Razorbacks Look Good at Spring Scrimmage

FAYETTEVILLE – Heeding Saturday’s weather forecast though it ultimately proved more bark than bite, Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman moved the Razorbacks’ originally open to the public scrimmage at Reynolds Razorback Stadium to inside the Walker Pavilion.

The predicted day long rain  actually ceased by the time practice began, but by then the commitment was made to go inside.

For safety concerns with space so limited inside the Walker Pavilion, Saturday’s scrimmage became closed to the  general public.

Unfortunately those concerns couldn’t protect all the players.

Fourth-year junior defensive tackle Taurean Carter required assistance to get off the field, injured during the scrimmage’s third play.

Taurean, I think is going to be okay,” Pittman said. “I don’t think it’s an ACL or anything of that nature, but there is something there we have to tend to. I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s a major, major injury.”

Carter, 6-3, 298, of Mansfield, Texas has posted his best spring as a Razorback and operated alongside senior Isaiah Nichols as the first-team defensive tackles.

Senior returning starting weakside linebacker Bumper Pool was asked about Carter’s 2022 spring drills and why they seem so improved.

Changed his body,.” Pool said. “He was already strong, but got even stronger. Has a little more twitch to him. His progress has been great. You hate to see guys get hurt, but hopefully he’s gonna be alright. The way we practice is physical and it’s hard.”

Pittman has cited Carter several times this spring and Nichols, too. He cited Nichols again for his Saturday scrimmage.

“I thought Isaiah Nichols seemed like he was back there in the backfield quite a bit in the pass rushing game,” Pittman said.

Pittman also cited linebackers Pool and Drew Sanders, the first-team middle ‘backer transferred from Alabama, and also mentioned two defensive reserves, junior defensive end Eric Thomas and redshirt freshman cornerback Keuan Parker.

“Eric Thomas flashed a few times,” Pittman said. “Drew Sanders flashed a lot. He can run. He’s a good player. Bump, Cat (veteran All-SEC safety Jalen Catalon), but the guy who really made a lot of plays today was Keuan Parker. He’s moved up at corner because of his physical, hard-playing style. He made a lot of plays.”

Pittman notes the difference in Thomas and Parker’s last autumn on the scout team to competing for second-team spots this spring.

“A lot of times your performance has to do with how high you think you can go,” Pittman said. “So I think with Keuan and Eric, at some point last year, they said, ‘Well, I can’t get off scout team.’ They tried to do well on scout team, but that drive’s not there. Now I think this spring, Eric’s like, ‘I’m getting on the plane, I’ve got a chance to play a lot.  He’s not putting a governor on his mind about how far I can go. I think it’s the same thing with Keuan.”

Offensively Saturday, sophomore running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders rushed for touchdowns of 64 and 16 yards.

Cade Fortin, the transfer reserve quarterback via the University of South Florida, threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to freshman running back James Jointer of Little Rock Parkview.

Recruited as a receiver, Sanders made a remarkable true freshman transition to running back  (114 carries for 578 yards and five touchdowns) but is even better this spring because he’s more polished.

“Now you can see that he understands what his role is,” Pittman said.  “He seemed to be a little quicker in making decisions this spring. I told him he turned from being a hard runner to a running back. I think that’s what he’s done.”

Pittman has praised January enrolled true freshman running backs Jointer and especially Rashod Dubinion of Ellenwood, Ga.

“He (Dubinion) is  really a shifty runner,” Pittman said.  “He’s a mature kid. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll help us next year – in games. Not just special teams, but he’ll be one of the backs toting the mail because he’s a good player.”

Fortin’s progress behind starter KJ Jefferson has factored in allowing speedster backup quarterback Malik Hornsby also to practice at wide receiver.

“I like Fortin (previously a quarterback for North Carolina and South Florida),”Pittman said. “His strengths would be that he’s older, mature. He’s been in major college games. He’s got a way of getting the ball to a player. Some quarterbacks, they just want to fire it as hard as they can all the time. They want to show their arm. Fortin wants to complete the pass.”

Jefferson and Hornsby did not throw the ball particularly well Saturday but overall has posted excellent springs, Pittman said.

Jefferson comes off a fine season  dual-threat quarterbacking the Hogs to a 9-4 2021 and is all the more seasoned now.

“The biggest improvement that I’ve seen is just knowledge of seeing the game before it happens,” Pittman said. “Pre-snap looks, things of that nature. He’s much better in his reads right now than what he was at any time last year. He’s more confident.  He’s had a really good spring.”

Hornsby’s passing has improved, Pittman said.

Pittman praised transfer Ty’Kieast Crawford filling in for limited (ailing back) incumbent right offensive tackle Dalton Wagner but acknowledged it’s still unsettled replacing graduated turn pro Myron Cunningham at left offensive tackle.

Luke Jones and Devon Manuel have competed there and so  has versatile guard Brady Latham.  Crawford could get a left tackle chance once Wagner’s back heals.

Incumbent sophomore  place-kicker Cam Little and Jake Bates, the transfer from Texas State, were given ample opportunities Saturday.

Little kicked 37 and 47 yarders and missed from 53.

Bates kicked 35, 37, and 47-yarders and missed from 53.

The Razorbacks complete the final three of their 15 allotted spring practices next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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