Pittman Pleased with Spring Practices

FAYETTEVILLE – There’s a Crook in this Arkansas premature freshman football class, and the Razorbacks are all for him.

Jordan Crook, one of the 16 December high school graduates practicing with the Razorbacks this spring, continues impressing Coach Sam Pittman after three of the Razorbacks allotted 15 spring prices.

The Razorbacks worked Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday then are off until after the week of UA spring break starting after Friday’s classes. Crook, the 6-0, 227-pounder from Duncanville, Texas merited Pittman’s praise Wednesday and even was cited by Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson on Tuesday.

Certainly Jordan Crook is one  who has really stood out on defense,” Pittman said after Wednesday’s practice, ”He made some plays today as well. I love Jordan Crook. I think he’s going to be a player for us.”

Jefferson after Tuesday’s practice was asked if any young players on the defenses he practiced against stood out.

“I would say defensive wise Jordan Crook the linebacker from Duncanville, he stood out,” Jefferson said. “He plays really fast on the field. Very smart and very disciplined.”

Crook instantly ready to play would be a major linebacking depth plus since the Hogs return only bonus senior Bumper Pool among the veteran linebacking corps with Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry completing their Razorbacks careers as 2021 bonus seniors granted a year’s extra eligibility option as did all athletes participating in the covid disrupted 2020 football season.

Redshirt freshman Chris “Pooh” Paul has stood out as he did practicing last fall.

Obviously Drew Sanders, the former Alabama starter transferred to Arkansas in January, is expected to play right away.

“I think we found something with Drew Sanders and Pooh Paul,” Pittman said.

The first three practices have been conducted in shorts and less than full pads “spiders,” but have been physical nonetheless.

The physicality of the practice is certainly there,” Pittman said. “We thudded today and I thought they thudded hard. I thought they ran through tackles. Backs through that and receivers. I was really, really pleased with our first three days and the way we’re progressing.”

Some true freshmen like Crook and offensive tackle Devon Manuel  are getting right away second-team opportunities.

I think that’s the beauty of how we practice,” Pittman said. “If you are a freshman you are going to get an opportunity, especially in the spring, to play for us. We are going to find out what you can do.”

He mentioned others.

“I’ve been impressed with (running back Rashod) Dubinion,” Pittman said. “I think he’s a good football player and I think he can turn into an excellent football player. Tyrus Washington (at tight end) is coming on each and every day. On the D-line a guy who hasn’t played a lot,(redshirt freshman) Cam Ball is playing some good ball over there.”

With senior starting center Ricky Stromberg, “banged up,” in Tuesday’s practice and sitting out Wednesday, third-year sophomore Marcus Henderson has worked at first-team center.

Henderson spent the previous two years on the scout team tried up and down the O-line.

“Isn’t that something?,” Pittman said. “I think we’ve found his position. Ricky is banged up a little bit, nothing serious, he’ll be back after the break. But to get (Henderson) those reps that’s what spring ball is about.”

True freshman E’Marion Harris, recruited as a guard, has been moved to offensive tackle.

Henderson, no lightweight at 6-5, 287, is by far the lightest on the second-team offensive line which among others includes  Manuel, 6-9, 366; third-year sophomore Jalen St. John, 6-5, 334, and second-year junior transfer Ty’Kieast Crawford, 6-5, 347.

“I like big people,” Pittman, a veteran offensive line coach including 2013-2015 at Arkansas during the Bret Bielema era. “I think the first time I was here, we had the biggest line in all of football, and they were pretty good too. I think most of them played in the NFL, or maybe all of them in that starting five group. But honestly, I don’t like a stocky-looking guy, but I like a big guy with feet. And you’re right, we’re huge right now.”

Some a little too big that need to be lighter and quicker come fall, Pittman said.

Andrew Chamblee, the 6-6, 311 true freshman O-lineman from Maumelle has thrust himself on to Pittman’s radar. 

“The guy who’s probably as much improved as anybody is Andrew Chamblee,” Pittman said. “What we found out about him is he’s a little bit better in team settings than he is in individual right now. Which is, to be honest with you, a good thing.”

Of the 16 scholarship freshmen working with the Hogs this spring Pittman said, “We didn’t recruit a dud.”

Pittman said the Hogs will resume practices after spring break knowing they’ve established a base.

“Our goal was to have the three best practices we possibly could have and I think we did that,” Pittman said.

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