FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman has gone on the record saying he likes this football team and its work ethic.
But, as with all teams around the country this time of season, Pittman has some questions he hopes to get answered in a positive manner in coming days and weeks. Friday will mark the first day of practice.
“That’s a position … that’s the thing,” Pittman said of tight end. “The tight ends. Are we going to be serviceable? Are we going to be pretty good? Are we going to highlight them? And I don’t know what the answer is yet. But boy, they can run, they can catch and they are bigger and more physical than we’ve had at that position.
“Obviously the potential’s there at that position for us to use them. We’d like to because they can run. I believe we’ve got two or three of them that will be matchup problems for defenses if we can get them on the field.”
Pittman mentioned fans could see more two tight end sets this season. He mentioned some of the options at that position including North Texas transfer Var’Keyes Gumms.
“I don’t know that he reminds me of anybody,” Pittman said. “He’s very fast and can run. Physical guy. He can do anything. He can run, catch, block. (Luke) Hasz is now 240-something. He’s able to do that, too. (Ty) Washington got bigger. (Nathan) Bax is in there. To be honest with you, Francis (Sherman), we got because we needed an in-line blocker. We knew how aggressive he was and things of that nature.
“The guy that hadn’t been talked about that much is Shamar Easter, who is now at 220. I think he’s going to be a really, really good player, it’s just we’ll find out how fast he helps the football team. Gumms is a guy that he looks like he’s played college ball before when he goes out there and he’s running around. Again, there’s another guy that we didn’t have in the spring. A two-spot will help us out there as well.”
But Pittman has questions beyond the tight end position.
“Those things I talked about in the tight end room,” Pittman said. “Those things I talked O-line-wise. Who is our backup quarterback? Will (Jacolby) Criswell press KJ? Obviously he has the opportunity to do that. Everybody has the opportunity to press somebody. Defensively, is the D-line what I think it can be? And then where are we going at linebacker?
“I think we have the people on defense at corner, but we’ve got to figure out who our top five guys are and where they’re going to help us win the fastest. I know this is going to sound silly, but I think we’re a little deeper at corner than we are at safety. Are they better than the safeties we have back there? I don’t know. We’ve got to figure that out. Are we going to move a corner to safety? Snaxx (Lorando Johnson) would be the one I would be thinking off the top of my head that could possibly move to a Hog or something like that. But we’ve got to make sure we can man coverage at corner first.”
Pittman explained what the Hog position is.
“It’s kind of a SAM, WILL linebacker remove,” Pittman said. “Guy who can tackle and a guy who can cover.”
Pittman listed the ones who will start out at that position Friday.
“Jaylen Lewis, (AJ) Brathwaite, Jabrae Shaw, Dallas Young and Courtney Snelling,” Pittman said. “Those will be the guys at that position to start the first day.”
Pittman also talked about where some new defensive backs including Alfahiym Walcott, Kee-yon Stewart and Jaheim Singletary will play.
“So you talked about Al, he will probably be at the boundary safety,” Pittman said. “You talked about Kee-yon Stewart, he will probably be at the field corner. Singletary will probably, I don’t know, he will either be at the boundary or field corner.”
Walcott was with the team in the spring, but wasn’t able to practice due to an injury. Arkansas is now healthy entering camp minus cornerback Quincey McAdoo and offensive lineman Terry Wells.
The first practice will be Friday morning at 6:30 a.m.