Arkansas Nearing Full Strength For Missouri After Playing Shorthanded Against LSU

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Photo Courtesy: University of Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas got good news from Sunday’s COVID test results and now only has to sweat out two more this week, but it appears they are going to be in good shape as far as numbers against Missouri on Saturday.

Sam Pittman participated in his weekly Zoom conference on Monday and confirmed the good results on the latest round of COVID tests.

“We anticipate having a close to full roster,” Pittman said. “Our testing went well yesterday. And between injuries we’ve had and the covid we feel like we’re going to be pretty close to full speed.”

Since players were in quarantine with COVID Pittman was asked if he’s concerned with the conditioning?

“Not really,” Pittman said. “You know quarantine now is a little bit different than what it was before, in that they can get some individualized workouts. Before they weren’t able to do that and now they can.

“To be honest with you, we’ve been dealing with it all year. So just a few more now, obviously. But I think we’ll be OK. We’re going to do business as usual this week. If I feel like at the end of practice we haven’t had a spirited practice or that we need a little bit more conditioning, we’ll get that in early in the week. But I’m certainly not anticipating that. I’m anticipating the guys have done enough to be able to play hard for obviously 60 minutes.”

Following the 27-24 loss to LSU on Nov. 21 when the Hogs played extremely shorthanded the game against Missouri this past Saturday was postponed for a week. Since Thursday was Thanksgiving the team got an extended weekend before reporting back Sunday. Pittman explained though why he didn’t meet with them on Sunday.

“Well, any time that you leave campus, then you have to have a negative COVID test result before you can meet with them,” Pittman said. “So they tested last night and got the results back this morning. So we did not meet with them last night. So this will be …. we were able to do some walk-throughs, some meetings last week with the anticipation of playing Missouri. And now we’re just going to have a regular week, Monday through … in preparation for Missouri.”

Missouri (4-3) is coming off a 41-0 victory over Vanderbilt this past Saturday. Pittman knows this will be a difficult game for the Hogs.

“Well I also watched the game film when I got back,” Pittman said. “Well, they’re a big, physical team. I mean they’re not a complicated offense even though it can be complicated because everything that looks the same is different. Whether they run a good RPO system. They have exactly what they need. They have a great back in (Larry) Rountree, a really qood quarterback in (Connor) Bazelak and they’ve got a great slot. So on offense, big line, a guy you can hand it to, a guy you can throw it to and more.

“And on defense, they’ve always had really good defensive linemen. I think last year, when I was at Georgia, I think (Nick) Bolton had about 20 tackles on us last year. So maybe we can cut that down to at least 19 or something. He had a great game last year against us over there at Georgia. They just… I think right now they’re believing in Coach (Eliah) Drinkwitz and what he’s getting done. He’s a fine man, fine coach and they’ve got a good coaching staff. So I think they’re peaking at the right time just because of their believe and how hard they play.”

Rountree has rushed for 650 yards and eight touchdowns on 143 carries. He has also caught 10 passes for 57 yards. Pittman talked about what makes Rountree so dangerous.

“He is (physical),” Pittman said. “I think if you look at Rountree, the first thing you think about is how hard he runs and how many tackles he breaks. I think they’re pretty much locked in with their O-line and him. I mean, they’re a physical offensive line, they like to play through the whistle, and he’s the same way. They really complement each other as an O-line and him. He’s really having a good season and I have a lot of respect for the way that he plays the game.”

Like Pittman at Arkansas, Drinkwitz is in his first year at Missouri. Pittman talked about their relationship.

‘I’m getting to know him better,” Pittman said. “I have a lot of respect for him, and we text back-and-forth at different times. I think he may probably said he texted me at 11:45 last Monday night, which he did whenever we had to cancel, and they got a new one. He just wanted to make sure that I was up since he had to be. And I thought it was funny, but I have a lot of respect for him. I didn’t know him until obviously this year, and being head coaches we get a chance to talk to a lot of head coaches during the season, and he’s one that I’ve certainly taken a liking to and a friendship with.”

Arkansas and Missouri will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday and televised on the SEC Network.

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