Sam Pittman Talks Linebacker Situation, Recruiting With Some Unknowns Going Forward

Hog Recruiting

Photo Courtesy: University of Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — One thing Sam Pittman is sure about is he will have his three standout senior linebackers at the Outback Bowl.

Beyond that, there’s some uncertainty. Both Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry are super seniors who won’t return for 2022. Bumper Pool is a senior who is eligible to return for another season in 2022, but hasn’t stated his intentions to this point.

Arkansas signed three linebackers on Wednesday at the early signing period started. The Hogs signed Duncanville (Texas) High’s Jordan Crook, 6-0, 225, Fayetteville’s Mani Powell, 6-3, 225, and Shiloh Christian’s Kaden Henley, 6-2, 225. They will play for Michael Scherer at Arkansas and all three will enroll at midterm.

“I don’t think we are done quite yet at D-line, linebacker and things off that nature,” Pittman said. “I thought Coach Scherer did a good job of signing the linebackers that he did.”

Pittman wants Pool to return and mentioned two other current linebackers he has big plans for.

“You know I like Pooh Paul (Chris Paul), I like (Andrew) Parker and it’s no secret I’m trying like crazy to keep Pool,” Pittman said. “I love this young three linebackers that we signed. We’ll see if we need to go into the portal for another guy. The portal it’s not like you’re just going to go pick a guy. The guy has got to be a good player and in my opinion he has to have played in college. I think you make big mistakes on he was a five-star in high school and didn’t go play over here. He hasn’t played in a year or two and then all of a sudden you are going to make him into something they couldn’t? Probably not going to work. I like to sign guys that I have seen play on the field in a college game. So we may do that. But I think we definitely linebacker is one of our positions that obviously we lost some good ones. That’s concerning. We feel like we have the guys on campus that can takeover and do that, but certainly that’s an unproven position overall right now.”

Paul is a true freshman while Parker is a redshirt junior. Parker had seven tackles this season, including four solo, one for loss, a sack and two quarterback hurries. Paul played in three games with the bowl being the fourth thus preserving his redshirt year. He has one tackle and an 0.5 tackle for loss.

Pool, Morgan and Henry have combined for 310 tackles this season and 25 for loss. Pittman was asked what he hopes in the bowl game as far as this trio.

“Well, I want them to go out in style,” Pittman said. “I think everyone wants their seniors to go out that way.  I’d like to see them make a lot of tackles and play lights out like they have all year and we win the game.  Bowls are fun when you win.  But those guys race to the ball, you know.  We’re keeping them fresh in there and they are all playing really well.  Certainly it’s no secret we’re going to try to get Bumper to come back.  I don’t know if we can or not  but we’re trying.  So we’ll see.”

Morgan won the Burlsworth Award and Pittman is pleased with that as well as what the former Greenwood standout has meant to the Razorbacks.

“Yeah, wasn’t that a cool program,” Pittman said. “I was very fortunate that I had an opportunity to go there. And what a just a really classy event that it was. I was so proud for Grant and his achievement there. He’ll have it forever.

“But for him to come back, like all these other super seniors, and experience winning and experience having the trophies and all that kind of stuff and then to get the Burlsworth Trophy. I’m so happy for him and he deserves everything that he’s getting.”

Pittman was asked Tuesday if any of the younger players might see an expanded role in the bowl game.

“(Wide receiver) Bryce (Stephens) would be the No. 1 guy in my mind,” Pittman said. “He needs to step up. I think he’s capable of it. We were certainly aware of his first game, so we didn’t play him so he could play in the bowl. I don’t know who else that hasn’t already played, like (Dominique) Johnson and those guys have already played. I don’t know who else would. Maybe Landon Rogers might could help us a little bit. I’m not positive there’s another one out there that I can think of that I’d go. Pooh Paul might get a little extra. I know he’ll play on special teams quite a bit more than what he has this year.”

Arkansas and Penn State will meet in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 at 11 a.m. (CT) and televised on ESPN2.

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