FAYETTEVILLE – As of Monday morning, Sam Pittman said it seemed his Razorbacks would be around the same amount of covid-19 coronavirus testing related absences for Saturday’s game at Missouri as they were in their 27-24 loss to LSU last Saturday in Fayetteville.
And for Saturday’s first half the absence will include Arkansas redshirt freshman star safety Jalen Catalon for the 11 a.m. SEC Network game between the 3-5 Razorbacks and 3-3 Tigers at Mizzou’s Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.
Catalon was automatically removed from the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s game with a suspension carrying through the first half of Saturday’s game in Columbia because he was ruled to have committed a targeting foul.
Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek, declaring the targeting call reviewed by both the referee and replay official, unjustified, had vowed on Twitter “I will work with the appropriate SEC Officials to make sure that this “targeting” call does not cost Jalen Catalon our next game.”
Apparently that won’t change the outcome.
“No, you can’t review those,” Pittman said when asked on his Monday Zoom press conference about Catalon’s status. “Once it goes under review if you have the appropriate amount of tape for their reviewing then whatever their call is then it stands. And you can’t petition that. You just live with it. That’s what we were told. So he will be out for the first half of the Missouri game. The video review should be able to get those calls correct. And so that was the feeling of video review that they had ample time to make the correct call on the field.”
The Razorbacks will have freshman Myles Slusher prepared to start Saturday at safety with Catalon taking over at the second half’s outset.
Apparently because of either positive covid-19 tests or through covid-19 contact tracing, the Razorbacks against LSU withheld Preseason All-SEC running back Rakeem Boyd and defensive ends Dorian Gerald, Zach Williams, Eric Gregory and Julius Coates and defensive tackles Isaiah Nichols and Xavier Kelley from the LSU game.
All seven have starred at least one game this season.
Pittman did not express optimism regarding if more than maybe one or two being cleared this week.
“Our numbers are no better than what they were Saturday,” Pittman said. “Obviously we have three tests this week. So no, they’re not any better than what they were.”
“I mean, with the tests, with injuries, concussions, there’s so much going on,” Pittman said. “Can we get a guy or two back? Sure. I think the timeline has been that we could possibly get 1-2 guys back. But then you’ve got to look into injuries, yesterday’s test and all those things. Certainly our numbers aren’t any better than what they were Saturday.”
Aside from senior tackle and defensive co-captain Jonathan Marshall, and sophomore defensive end Mataio Soli, debut starting for 2020 against LSU but regular starter last season, the Razorbacks against LSU and likely must again against Mizzou rely on novice D-linemen Taurean Carter, Marcus Miller and Enoch Jackson, all redshirt freshmen, and true freshmen Eric Thomas and Jashaud Stewart.
How did that crew grade against LSU? Did any stand out?
“ Obviously it was their first (extended) opportunity in a game,” Pittman said. “They all played very hard. There wasn’t a lot of mistakes in there but I don’t know if there would be anybody that would stand out from the game.”
While none of the young D-linemen apparently stood out, their performances last Saturday apparently fared better with Pittman than did Arkansas’ offensive line performance against LSU.
““They did not play particularly well on Saturday,” Pitman said. “It wasn’t one of our better games up front. LSU did a nice job of rotating safeties and they basically had a safety to the point of attack outside. Everything had to be stuffed back inside. We got whipped. Before that game I thought we were progressing. We’ll come back.”
With Boyd idled and receiver De’Vion Warren (knee surgery prescribed after his injury Nov. 14 against Florida) out for the season, senior running back/receiver reserve T.J. Hammonds flashed with big-time opportunities against LSU.
On two plays Hammonds dashed 21 yards as a running back and as a wide receiver caught a 51-year pass from quarterback Feleipe Franks.
Can he build on that into a bigger role?
“I think he can,” Pittman said. “He made a really nice catch across the middle, then he made a really nice run out of the backfield. We’ve always known he’s had speed and we’re proud he made those plays.”