FAYETTEVILLE — As if preparing for the University of Georgia or an all-SEC schedule wasn’t enough, Sam Pittman also has to sweat out the results of three COVID-19 tests each week.
Following Friday’s practice, Pittman talked about the testing protocols in place.
“We’re in game week last week,” Pittman said. “We started with game week protocol. So you test on Sunday and you’ll get your results back on sometime Monday. It could be in the afternoon or it could be in the evening. You test Wednesday same thing you’ll get the results back on Thursday. It could be in the afternoon or could be in the evening. Friday is what they call rapid test and that’s supposed to be a 15-minute return on negative or positive. So we went through that this week. We tested obviously the rapid test today and then we’ll turn around and test Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the remainder 11 weeks.”
Now obviously every school is having to deal with the same issues, but Pittman is in his first year as head coach and is having a hard time catching a break. With so much uncertainty even up until Friday prior to the game, Pittman admitted he almost has to prepare everyone to start or play.
“You’re exactly right,” Pittman said. “I think we have plenty of offense, plenty of defense in. We’re trying to fine tune what we’re going to do against the University of Georgia. The virus is obviously real and you have to adjust. We test three times a week, so there have been some adjustments made. You’re right. You have to be able to play different guys at different positions to make sure by game time you have your best 11 out there at one time.”
The offensive line is an area that Pittman obviously hopes to have a full stable available, but feels if not they will adjust.
“I think we’ll be fine there,” Pittman said. “Obviously, we have three more tests for COVID. But I think we’re sitting in good shape there to put a quality offensive line out there. Certainly that’s what we’re expecting. But you continue to test each week, and that can certainly adjust who’s out there. But I think we have enough depth there that is something did happen, we’d be in pretty good shape.”
On Friday, the SEC issued some minimum requirements for each school to play.
“We talked in the head coaches meeting about 7 O-lineman, 4 D-lineman, a quarterback and 53 scholarship squad minimal,” Pittman said. “Those will all be minimal requirements to play. I feel very, very confident we’ll be able to do that. We have three more test, but we’re very confident our kids will be able to quarantine themselves and stay in this bubble we’ve been staying in and get to the game.”
Pittman also talked about what the requirements are for someone to play on Saturday who is just coming off the quarantine list.
“Basically the NCAA put in a percentile, if you will, where they have to be back by Wednesday to go play in the game if they tested positive,” Pittman said. “Now, if you’re in quarantine, you basically can come back on Friday before the game. I don’t know that you’ll get a lot of productivity out of a guy that didn’t practice the entire week and came back Friday. For me, certainly I wish the latest would be Tuesday. Depending on the individual as far as skill level, maturity, things of that nature. How well does he know the offense, defense, special teams depending on what position he plays. Probably Wednesday would be the latest, but I’ve never seen really great players come back on a Thursday and play up to their potential on a Saturday. So, the long answer is I’d like them to be back on Tuesday.”
Pittman was asked if in a cost-saving move the team will not stay in a hotel off campus on Friday prior to the game?
“We’re going to go stay in a hotel,” Pittman said. “I think part of that is that you’re in a bubble, you’re quarantining them all there together. The idea was, basically you know where everybody’s at the night before the game. You can talk football with them, you can get the right nutrition in them and things of that nature. But the bottom line is you’re probably going to have to give them each their own room. You really wouldn’t want to give two guys in the same room, because if the test came back, certainly you’d have to quarantine the other one. There’s a lot that goes into that. Like we talked about the bus, the travel and the travel on the plane, and obviously the rooming situation. So, we’d like to get them out there, get them by themselves, that way if something down the road did happen, you wouldn’t have to lose three or four guys on one positive test.”
While the team will stay in a hotel off campus on Friday night before the game, but getting to the stadium and going onto the field will be different.
“Yeah, we’re going to have extra buses,” Pittman said. “For home games, you’re not going to be on that bus very long at all, but we’ll certainly have extra buses. We had a mock game, so our team knows that there’s not going to be any A out there or Hog Walk. We tried to do exactly what we’re going to do coming next Saturday. It’s disappointing. It’s disappointing for the fans, it’s disappointing for the band. It’s disappointing for certainly our players. Heck, it’s disappointing for me as a coach, you know? Everybody likes game day. It’s disappointing for the tailgaters, you know? I get it. But when we all come back and get together, it’ll be that much more satisfying, I think. We have addressed that with the football team.”
Arkansas and Georgia will kickoff at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.