FAYETTEVILLE — The NCAA ruled that all seniors can come back in 2021 regardless if they play this fall or not and Sam Pittman hopes to get some of his back to Arkansas.
Among the seniors that Pittman would love to have back is wide receiver De’Vion Warren. Pittman was asked Thursday if he would like to have Warren back for another year?
“Heck yeah, I mean, he’s one of our better players,” Pittman said. “We’ll take him back. I look up here on this board and there’s a whole bunch of them I’d like to come back. You look at it as more experience. You know when some of the teams are losing third-year juniors and we’re getting sixth-year seniors, it should make a difference, maybe allow a little faster catch-up for us. Certainly we have a lot of seniors we’d love to come back, him being one of them.”
Warren, who has caught 11 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns, was asked about possibly coming back earlier this week and if he had given it any thought?
“I have and haven’t, but that’s up to God all above to see where he takes me,” Warren said. “I would love to be back if Coach Pittman wanted me. We’ll have to see how things go.”
In the past seasons, Warren was known as more of a kick returner than receiver. Is Pittman surprised by how Warren has performed at wide receiver?
“Well, he hasn’t really surprised me because I didn’t know nothing about him when I came in,” Pittman said. “So he’s just a guy I knew was dynamic with the ball in his hands. Now, he has gotten quite a bit better since we’ve been here. He’s gotten quite a bit better. He can separate. That’s the thing. On his breaks, in that slot position, you have to be able to separate on cuts and he can do that. He can get separation because he’s quick. Probably quicker than he is fast. I’ve just been impressed with him the way he catches the ball. We can rely on him catching the football and then once he does, he has ability to make people miss.”
Warren talked about now being known as a wide receiver in addition to kick returner.
“It’s been really good,” Warren said. “Like I said before it’s just me being able to maximize my chance. I had been dealing with injuries that hindered me in the receiving room. I just had to step up and take my chances and make the best of my chance.”
Warren also talked about what he feels is the reason for the breakthrough at this time in his career.
“Just having the confidence in myself and getting the opportunity and maximizing the opportunity,” Warren said. “Not taking things for granted. This could be my last time playing football, period. So I just take every chance I get and try to maximize it.”
What does it mean to you to be doing this at this point of your career?
“It means a lot,” Warren said. “People who’ve been here for a while have been through a lot of things. And people that are getting their chance, it’s great to see. That’s what it is. To think about all the hard work you’ve put in over the years and all the chances you didn’t get back then you actually are getting now. So we’re just making sure we maximize those chances. All of us.”
When Treylon Burks was injured Warren was filling in for him. When Burks returned the Hogs opted to keep Warren in the lineup. Has anything changed with you starting?
“We just go back off the week,” Warren said. ” We see who’s outside, who’s inside. There’s really no changes. We just go off the play call and see where that takes us, really.”
Senior quarterback Feleipe Franks was asked if he’s surprised with the way Warren is playing?
“No, I think De’Vion – just like I was saying before about the other receivers in the group – he works hard, extremely hard out there in practice,” Franks said. “I’m a big believer in consistency. If you go out there and practice something day in and day out, it’s going to show up on Saturdays and you can see his consistent catches, consistent plays being made that people on our team are expecting him to make. They do a great job communicating with me, telling me what they see. It’s just a really great collaborative effort with all the receivers and me as well, and the quarterbacks just communicating what they see. De’Vion specifically does a great job, obviously a great player. I don’t know how it was here before, but from what I’ve seen, a wonderful player and does what he’s supposed to on and off the field, to put it that way.”
How big was the way he filled in for Burks when he was injured?
“I think it’s always great to be prepared, no matter if you’re first-, second-, third-, fourth-string,” Franks said. “It doesn’t matter, you should always be prepared. When he got his opportunity, he went out there and shined. He was doing everything he does every day at practice, being consistent. When his name got called, he went out there and he showed up big and he still continues to do so. It’s important to always stay ready.”
Warren and the Hogs will be in College Station on Saturday night to face Texas A&M. Arkansas has lost some heartbreakers to the Aggies. How big would a win be on Saturday?
“It would be great,” Warren said. “The last time we played them we made mistakes but going into the game we are preparing to win. It would mean a great deal. We are going to give it our best to go in and be the best team we can be. We’ve got to go in and focus on playing the best ball that Arkansas can play.”
Even A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher has noticed Warren standing out at wide receiver this fall.
“I watch a lot of offensive tape, special teams tape, I watch everything,” Fisher said. “I like to see what the other teams are doing, what they do well and what our defense is facing because as a head coach, you’ve got to be a part of all of it.
“Usually a lot of your great return guys, they’re great return guys because they have great run skills with the ball. Those guys that can get the ball in their hands and do things of that nature, sometimes it takes them learning how to run routes or things like that. Sometimes those guys might have been running backs who were moved there or ex-high school quarterbacks (Warren was QB in high school) or things like that. I don’t know his story on that. But usually those guys, you can get the ball in their hands and the way today’s passing game and the screen game, the quick game, the drags and all those things, they really can emerge as a wide out. Plus those return guys have speed, so those guys usually develop into very good receivers.”
Fisher has noticed Warren, Burks and Mike Woods.
“Oh yeah, I have some,” Fisher said. “He has made plays. Their big slot makes a ton of plays (Burks), 8 (Woods) makes a lot of plays for them. But like I say, you get focused on those guys, but when you really look around, they distribute the ball very evenly and can make plays with the football.”
Arkansas and Texas A&M will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night with the game shown on the SEC Network.