FAYETTEVILLE – The Arkansas Razorbacks’ first scrimmage of spring football practice is closed Saturday to the public and media but it’s format was disclosed Thursday by Coach Sam Pittman.
“We’re going to have a rack of ones, twos, threes,”Pittman told media after Thursday’s first practice in pads. “We go good on good every day. So we go one-one, two-two, three-threes. Not necessarily in that order but one, three, two. Saturday we’re going to go one-two, two-one, three-three. Then a combo period and then three-three again.”
With the exceptions of extra points and field goals as their occasions arise during the scrimmaging, special teams will have separate scrimmage periods for punts/punt returns and kickoffs/kickoff returns, Pittman said.
The “combo” period, Pittman explained, will subtract some first-teamers to give second-teamers some first-team opportunities like transfer Ty’Kieast Crawford at right offensive tackle and backup quarterback Malik Hornsby at quarterback and holding out some obvious first-teamers like bonus senior linebacker Bumper Pool.
Thursday marked Pittman’s first occasion to discuss with print media working third-year sophomore Hornsby, among the fastest of all the Razorbacks but buried behind incumbent quarterback KJ Jefferson on the depth chart, at wide receiver in addition to quarterback.
Hornsby between semesters briefly submitted his name in the transfer portal asked to come back.
Pittman previously has said if a player opts for the portal it’s taken that he irrevocably wants out. He explained Hornsby’s return.
“The thing that bothers me is if we’ve got guys working for three weeks and a guy goes into the portal,” Pittman said, “And then he says ‘Can I come back to the team?’ ‘No. You missed three weeks of work.’ Malik didn’t do that. Malik didn’t miss any practice. Didn’t miss anything.”
However Hornsby did come back knowing he wouldn’t practice strictly at quarterback.
“ I said we’re going to give you every bit of opportunity to win the starting quarterback job,” Pittman said, “But also, if you come back, I need you to be open to playing wide receiver. “We certainly want to give him every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job. But I think you’ve seen it and we certainly have seen that he can help us tremendously as a wide receiver.
To his credit he’s doing a really good job with it.”
Pittman noted a Hornsby catch of a Jefferson pass during Thursday’s practice that also featured an interception by freshman defensive back Jaylen Lewis of a pass thrown by reserve quarterback Lucas Coley tipped by freshman linebacker Jordan Crook.
Pittman said Hornsby will wear the same no-contact allowed jersey as a receiver Saturday that all Razorbacks quarterbacks wear during scrimmages.
Cade Fortin, the transfer via the University of South Florida, impresses Pittman among the reserve quarterbacks.
Fortin, Pittman said, “is coming on a little bit more and more.”
As for Jefferson, he exhibits “a lot of confidence and throwing the ball with velocity,” Pittman said.
Pittman said last year when Jefferson was voted a team captain though previously a backup the coach “was a little bit surprised but I shouldn’t have been.”
“I understand how the team feels about him,”Pittman said. “He’ll be a captain again. He leads the football team.”
Junior All-SEC safety Jalen Catalon, coming off a shoulder injury sidelining him at midseason on in 2021, and transfer via University of Oklahoma receiver Jadon Haselwood both will scrimmage in no-contact jerseys Saturday.
Pittman acknowledged “the worst part of (evaluating) scrimmaging,” is guesstimating plays involving players not cleared for full contact but that getting them work with less injury risk is worth the tradeoff.
Tight end Trey Knox is in concussion protocol, Pittman said from an automobile accident during last week’s spring break.
Freshman offensive tackle Terry Wells of Parkin is sidelined by injury and being medically evaluated, Pittman said.
Defensively the Hogs show depth at corner.
LaDarrius Bishop of Ashdown and Hudson Clark, were co-first team corners at one spot last year with Montaric Brown, the since turned pro All-SEC corner from Ashdown, at the other corner.
Thursday Bishop and Clark alternated at a corner with Dwight “Knutie” McGlothern, the transfer from LSU, at the other first-team corner and junior letterman Khari Johnson moved from corner to safety.
“McGlothern has played well,” Pittman said. He’s a long confident guy and we moved (Malik) Chavis to corner as well. So with him and Clark and obviously you have Day-Day. We feel pretty good about our corners. We need a little help at middle safety so we moved Khari back there.”
Drew Sanders, the transfer from Alabama, challenges for a first-team linebacker spot next to Pool.
Pittman was asked about two others transferred from SEC schools, Latavius Brini via Georgia, and defensive end Landon Jackson of LSU.
Jackson, 6-7, 273 of Texarkana, Texas, has been observing but not practicing because of injuries.
“Brini played the nickel at Georgia,” Pittman, formerly Georgia’s offensive line coach, said. “When we recruited him, he wanted the chance to play safety. I think it’s been a little bit of a learning curve for him. Over the last couple of practices, we’ve seen the Brini that we thought we recruited and the Brini that we knew when we were at Georgia.”
Expect a defensve end role for Jackson when healthy.
“We recruited him for rush ability,” Pittman said. “He certainly is big enough to play run. But our thoughts are him and for that matter Nico Davillier (the incoming 6-5, 275 freshman reporting this summer from Maumelle) would be a defensive end.”
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