practicing Monday of this week, that (Feliepe) Franks and (KJ) Jefferson both would have practiced.