FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas is looking to get the offense jump started again after disappointing performance against Texas A&M on Saturday.
Arkansas’ offense sputtered to 174 yards of total offense including just 42 on the ground. Sam Pittman was asked again Monday what is causing the blocking issues from the offensive line, tight ends and running backs?
“We’re going to look at some different scenarios up front and see if we can’t… You know, sometimes… There’s a difference in panic and really reviewing what we’re trying to do and who is trying to do it,” Pittman said. “So, we may shake up the offensive line a little bit. You have to practice it and see if what you think might work works in practice. I think that would be one way. We’ve got to make some guys miss at running back. Our quarterback has to play consistent, and we’ve got to be able to get open. If you look at it offensively, I think a lot of it has been maybe tagged on the offensive line, and there’s certainly problems there. But there’s a lot of areas that we can get better at. We’re going to open completely up our tight end situation and see who can play in there because we’ve been a little bit of musical chairs there with the exception of Luke (Hasz).
“But we’ve got to do a better job coaching. We have to do a better job with the details. We found a positive in the penalties. We cut that down, which I think hurt us with some results in winning and losing. So, that was one positive, but we all have to play better. And we have to get some explosive plays. Obviously, we were unfortunate we could have tied the game up there. I think our team… I’ll have a better feel for them this afternoon but I’ve talked to a lot of the kids today. We lost three in a row two years ago and bounced back pretty good. I think we will again, but I don’t know that we can continue to do the same thing and say we’re just going to get better at them. I think we’ve got to shuffle some things up to maybe ignite a spark into us a little bit because I do think we’ve got good players. We’ve just got to play better and coach better.”
Among the possible changes are running back Dominique Johnson to tight end, right tackle Patrick Kutas to center, center Beaux Limmer to guard and left guard Brady Latham to tackle.
“Exactly. I think you hit most of them,” Pittman said. “It’s exactly what we’re doing. I think lost in this a little bit is I’ve been fairly pleased with our defense. Three turnovers and things of that nature. But offensively I think you hit on some of the moves we’re going to look at.”
Young offensive linemen like Kutas, Devon Manuel and Andrew Chamblee must contribute this season for Arkansas. Pittman wants the game to slow down some for them.
“Yeah, you’re right on the second half of that, it’s got to slow down somehow for them,” Pittman said. “A lot of times that’s just playing, experience. Obviously you’re going to make a few more mistakes, technique wise, when you’re younger. But I think we have the guys, the five best. I don’t know that we have them in the correct position. We may. But I think we’re going to look at some of that changing to maybe help them. Maybe simplify it. Maybe put them by an older guy that can help them, communicate with them, things of that nature. Obviously in the first five games we thought we had them exactly where … fall camp, spring ball, combination would be.
“What happened a little bit with Dev was he didn’t practice basically for three or four weeks and he got behind mentally. So he’s got to catch up and the only way I know how to do that is he’s got to rep that. We can’t move him. He’s behind mentally so we have to keep him in that spot – to me. But some of the other guys, with some veterans around them I think will help them. But to answer your question, I don’t know how you speed that up without practice and playing. It’s hard to become a sophomore when you’re still a freshman. I think it’s just experience. And they’ve got to do something well and I think any confidence then that helps them do something again well.”
Losing tight end Luke Hasz to a broken clavicle was a severe blow to the Hogs. An argument could be made he was among Arkansas’ best players even as a true freshman. Another recruit who came in with high expectations at tight end was North Texas transfer Var’keyes Gumms. In 2022 at North Texas, Gumms caught 34 passes for 458 yards and five touchdowns. He was named second-team Freshman All-America by The Athletic and College Football Network. He caught one pass for two yards on Saturday against the Aggies.
“Yeah, his film was good and he’s a good player,” Pittman said. “The physicality part of it. Again, his ability to make plays. He has it, he just has to make them. A lot of his, to be honest with you, a lot of his non-playing was because of Luke. Because they were very similar in blocking, but route running, and as far as their assets were. I think you’ll see a good player from him. I do. Just one that wasn’t able to get on the field quite as much because Luke was ahead of him.”
Given the struggles running the ball and protecting KJ Jefferson does Pittman take a more hands-on approach to the offensive line since that was his specialty as an assistant.
“On the field, not a tremendous amount on the field,” Pittman said. “Off the field … We’ve got a great offensive line coach (Cody Kennedy). The same one that we had when we led the Power 5 in rushing two years ago and the same one that everybody tries to get when the season’s over with.
“Off the field, I have a lot of, aw, what’s the word, input? Not input. It’s not counseling either. Off the field I have several questions about what we’re doing.and how we’re doing it, and this, that and the other. I want to be conscious that I didn’t overstep anybody’s boundary as the offensive line coach. Because we’ve got a really good one. He’ll get it fixed as good as anybody can. But to answer your question, not a whole lot on the field.”
Arkansas and Ole Miss will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night and televised on the SEC Network.