Special Teams, Blocked Punts Cause For Concern With Sam Pittman

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FAYETTEVILLE — After three games in a row with solid play from the special teams the issues once again came up at Georgia on Saturday.

The Hogs had a punt blocked for a touchdown and two kickoff return happenings forced Arkansas to start deep in its territory two times in a row. Sam Pittman has now seen the Hogs get four punts blocked in two years. He talked about that on Monday.

“We changed our protection from a year ago, and Scott (Fountain) went and studied with a lot of different people,” Pittman said. “We tried to simplify it to be honest with you. The one versus Rice was just, we didn’t block out on a guy. He wasn’t trying to block it. He just wasn’t blocked and he ran in there and blocked the punt. That was just a mental error.

“The one Saturday, basically they had what we call the hog, and he was on our zone side, and he came on the snap of the ball back to our man side. Which basically what happened, it made us out-numbered. To be honest with you, there were two things that happened. We got beat at right guard and the right guard, his man kind of ran into our personal protector, which basically meant we hit half of the guy coming in to block the punt. Our punter also was outside of the wedge, of the protection. And he’s got to stay inside that protection, because we’re blocking inside-out on that.”

Pittman knows despite trying to make the protection more simple the team still has had those two punts blocked this season. Pittman said the blocked punts can’t continue.

“So the bottom line is, we adjusted on it, but we can’t get a punt blocked and then go to adjustments,” Pittman said. “So we’re going to change a little bit of things that we’re doing just to make sure. And Scott and I have talked about it, and I said, ‘We just cannot have another blocked punt.’ It’s just crushing us, and he knows that, and I know that. The whole fans know that. 

“But we have to be ready for looks that we haven’t seen and that we’re sound in whatever that is. So we’re going to do something a little bit different this week and see if that can’t get us to where we don’t have one blocked.”

Arkansas also had a new kickoff returner against Georgia. True freshman AJ Green was the deep man. Pittman talked about when he wants his returner to bring it back or do a fair catch.

“I think it all depends like, I don’t if at the game y’all felt the same thing I did,” Pittman said. “We were coming into return. We wanted to return anything that is one yard deep or better. So if we’re one yard deep we’re bringing it out. We usually stand on the goal line and if he steps back one step we’ll let him bring it out. But I don’t if you felt it I did that first kickoff was in the air forever. So immediately, I think we brought it back to the 17- or 18-yard line, and immediately I went to Scott and said we’ve got to fair catch everything. They’re going to make us return the football with this height. I counted seven guys at the 25-yard line when we caught the ball. Well, I mean, they’re running full speed and we’re not. So that was a deal where he had kicked most of his out so they went into that first part kicking high ball, timing ball, one that you could return.”

Pittman talked about what happened on the second return when he had asked for a fair catch.

“So immediately we went into we wanted to fair catch the rest of them because we knew the 25-yard line is going to be a lot better than the 17 or 18 and unfortunately AJ dropped it,” Pittman said. “He was a freshman as well. You know I think a lot of times when you talk about things sometimes it’s perceived as an excuse. It’s not an excuse. He’s a freshman. He hasn’t been back in that situation enough and he dropped the ball. That’s not an excuse, that’s the truth. I wish he hadn’t dropped it and he wishes he wouldn’t dropped it. We got the ball on the seven at that point and time of the game and you are like, ‘Oh Lord we don’t need the ball on the seven down here.’ We’re back in that end zone area where we can’t hear. It was unfortunate, but we had made a switch on what we were going to do and that’s what we tell them.”

Arkansas will return to the practice fields today.

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