FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt freshman linebacker Chris “Pooh” Paul jr. is set to take on an increased role with the expected absence of an injured Bumper Pool.
Paul will likely start Friday’s game against Missouri. Paul enters the game with 41 tackles, 26 solo, seven for loss, four sacks, two quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Following Tuesday’s practice, Paul talked about what has led to his very successful season.
“Watching extra film with Coach (Michael Scherer), with Bump and Drew (Sanders),” Paul said. “Just being confident in my D-line, knowing they’re going to do their jobs and open up ways for me to get there. Those plays for losses, I wouldn’t be able to do those without my D-line creating separation and creating those open gaps. Going into those games, I knew that my defensive line studied film just as hard, they practiced their butts off throughout the week. So I just knew those holes were going to open up for me.”
With Pool battling injuries much of the season and only worsening as the year progressed, Paul has played more reps than one would expect from someone who isn’t the starter.
“I feel like I’ve been doing a great job,” Paul said. “I’ve been holding my own weight. With the help of Bump and Drew, that’s really helped me out on the field to get comfortable. Being out there on the field this year and playing, I’ve been listening to those veteran guys who have actually been in those type situations with big crowds. They showed me how to maneuver myself and know how to play with confidence. That’s really helped me out this year.”
Paul will now step into a starter’s role opposite Sanders. It will not only be a starting role, but at a place the Hogs haven’t ever won in the SEC.
“Bump did a great job teaching my everything, so I feel very confident,” Paul said. “I feel very confident in my teammates. I know they’re going to know what to do with the schemes and the play-calling and things like that. Playing beside a great linebacker like Drew makes me even more comfortable. I’m ready for this game.”
Paul talked what he expects from Missouri on Friday.
“Two great football teams going at each other,” Paul said. “Great rivalry and a lot of history between the two schools.”
Sanders isn’t concerned that Paul will be asked to carry an increased load against the Tigers.
“These past few games Bump and Pooh have played about the same amount of plays,” Sanders said. “He’s done a great job stepping in. Bumper always did what Bumper does, he’s a great player. But we expect Pooh to step in. He does great things as well.”
Sanders also commented on Paul’s ability to pressure the quarterback.
“Pooh has done a great job especially affecting the passer,” Sanders said. “He’s extremely explosive and it’s hard to block that. He gets around the blocker and being able to attack the quarterback like that he has done a great job.”
Paul also explained what has led to his success pressuring the quarterback resulting in lost yardage plays.
“Just working hard throughout the offseason and even during the season working on explosion and things like hand placement,” Paul said. “Just little things like that helped me out and got me to places I needed to be.”
Paul played in four games in 2021 and thus retained his redshirt. He played behind Pool, Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry.
“Last year helped me out a lot,” Paul said. “The reason I say that I was sitting behind three veteran guys who were All-Americas and veterans of the game. Sitting behind them and watching them really helped me out this year. As I was telling my dad the other day sitting behind those guys really helped me have a lot of success this year.”
Arkansas and Missouri will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on Friday and televised on CBS.