FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will hold a scrimmage Thursday afternoon as it holds the fifth practice of the spring.
Following today’s scrimmage, Arkansas will be off for spring break. Sam Pittman explained the plans for today’s scrimmage and practice.
“Now, what we’re going to do on Thursday, we’re going to have a segmented scrimmage,” Pittman said. “We’re going to thud, we’re going to thud, and then there’s going to be two separate situations where they get six – ones, twos and threes – get six tackles, six live reps apiece. Then there’ll be two situations like that. So, each one will get 12 reps, each two will get 12, each three will get 12 in a full, live situation. And I think we’re ready for it. We’ll find out after the sub scrimmage, but we need to, and the game’s about tackling. We need to do that, and I think the kids are excited about it.”
Pittman was asked if any veterans will be held out of the scrimmage?
“No, not this first time,” Pittman said. “We’re going to practice the first time. As it gets going on maybe take it out at different points. But this first one we’re going to play good on good.”
Pittman has said the Hogs still have some work to do when the transfer portal reopens on May 1. Among the positions he will be looking for are nickel backs, safeties and interior defensive linemen. An injury to Baylor transfer Alfahiym Walcott has caused some depth concerns at the nickel.
“Well, Al was playing nickel before he got … in the walks,” Pittman said. “So we’re really looking Al to be that guy, with J-Lew (Jaylen Lewis) and those guys. And you’re exactly right, we’re thin there right now at the nickel position.
“I think when you have the four guys that are coming in, I think we’ll have to either find another nickel or we’ll insert Al in there and that’ll help us too, when he gets back. But that’s probably, we could move a weak safety. It’s just a size factor. Some of those guys can’t go in there and play it. I think we’ll find out a little bit more about that when our other four guys get in here though. But you’re 100% right. That is the thinnest. That and D-tackle are the two thinnest spots we have.”
LaDarrius Bishop is one of the super seniors on the Razorbacks. Like Walcott he has been out with an injury. But Bishop is expected back this spring. Bishop has experience playing both cornerback and nickel.
“I think this, I think the hardest position to play out there is corner,” Pittman said. “We would certainly look at him some as corner and that allows us to take one of those corners and move him to nickel. And then we’ll look at him as nickel as well.
“I think the No. 1 thing we want to find out is who our best corners are. And then after that we’ll move to another position. But I think corner is the hardest position we have so we’ll give him the opportunity to see if he can start at corner first. And if he can’t we’ll move him into nickel.”
While Walcott has been out with an injury, the other defensive transfers have impressed. Cornerback Lorando Johnson (Baylor), linebacker Antonio Grier (South Florida), defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat (Missouri) and edge-defensive end John Morgan III (Pitt) have all impressed.
“I’ll tell you, Snaxx (Johnson) has done really well,” Pittman said. “He’s a good corner now. He’s a good football player. Grier has helped us at linebacker, and then you’ve got those two defensive ends that are really good players. Jeffcoat’s a really good player, and John Morgan is a really good player.
“So, those four. I can’t remember who else we have over there that I haven’t spoken of on defense. I’ll tell you what, Snaxx is better than what I thought he was at this point. Jeffcoat, John Morgan and Grier, they’re all going to help us a lot. They were really good gets.”
Arkansas has hit on transfers since the portal came into play. Last year, linebacker Drew Sanders and wide receiver Jadon Haselwood had career years compared to what they had accomplished at Alabama and Oklahoma. Matt Landers, Feleipe Franks and countless others have enjoyed tremendous success at Arkansas under Pittman and his staff.
“We try not to evaluate much on high school tape,” Pittman said. “We try to get it off what they’re doing and basically see their athletic ability and try to get to know them to find out if they’ll fit in our program. We’ve had a lot of success with guys who might not be having the success that they wanted at their prior school, and they come here, and they’re doing really well. We’ve just got to keep hitting, but it has been a lot of fun to see these guys come in the program, and these kids accept them, and they earn their way to whatever position they’re at right now.”
Two players currently on the team who can help with the depth issues at the defensive tackle spots along with Cameron Ball are Taurean Carter and Eric Gregory with both coming off injuries.
“Well Eric we held him a little bit in team situations today just because he’s not playing as fast as what we feel like he’s capable of doing,” Pittman said. “So we tried to hold him and maybe get him a little more healthy. He went through indy and things like that, but in a team situation we’re trying to hold him and see if we can’t get him to Thursday.”
Carter was injured very early in the spring game last April and missed the entire 2022 season. He was probably Arkansas’ best interior defensive lineman before the injury.
“Tauren, I love Taurean Carter, he came up to me as we were getting ready to do pods and he said, ‘Coach, I’m not going to lie to you I’m a little nervous,'” Pittman said. “So they did what we call Hog Drill. One of the defensive guys was blocking basically and another defensive guy slung him and he landed on kind of on that knee. I was watching him. I think he was kind of testing it and things of that nature.
“To be honest with you I asked him about it today and he said it was exactly what he needed. He needed that hit on there and he was fine the rest of the way. He has been playing well. I love him and I’m so proud. We mentioned that in our team meeting about he had been long way back and has been doing a really good job. Survived the first day of pads. I think he’s going to be a really good player for us. I think you are going to play a little slow coming back from that ACL at the beginning sort of like Landon Jackson did last year. But I think he’s going to be fine. I’m really happy for him.”
Arkansas’ spring game will be Saturday, April 15, at noon.