FAYETTEVILLE — The SEC Teleconference was Wednesday with both Sam Pittman and Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz among the participants.
Pittman was asked about the running back situation with senior Rakeem Boyd opting out of the season on Monday.
“Well, the tailback situation looks exactly like it did last (game) against LSU, with adding Dominique Johnson,” Pittman said. “So, Trelon Smith will be our starting tailback and you have T.J. Hammonds and you have Dominque and you have (Donte) Buckner.
“The thoughts on Rakeem, he opted out, so opting out means that you’re concerned about the COVID virus and because of those concerns he opted out.”
Drinkwitz thinks the Razorbacks will be just fine with Smith.
“Well I think they’ve actually done a really nice job running the football,” Drinkwitz said. “I think Coach (Kendal) Briles does a good job of mixing it up utilizing his RPOs as well as his called runs to set up some of his explosive passing game. I think they’re very capable at that position. 22 has been an outstanding back for them all season so I mean he had an 80-yard run against Florida. So I think they’ll be just fine.”
Arkansas and Missouri were supposed to play last Saturday, but due to the COVID issues with the Hogs it wasn’t possible to play. Thus the Hogs will have basically had two weeks to prepare for the Tigers.
“Well, we’ve had more time, you know?,” Pittman said. “Obviously, we were prepared to play them last week, as they were us. Certainly, that wasn’t able to happen, so I think by the days and the time and those things, we certainly have put a lot of hours in trying to prepare and trying to familiarize ourselves with what Missouri does, what they like to do, their tendencies and their players. A lot of it has been simply because we had a little bit more downtime over the Thanksgiving break. We had a little bit of downtime, and therefore we had a little bit more time to watch film.”
The Arkansas and Missouri game has been billed a rivalry game by many. Pittman offered up his thoughts on the matchup.
“Well, it’s our crossover game every year so you know it has to be our rivalry game,” Pittman said. “I mean, it’s a game that’s on – we play an Eastern opponent and we play them every year, so certainly. It’s also a trophy game. It hasn’t been a strong rivalry over the last four years. But you know, certainly because we recruit gainst each other, the proximity is close, things of that nature, you know. The kids on both teams certainly know each other. To me that would equal being a strong rivalry game.”
Pittman has a lot of respect for the 4-3 Tigers who are coming off a very impressive 41-0 win over Vanderbilt.
“Well, we’re very exited to play Missouri,” Pittman said. “Man are they playing well. A big physical team. They’ve got a really good quarterback, a really good running back. Wideouts. I love their offensive line, very physical. Then you go on the defense. They’ve got some guys now over there on the D-line. You know I was at Georgia and had the opportunity to play Missouri every year, and they always give you fits on the defensive line. And of course Nick Bolton, in my opinion, is as good a linebacker as there is in the SEC. So they’re hot right now and they’re very well coached by Coach Drinkwitz and his staff. We’re excited to get to Columbia – however.”
Missouri has some players from Arkansas on its roster. Former Fayetteville wide receiver Barrett Banister has 16 receptions for 146 yards while his defensive lineman Akial Byers, who played at the same high school, has 10 tackles, five solo, two for loss and a quarterback hurry. Former Little Rock Parkview defensive lineman Markell Utsey has 12 tackles, 10 solo and two for loss.
Drinkwitz also talked about Bolton and Arkansas’ Grant Morgan, considered two of the better linebackers in the SEC.
“I mean they’re both tremendous linebackers,” Drinkwitz said. “They both make a lot of tackles. And you can tell leaders of the defense on both sides of the ball. You know Nick I think I’m so impressed with his life off the football field as I am his life on the football field. He shows up early, works out all the time and has a 3.4 GPA. Just does everything the right way. Has got great manners. His parents have obviously raised him the right way.
“I think the same can be said for Grant. Obviously knew Grant from my time recruiting his brother Drew when I was at Arkansas State. He’s just got great work ethic. You can tell it matters to him. I think the most impressive thing about Grant when he makes a tackle he runs back to get lined up on defense. It’s very rare to see that. Always impressed with his hustle and work ethic. He’s going to be a tough one to go against.”
Arkansas and Missouri will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday and televised on the SEC Network.