FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman and the Razorbacks still have one more COVID test to get through this week, but it appears they are in much better shape this week.
Pittman talked about that on Thursday.
“COVID’s been kind to us this week,” Pittman said. “We have one more test. They tested today, so we’ll get the results back in the morning. But it’s been a good week as far as negatives and COVID tests.”
In addition, the past three games have seen sophomore wide receiver Treylon Burks average six touches a game. Pittman wants much more than that.
“I think we have to get him more than six touches,” Pittman said. “A lot of times you have to force that. The way you force that I don’t think necessarily is in the passing game. I think you can throw some screens to him and things of that nature. Give him the ball on some motions and give him the ball out of the backfield and things of that nature.
“Just get the ball in his hands. He’s dynamic, he’s big, he’s fast. We need to get the ball 10, 12, 15 times a game if we can to him. I don’t know if we’ll ever get him that many, but I’d like to see it in his hands that many times.”
In seven games, Burks has caught 39 passes for 598 yards for six touchdowns with a long of 65. He has also carried the ball 12 times for 61 yards with a long of 18. He’s 0-2 passing with one interception and returned a punt four yards.
Another player on offense who may get more touches is senior T.J. Hammonds. He has split time between wide receiver and running back while at Arkansas, but with Rakeem Boyd opting out he’s now a running back.
“Yes he’s moved there,” Pittman said. “And yes I believe he’s earned the right to touch the ball more. He did a nice job against LSU. He made a couple of big plays for us. He’s had a really good week and it’s been a physical week here. But he’s had a really good week.”
Another running back expected to be available is true freshman Dominique Johnson who still hasn’t carried the ball this season. Johnson had missed the LSU game with COVID issues. Did that set him back?
“Not so much on him,” Pittman said. “He did a nice job when he was in quarantine. He did a nice job of staying in shape and he’s looked good this week. The guy that’s coming on a little bit is Hammonds. He’s doing a good job. Dominique is probably 3 right now. But has had a good week and he’s in shape, so we won’t have any problem giving him the football.”
One player who the news probably isn’t as good on is sophomore offensive tackle Noah Gatlin, who is out with an injury. Earlier in the week Pittman was optimistic he might get him back for the Tigers. Pittman wasn’t as optimistic on Thursday.
“I don’t know,” Pittman said. “I don’t know that he’ll be ready or not. I don’t know. I’m concerned there. I don’t know if he’ll be cleared yet or not. I thought there was a good possibility early in the week. I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see there. He’s moved well and all those things, I just don’t know if he’ll be cleared or not.”
The team didn’t play last week, but that has also allowed them to have a good week of practice getting ready for Missouri.
“We went as a normal week,” Pittman said. “So Mondays are shells and pretty physical days on Monday. Tuesdays are full pads. Wednesdays are full pads. We were able to get outside on Monday and Tuesday. Yesterday was rainy and cold, and we elected to go inside. Today we’ll go inside. We’ve had really spirited and good practices.”
In an unusual event the Hogs will bus to Columbia instead of flying. Pittman talked about the reasons why on Thursday.
“You know, I think it’s about a five hour trip, and originally when all this happened we were going to bus to Kansas City because that’s where the game was, and you’re looking at three-and-a-half hours or so,” Pittman said. “And flying there and all that really wasn’t going to be a whole lot of difference you know because the airport’s north.
“Then obviously the game got moved to Columbia, so we stayed with that, and we were on ready if the game was a night game. That would affect our late, late, late coming back to get ready for Alabama. We had talked about possibly flying at that point. But with it being an 11 o’clock game, I don’t know that that’s really going to affect the two hours or the hour and 45-minute difference or whatever it might be in total travel. You know, kids nowadays they have their cell phones. There’s movies on their phones. There’s all kinds of things. You know, they can sleep on the bus. We’ve added a bus or two.”
But as with all things in 2020 COVID also played a role in the decision to bus.
“But really the original reason for it was so I didn’t want to get anybody quarantined,” Pittman said. “And we can get enough buses and put enough guys who’s had COVID in between guys that haven’t that we can be very, very safe knowing that if somebody tests positive on Sunday that we don’t have to quarantine folks because they wouldn’t have been within the six-foot radius of their teammate.”
As far as the game on Saturday, Pittman talked about what he feels are the keys to breaking the losing skid in this series.
“Well, we have to win both lines of scrimmage,” Pittman said. “That’s a tall task because they’re very good on both sides of the ball. To me, that’s where this game is going to come down to, because if we don’t, coach will just turn around and hand the ball off, like he did against Kentucky, and control the clock for 40 minutes. We understand that. We have to be good on both sides of the football.
“We have to be able to run the football, and I’m not saying we have to run it for 200 yards, but we have to be able to run when we want to run. They’re very, very talented and of course you know how I feel about (Nick) Bolton. I think they’re playing as good as anybody. They’re playing to their potential as good as anybody in the league. That’s a credit to their coaching staff.”
Barry Odom, Brad Davis and Sam Carter all were on the staff at Missouri until they moved to Arkansas this season. Odom was 4-0 as head coach against the Hogs. Is Pittman hoping that Odom continues to work his magic in this series, but said he hasn’t noticed anything different from the trio.
“I’m sure they have their own motivate and things of that nature, but no, I haven’t seen anything different out of them, Pittman said. “Certainly have worked hard and prepared well and all those things, but haven’t really seen anything different. No, to answer your question.
“Well if he can keep his streak going it would be (Arkansas’ ace in hole). I don’t know. I’m glad he’s our defensive coordinator, I can tell you that.”
Arkansas and Missouri will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. The game televised on the SEC Network.