FAYETTEVILLE — No. 10 Arkansas is surrendering 353 passing yards per game which ranks last in the SEC and No. 131 in the FBS.
So naturally that was a hot topic on Monday when Sam Pittman met with the media to take a look back at Missouri State and also forward to Saturday’s game against Texas A&M.
“I think the first thing is you have to make sure you have the right people in the right spots,” Pittman said. “You know what I’m talking about. Pre-snap. Not where they’re aligned, I’m saying do we have our best players on the field. I think you have to figure that out first. We’ve been adjusting. Part of it was because of a couple injuries, but part of it is we have some new guys back there as well.
“We’re going to experiment a little this week and see if we can’t get the right people in the right spots. I think (Myles) Slusher, he’s going to practice today. He’ll be back, and that should help us as well. I think Malik Chavis is a guy we need on the field, and when he’s not playing corner, we need him at safety, and I’m not sure if we don’t need him at safety and just put Hud (Clark) at corner. I think those are questions we have that we need to make. We’ve got to get our best five guys out there on the field at all times. Obviously, we know they get hurt, but those are things we’ve talked about as a staff. We’ve got to figure that out a bit better.”
On Saturday night Clark and Chavis alternated series at cornerback. Pittman once again said that may not be the case this Saturday.
“I don’t know,” Pittman said. “That again is can we move … do we feel good enough about moving Chavis to a safety. With Slusher coming back, we have some opportunities to have some movement. Basically, it’s sort of like, on the back end, it’s sort of like —it depends on if we’re in a 3- or 4-man front, but most the time we’ve been in a 4-man front a lot this year — and so you’ve got five of them working back there, counting your nickel. Sort of like your offensive line. You don’t necessarily go well this is my best left tackle, best … You just say, OK, who are my five best players and then you piece them in there where they need to go.
“I think a little bit of that is going to happen this week and it could be Chavis on the field at safety or even Hud on the field at safety. I don’t know exactly, but we’re certainly going to look at it.”
LSU transfer Dwight McGlothern missed a considerable amount of time on Saturday night. Pittman talked about why and provided a positive update.
“Nudie got hurt,” Pittman said. “Hamstring. Wasn’t much to it because he left it an all that yesterday, and he’ll practice today. But it was a hamstring that he had.”
The Hogs actually lead the nation in sacks and are last in passing yards allowed. Pittman talked about the two.
“Well, we have to get better at both of them really,” Pittman said. “But obviously there’s a little bit more urgency of covering people. We can live with guys getting good throws. We can’t live with guys wide open. If somebody’s going to beat us, they need to beat us with us attempting to cover their guy. We’ve had obviously too many mistakes there and backs coming out of the backfield, things of that nature, where we’re in man coverage and we’ve got to peel a linebacker out there and things of that nature.
“I will say this, we’re doing exactly what we think is best for us to win. There have been conversations about going back and running what did last year, double cloud about 90% of the snaps. And it worked some games, and it didn’t some games.
“So I think we’ll get a mixture of that going forward. But we’ve got to fix that problem. Everybody in the building’s aware of it and how we do that is going to be a combination of who’s on the field and the opponent. Whether we feel like we can cover them man to man or not. And if we can’t cover them in zone coverage then we definitely have to put pressure on the quarterback, because that’s something that we’re good at.”
Regardless of what the Hogs do in the secondary, there’s no question getting Slusher back will make a big impact.
“I think huge,” Pittman said. “Any time you get somebody back, it’s not just the guy you’re getting back, but then you take somebody off the field as well, you know what I mean? And so you get better both ways. You get a better player on, and you get a worse player off the field. And I mean, and that’s not saying who we’re going to take off the field. I’m just saying then, bringing him back, because Slush can play corner. He can play nickel, he can play field safety, like boundary safety. And then with him, it allows us to have another opportunity to make sure we have our five best players on the field. So I think it’s really big.”
Defensive end Jashaud Stewart didn’t dress out Saturday night due to undisclosed injury. Pittman provided an update.
“And on Stew, I think we’ve got to wait today and tomorrow to kind of see how he looks,” Pittman said. “If I was saying today, I think he’ll be able to play but I haven’t seen him. The training staff has, but I haven’t seen him.”
Arkansas will take on Texas A&M at 6 p.m. Saturday night in AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The game will be televised on ESPN.