Sam Pittman Praises Some Younger Players Following Outstanding Performances in Spring Game

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Photo Courtesy: University of Arkansas Athletics

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September 20 2021 05:00 am

FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman heaped praise on plenty of the older players following Saturday’s Red-White game, but also had good things to say about several of the younger ones as well.

Redshirt sophomore walk-on wide receiver John David White caught five passes for 87 yards including a 24-yard touchown. Following the game, Pittman was asked if he sees a role for White on this team?

“I do,” Pittman said. “Don’t you like him? I mean, I love him. He can separate in his routes, he catches, he blocks, he’s tough. There’ll certainly be a place for him because he’s earned that. I like him. I’m glad you asked the question.”

White is from Pulaski Academy and turned down scholarship offers to attend Arkansas. His father, David, was an outstanding golfer at Arkansas. His brother, Zac, is a member of the No. 1-ranked Razorback baseball team.

In addition, Redshirt freshman running back Dominique Johnson rushed six times for 59 yards. At 6-foot-1, 240-pounds Johnson fits the bill of a big running back for the Hogs. Most of Arkansas’ other backs are smaller, speedy types so does Pittman see Johnson getting into the rotation this fall?

“I think he has to,” Pittman said. “He’s the big back. He’s the big back that we have. Obviously Rocket Sanders is another guy we’re trying to groom to be a bigger back out there, but when he turns his shoulders and goes downhill, he’s hard to bring down in the short area. We certainly hope that he will factor into that. Trelon (Smith), we didn’t play much today, but that was planned.”

True freshman linebacker Chris “Pooh” Paul led all tacklers in the game with eight. He had three solo and 0.5 tackle for loss. Pittman took notice.

“Well, just a young guy,” Pittman said. “I mean, the older guys did what we expected them to do for the most part. I thought Pooh Paul stood out a little bit. He made a lot of tackles out there. For a young freshman, I thought he did a nice job.”

A couple of other younger players played at different spots on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore Eric Gregory, as he has done some all spring, played at defensive tackle instead of his normal end spot. Sophomore Myles Slusher switched from safety to cornerback for the game. Slusher finished with five tackles, including three solo, and two pass breakups (both near interceptions). Gregory had two tackles.

“Well, basically what we wanted to do today because of splitting the teams, it just gave us a really good opportunity to look at both of those kids at a different position,” Pittman said. “Now we have looked at them in practice a little bit, but not a lot. We put them out there, certainly they’ve practiced there before. But we wanted to put Gregory inside to see how he looks. Certainly Slush could be a corner for us too. We know he’s a great athlete and we want to give him as many opportunities to get on the field as we can. We felt like giving him a look at corner would tell us a little bit more about him.”

Pittman left the field Saturday feeling very confident about the 15 practices this spring.

“Very pleased, yes,” Pittman said. “I don’t think we had a bad practice. That doesn’t have anything to do with me. That has to do with the assistant coaches and our players. I don’t think we had a bad practice, and I think we moved forward each day, and I love this football team. I love them because of the way they come to work every day. Yeah, we got better. We’ll get better and we’ll continue to get better just because of the character of the kids we have on our team.”

The Hogs will open the season on Saturday, Sept. 4 at home against Rice.

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