Pittman talks preparations for South Carolina

Razorback sophomore kicker Cam Little (#29) from Moore, OK kicks a field goal against Cincinnati Saturday afternoon at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, AR.

By Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Before Wednesday’s practice prepping for Saturday’s 11 a.m. on ESPN SEC opener against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said, “We just completed a very big, physical game against Cincinnati and we’re a little beat up right now.”

So beat up from last Saturday’s 31-24 victory over the then 23rd-ranked Bearcats that Pittman maybe altered his usual Game Two practice routine preparing for Coach Shane Beamer’s also 1-0 Gamecocks?

“None,” Pittman replied. “It didn’t alter us at all. We have to practice like we practice. We have to get guys ready. Between Week 1 and Week 2 is a lot, a lot of emphasis on your own team and what you can get better at and what each player can get better at. To me, without going full speed and doing it with pads and those things, to me you can’t get the ultimate value of what you just learned the previous Saturday.”

Arkansas All-American safety Jalen Catalon and starting nickel back Myles Slusher were both injured vs. Cincinnati and apparently were getting treatments when the Razorbacks practiced  before early portion media viewing Monday and Tuesday.

Latavious Brini, the transfer from 2021 national champion Georgia, sophomore Jayden Johnson and second-year via Penn State transfer Trent Gordon variously filled in off the bench in the secondary  against Cincinnati.

Junior third-team cornerback Khari Johnson has been promoted to work this week at safety and nickel.

“Guys that are coming in there playing for some guys that are a little banged up, they needed those reps,” Pittman said.

Of versatile 2-year letterman Johnson, Pittman said, “We know he’s a good player.”

A different Johnson, junior running back Dominique Johnson, practiced in pads Tuesday without a  green no-contact jersey for the first time since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in a in a knee during Arkansas’ New Year’s Day Outback Bowl victory over Penn State.

Might Johnson, 575 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns last season, work into the running backs rotation of Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, a game-leading 117 yards on 20 carries against Cincinnati, and AJ Green and Rashod Dubinion?

“I still think it’s up in the air whether we’ll play him or not this week,”Pittman said.  “But I think he certainly has improved over the last week and a half. We’ll just have to see how he feels.”

There’s been so much talk about Cincinnati’s physicality it seems sometimes forgotten that the Razorbacks proved themselves the tougher team.

It’s not lost on Beamer.  Especially when he viewed film of Arkansas’  huge offensive line vs. Cincinnati’s defensive line.

“One, big, physical offensive line,”Beamer said on 

Wednesday’s SEC Coaches teleconference. “You watch some of the plays from the Cincinnati game,  there’s times on offense where if you just pause the video, you literally can’t see anyone on the front seven from Cincinnati..”

He explained why.

“Because they’ve got two double teams that are covering up the two defensive tackles and then their 6-9 offensive tackle (Dalton Wagner)  has completely covered up the guy on the edge. The offensive guard is up on the linebacker.”

Beamer, then a special teams coordinator/tight ends coach, and Pittman (then an offensive line coach, coached together from 2016-2017 for Kirby Smart at Georgia.

Both, former neighbors in Athens, Ga., exude mutual respect.

Beamer, the son of retired Virginia Tech coaching legend Frank Beamer, left Georgia to become Oklahoma’s assistant head coach in 2018 and became South Carolina’s head coach in 2021 and went 7-6 with a Duke’s Mayo Bowl victory over North Carolina.

Pittman stayed at Georgia until December, 2019 becoming the Razorbacks’  head coach.

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