Pittman

Razorback head football coach Sam Pittman disagrees with a call made during the game against Ole Miss on Nov. 19.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ Sam Pittman provided some personnel updates on Friday in his first meeting with the media prior to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

One bit of news that he revealed is that redshirt junior safety Jalen Catalon will not be entering the 2023 NFL Draft or returning to Arkansas.

“I had a talk with him today,” Pittman said. “I think he’s leaning towards going into the portal. I don’t believe that he has yet, or anything of that nature. But I know from my conversation with him today that he was leading towards going into the portal.”

Catalon was one of Arkansas’ captains this season, but suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener against Cincinnati. He had an outstanding career at Arkansas despite battling injuries much of the time. He has played in 21 games with 16 starts. He was a first-team preseason All-America with Phil Steele this season and projected to be a top-10 safety in the NFL Draft. Catalon had eight tackles against the Bearcats in the season opener. Pittman revealed maybe the reasoning behind Catalon’s upcoming decision.

“He’ll have to tell you, but I think he just wants a fresh start,” Pittman said. “I talked to him about if he was going to leave here, if he wanted my advice, I would just declare for the NFL and give it that type of chance. But he had a different view on it. Whatever he wants to do, we’ll be fine with it. As of my conversation this morning with him, I think that’s probably where he’s leaning. I just don’t know if he’s gone in yet.”

With Jadon Haselwood entering the 2023 NFL Draft and Ketron Jackson hitting the transfer portal the Hogs are missing two starters at wide receiver for the bowl game. In addition, starting tight end Trey Knox has also entered the transfer portal. Matt Landers is back for his final game at Arkansas as he’s out of eligibility following the bowl. Pittman talked about others KJ Jefferson will have to throw to in the game.

“Well, he’s got (Sam) Mbake and he has Bryce Stephens and he’s got Jaedon Wilson,” Pittman said. “And let me think, young guys, (Isaiah) Sategna. We’re a little short there in numbers and in playing experience. We went out and won the Outback Bowl last year without (Treylon) Burks. We did not just light it up in the air as well. I think we were around 100 yards. But it’s time. Landon Rogers.

“It’s time for these guys. Chris Harris is a guy that can go. Harper Cole. It’s time for these guys. We talked about it being next year and I know we’ve got a couple of young guys coming in and certainly we have to go in the portal there, not necessarily to put these guys on the bench. We don’t have very many on scholarship.”

Pittman also provided some good news on true freshman tight end Tyrus Washington and mentioned who else will replace Knox.

“So there and of course Hudson Henry is going to play in the bowl,” Pittman said. “And (Nathan) Bax. And we found out today – or yesterday, that the NCAA passed a rule with Tyrus Washington to where your fifth game would not count towards your eligibility number. So he’ll be able to play. Which we were holding him at four, so he’ll be able to active and play as well. It’s a great rule, especially with the numbers are down probably for a lot of teams. So I think that was a great rule.”

With Drew Sanders entering the 2023 NFL Draft and opting out of the game along with Bumper Pool having surgery the Hogs will need two new linebackers. Obviously Chris “Pooh” Paul started the Missouri game and will be one of the starters. True freshman Jordan Crook is set to likely make his first start according to Pittman.

“You know I think Mani Powell would be a guy, certainly,” Pittman said. “Brooks Both is a guy as well. (Jackson) Woodard has played special teams all the time, so he’ll have to move up to that three or four linebacker spot. So you’ve got Pooh and Crook and those two guys and with Mani Powell and Woodard those would be probably your four guys there. And of course Kaden Henley’s going to have to step up as well.”

Both is a redshirt sophomore from Harrison who came to Arkansas as a preferred walk-on recruit. Crook and Woodard both played in all 12 games and each had five tackles.

Arkansas and Kansas will meet in the bowl game on Dec. 28 with kickoff set for 4:30 p.m. and televised on ESPN.

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