FAYETTEVILLE — Junior running back Dominque Johnson didn’t make the trip to Auburn and on Monday Sam Pittman disclosed the reason in complete detail.
Pittman was asked about Johnson on Saturday, but asked reporters to wait until Monday to address it.
“Thank you, I appreciate y’all understanding that,” Pittman said. “I just didn’t think it was quite the time and whoever asked the question, that wasn’t I don’t think out of anything other than why wasn’t he on the trip, and I appreciate that. Last Tuesday or Monday, I believe it might have been Tuesday, he made a cut on air and tore his ACL again. So, it’s really unfortunate for the team, certainly for him.
“He actually practiced the next day, and then he did not practice on Thursday and we found out Thursday. He went and got the MRI and we found that out. It’s certainly disheartening for him because he had worked so hard to try and get back. The silver lining, if there is one, and there is one, is you can use this as a redshirt year for him, and we’ve kind of approached it that way. By the time he got healthy, he would be ready for fall camp, which we certainly found that it didn’t help him this year missing fall camp. So, we’re going with all the positives out of certainly a negative situation.”
In 2021, Johnson played in all 13 games with six starts. He rushed 97 times for 575 yards and seven touchdowns. He was injured in the Outback Bowl and it carried over to this season. Johnson never was able to get untracked this fall. In four games, Johnson had rushed eight times for 43 yards.
On the other side of the football, cornerback Malik Chavis was injured against BYU and didn’t make the trip to Auburn. Pittman talked about the chances Chavis is able to play against No. 23 Liberty on Saturday.
“I hope,” Pittman said. “I mean, I certainly was positive that he would be ready last week. He just wasn’t. Again, that one was basically a Friday that we found out on that one. But we were able to take (offensive tackle) Andrew Chamblee on the trip and I thought that was great for him. He’s going to be a good player, by the way. But he (Chavis) will be back at practice today and hopefully we’ll have him this week.”
If Chavis is able to play against the Flames he may or may not start. True freshman Quincey McAdoo, who signed as a wide receiver from Clarendon, but moved to cornerback a few weeks ago. He has impressed Pittman.
“I think Chavis will battle with McAdoo to be perfectly honest with you,” Pittman said. “It’s time that we get him out there. He’s a good player and we’ve moved him over there for a reason and has nothing to do with athletic ability, because he’s as talented as anybody over there. It has everything with understanding what to do. I believe we need to increase his reps at practice and give him an opportunity to get on the field.
“Now, obviously, with Chavis coming back, that helps. As long as we stay healthy, I think we probably look a little bit more at corner with those two guys and leave Hudson back in the middle.”
At safety, Clark can use his ball awareness and ability to play the ball in the air better. But Pittman said there’s some things to be done if Clark will be a full-time safety.
“He does,” Pittman said. “He’s smart. Well, he’s getting us lined up, you know, him and Blair. Unfortunately, the first week he played safety was against Mississippi State, and them guys were coming through there, we weren’t really slowing them down, and, you know, they were knocking the heck out of him in there. I think if, in the future, we decide to leave him at safety, we’re gonna have to bulk him up, you know?
“But I do know this about Clark, you can count on him. You know what you’re gonna get, and he’s gonna be out there every snap that he possibly can. Guys, there’s an invaluable aspect to that. I mean, there just is. You know he’s gonna be out there, and you know what you’re gonna get, so really, really pleased with him.”
Pittman did get Myles Slusher, Khari Johnson and Jayden Johnson back in the secondary for Auburn. He talked about how that trio played.
“Well, we’ve got to get better,” Pittman said. “When you don’t play for a period of time, a lot of times you’ve got to get the rust off. We have to get better. I think if you ask each and every one of those kids, they would tell you that they have to play better. I’m not telling you they played bad or anything of that nature, but I think they’re better players than what they played on Saturday, and I think they will play better.”
Arkansas will kickoff at 3 p.m. against No. 23 Liberty on Saturday in Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.