FAYETTEVILLE – Other than Friday’s walkthrough, the Razorbacks wrapped their first game-week “with a good series of practices,” Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said even before Thursday’s practice.
“I’m already counting that one but we’ve had a good series of practices to this point,” Pittman told media in Thursday afternoon’s Zoom conference before Thursday’s closed light practice commenced.
Arkansas opens its entirely SEC 10-game season as a 26-points underdog hosting Coach Kirby Smart’s nationally No. 4 reigning SEC East champion Georgia Bulldogs at 3 p.m. Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on the SEC Network.
“Heading into the Georgia week I think we have confidence,” Pittman said.
Implying he has fingers crossed that results of Thursday’s COVID-19 tests will bear his optimism, Pittman said, “We’re fairly healthy as a football team. We’re just really excited about going and playing. I feel good about our numbers. And yes, there will be some guys that won’t be able to play. But I feel good about our numbers and where we are right now with COVID.”
First-year Arkansas Coach Pittman, coached Georgia’s offensive line from 2016-2019 for Smart after coaching Arkansas’ offensive line from 2013-2015 for Bret Bielema.
The two have expressed their mutual respect throughout the week.
Pittman was asked Thursday if sleeping at night becomes all the more difficult as after 26 years coaching offensive lines his major college head coaching debut approaches.
“Two nights ago, I woke up real, real early and I haven’t slept as well as what I did earlier,” Pittman said.” Obviously that happened as an assistant coach but it didn’t happen on a Tuesday night. It happened more towards Thursday, Friday. Just anxious. Obviously I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I’m nervous about this thing, that thing. I’m just anxious to get our football team out there. I’m proud of them and want to see where we are to this point.”
At least one is at Ground Zero. Jerry Jacobs, a starting cornerback and graduate transfer via Arkansas State, will shed his No. 8 that receiver Mike Woods also wears for the new 0 number the NCAA allows for the first time.
“Jerry got it by default,” Pittman said. “We had him and Mike Woods wearing the same jersey and they’re also starting on one of our special teams. So I sat them down and said, ‘Hey, man, we’re not going to play this musical chairs where you put a jersey on when you go in. We can’t afford to do that. So one of y’all has to change.’ Jerry said, ‘Is zero available still?’ I said, ‘Yeah. You’re a senior, you got it.”
A.J. Reed, the place-kicking graduate transfer from Duke, starts the game concerned only with field goals and PAT’s.
Freshman Vito Calvaruso will kick off.
George Caratan, the punter transferred from Michigan, has drawn rave reviews but incumbent punter Sam Loy, the former Vanderbilt punter, apparently has well enough of late to be listed with Caratan as an “either-or” starter. Also listed starting either-or are junior Dalton Wagner and Noah Gatlin at right offensive tackle, redshirt freshman Hudson Henry and true freshman Blayne Toll at tight end, and at defensive tackle third-year sophomore Isaiah Nichols and Xavier Kelly, the graduate transfer via Clemson.