Hogs practice in pads

Razorback junior offensive lineman Ty’Kieast Crawford (53) sets up to pass block at practice in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — The Hogs put on pads for the first time on Thursday. Following Thursday’s practice, Pittman talked about how it went considering it was the first day for full pads.

“All I want to do is tell the truth, and I do,” Sam Pittman said. “It’s hard for me sometimes on injuries and things of that nature, I get it, but if we had a terrible practice, I’d say it. But this was a wonderful practice. We got a lot of things accomplished. It was our first day in full pads. We did third-and-1, we had a low red area, we did goal line situations, we did 2-point conversion prep today, team run, just a lot of things. It was a loaded practice, physical practice. We did pocket pass protection.

“Two days ago I thought we really had some good individual linebacker-running back drills in pass protection that helped us tremendously on both sides of the ball. We had the tight ends and the D-ends doing the same thing. Of course the O-line and D-line were working one-on-ones at that point, but I think it really helped us. We were concerned a little bit about, which you always are, field goal protection early in the year. We had an individual period today in pods, tight ends, wings, interior, tight ends and wings on the other side. All those things, I thought our coaching staff did a wonderful job today in preparing that. The kids took advantage of the day off, they were really good-spirited, understanding how to practice against each other. For the most part, doing a really good job of staying up.”

One position that is taking a hit with injuries is the defensive tackles. The junior college transfer Taylor Lewis and redshirt freshman Cameron Ball are both out and now former Warren standout Marcus Miller joins them on the sideline.

“It is disappointing because he works so hard and he was doing well,” Pittman said. “But you’re looking at a, I believe, and I mean this, I believe that he’ll be back no later than when school starts. So I think he’ll have two weeks before the Cincinnati game. He had a little clean-out in his knee and that was it. Marcus had been having a good 3-4 days, he’s got a good attitude that serves him well, so I anticipate him being back probably the first day of school.”

Pittman was naturally asked if he’s concerned about depth at defensive tackle since that was one of the positions that concerned him from the start?

“Sure we are,” Pittman said. “The thing about that is, we can move (Eric) Gregory inside, which you guys have been out there, we’ve done that a little bit. So you have him, Nic (Isaiah Nichols). And then I’ll tell you who’s come on a little bit is Nico Davillier. We’ve moved, because of these injuries, we’ve moved him inside. Terry Hampton has been a blessing for us. He’s really done a nice job in there. So, I think it’ll benefit us whenever all of those guys come back, but Cam was playing well in, I think it was practice 3, he went through the whole practice, then had the situation after the practice. But, those injuries there last, I don’t know how long, anywhere from 7-10 days, and that’s all three of them. So I’m really concerned about why we would have that happen at this point with skull caps and all that stuff. We didn’t have three in spring ball.”

The media got to see the first five periods of the practice, but it was closed the remainder of the way including the vast majority of team stuff. Pittman was asked if they tackled to the ground?

“No, I don’t know what I’m going to do there, yet,” Pittman said. “I really haven’t decided what we’re going to do exactly in the scrimmage yet. We are doing some tackling, but not against each other. Obviously individual, we’re starting to take our teach period and turn that into half of that teach into tackling. We’ve got a good football team, I believe we’ve got a pretty good ball club. We don’t quite have the depth that maybe some of the other programs in our conference do, so I’m trying to figure out, we’ll talk about it as a staff tonight and then tomorrow try to figure out exactly what we want to do on Saturday. But we’ve never tackled in practice, except for the young guys, unless it was a scrimmage.”

Pittman declined to single out any one or two players who stood out in the team stuff, but did give credit to one side of the football.

“We went through a series there of blitz and fourth, and I thought that the defense was wanting to get to the ball worse than we wanted to keep them away from the ball in those two periods,” Pittman said. “I felt that, then I think we kind of bounced back a little bit on offense in the tempo period, the red area period, down there in third down, in short. Certainly the offense didn’t win every one of them but I think they competed a little bit harder in blitz and fourth. I felt like the defense wanted to get to the ball worse than we wanted to keep them away, and of course we talked to them about that.”

This is Pittman’s third season at Arkansas and he has a record of 12-11 which is even much more impressive when one takes into consideration the first year was a 10-game all-SEC schedule with the league office assigning them Georgia and Florida as the two additional opponents. He talked about what, if anything, he has learned about some of his players in the practices today.

“Well, I think we’ve got good leadership,” Pittman said. “We’ve got good leadership on defense, especially coming out of the secondary. I feel like we’ve found a few more corners. I thought Drew Sanders was a good player and he is. D-line, Terry Hampton has come on and is really going to help us, that’s a guy we didn’t know anything about coming in. On offense, most of the guys were here. I think Isaiah Sategna is going to be a good player. I don’t know when, but it could be Cincinnati, it could be next year, I don’t know. But he’s done a really good job, caught a nice ball today for a touchdown. (Jake) Bates is a really good kicker. I mean, a really good kicker. So is Cam Little. But they’re both really good kickers. And (punter) Max (Fletcher) is kind of settled in a little bit. There’s good competition there with Max and Reid (Bauer).”

Junior Ty’Kieast Crawford is still pushing Dalton Wagner at right tackle. Pittman was asked if Crawford is making a big push as expected?

Devon’s (Manuel) beat up a little bit,” Pittman said. “Manuel. So, he’s beat up. He practiced, but he’s not full, full. He will be. Right now, we have Ty’Kieast. And Ty’Kieast is going to play, now. He’s a good football player. He’s not beat out Dalton Wagner out, yet, but he’s going to play. And let me say this. If he does, Wagner’s going to play, too. Those seven are really having a really, really good camp. Obviously we know (center Marcus) Henderson is not out there right now even though he’s getting back close.”

Pittman went on to talk more about the offensive line where he had four starters return.

“I like the young (Patrick) Kutas kid,” Pittman said. “He’s a really good player for us. Probably those seven or eight guys, along with E’Marion Harris. You know, we’ve moved him from tackle to guard. I told Cody (Kennedy) we probably oughta slow down on that. But with injuries, he can play both sides, so you’re kind of piecing him. We’re keeping him right now on the right side, but we’re piecing him at guard and at tackle, which eventually will help him. It’s not helping him right now, it’ll help him more in the game. But those are kind of the guys.

“Chamblee, he’s playing with the two’s now. Devon Manuel is beat up a little bit, so Andrew is playing a lot with the two’s right now. He’s going to be a good player, too. Once we get healthy, I think we’re going to have at least three tackles, three guards and a whole bunch of centers. Beaux (Limmer), Ricky (Stromberg), Luke (Jones), Henderson, whole bunch of them. Kutas can play as well. They handle the ball every snap, so you’ve got to have a whole bunch of them. Cody believes that as well.”