Razorbacks

Razorbacks Scrimmage

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Though the hitting fit his criteria, Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman saw too much flag football during his Razorbacks’ first scrimmage of the preseason Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Too many  flags justifiably  thrown by an authentic SEC officiating crew.

“”I thought we played extremely hard but we had too many penalties,” Pittman said after Saturday’sscrimmage  closed to the public and the media.

What were the penalties?

“”I can tell you exactly,” Pittman replied.   “Too many defensive pass interferences. Too many false starts on offense.   I think we cut down our jumps on the defensive line, there were two there, but that’s two too many. Too much holding on the offensive line. It wasn’t what I would call sloppy until maybe the fourth quarter. Then it got kind of sloppy, which tells you we’re not anywhere near where we need to be.”

Better to see what makes officials wave their flags in a scrimmage than a real game, said third-year All-SEC sophomore safety Jalen Catalon and third-year sophomore starting  quarterback KJ Jefferson, both post-scrimmage media available after Pittman met with media.

“A couple of holding calls,” Catalon said. “A couple of offside penalties that we can’t have as a defense. But as a first scrimmage, I’d rather get those out now than to have them in a game where they’re crucial. I think we’ll definitely learn from all the mistakes and clean them up. I think the second scrimmage (next Saturday) will be a lot smoother.”

Jefferson concurred regarding the offensive flags

The penalties were about all that marred the defense that mostly got the best of it, Pittman implied, particularly late scrimmage.

“I thought our defense outlasted the offense,” Pittman said.  “I felt like maybe the last half of the scrimmage, I felt like the defense controlled the energy of the scrimmage.”

Catalon seconded that motion.

“The defense came out with some juice today and it showed on the field,” Catalon said.  “We played really well.  The D-line was getting back there.  The linebackers were plugging up the holes and the DB’s on the back end were doing really well. The offense gave us some tough times, too.  They had a couple of explosive plays here and there but I thought for the most part we held our own which is good for our first scrimmage”. 

Defensive secured turnovers included cornerback Montaric Brown’s jarring hit for a fumble recovered by senior All-SEC middle linebacker Grant Morgan and a tipped ball interception by defensive back Malik Chavis.

“The defense stopped the offense on the goal line from the one two plays in a row,” Pittman said.  “They were on the four, and they got it down to the 1 on the first play and were stopped there. Mo Brown had a corner blitz and hit the running back and knocked the ball loose. Great disguise and a real physical hit.”

Unfortunately Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek absorbed Saturday’s most imprinted hit.   Posting his picture on Twitter, Yurachek obviously  got too close to the action observing from the sideline. He  took a cleat to the face from which he received  several gashes on his nose and just above his mouth.

“ I know he’s going to be fine,” Pittman said. “I had a nice conversation with him.”

As for players, senior linebacker Deon “De De” Edwards was “dinged up a bit” Saturday , Pittman said and freshman running back AJ Green was injured  earlier in the week and withheld from Saturday’s scrimmage.

Pittman presumed Saturday that  Green and starting center Ricky Stromberg, injured at last week’s outset, would be able to scrimmage next Saturday.

Freshman Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, netting a 1-yard touchdown, and track sprinter Josh Oglesby did much of Saturday’s backup running back work behind starter Trelon Smith.

Though moved during the week from running back to tight end, redshirt freshman Dominique Johnson also took some running back snaps Saturday, Pittman said.

The “other Catalon”, Jalen’s older brother, Kendall, activated this year after redshirting in 2020 as  junior  transfer from Southern University, struck Saturday’s biggest offensive blow with a 50-yard touchdown catch of a Jefferson pass.

“ Kendall Catalon caught a routine 15-yard out and went for a touchdown,” Pittman said. “That was good to see him make that play.”

Jalen Catalon was asked about the mixed emotion of seeing the defense burned but his brother doing the burning.

“It was 50-50,” Jalen said.  “When he first scored, I looked and was like, ‘Dang!’ But then I turned away and gave him a little smirk. I was happy for him. 

As a defense, you want to succeed, but at the end of the day, I always celebrate for my blood. For my brother.”

Asked to describe his TD pass, Jefferson said, “We knew coming in that we were going to have a 1-on-1 matchup with Kendall on the route. Luckily I got the ball to him with great protection from our line.”

By his account and Pittman’s, Jefferson had an “average” scrimmage.

Pittman explained it’s hard when adorned with a no-hit, caution jersey in scrimmages, for a powerful running quarterback like Jefferson to do all that he can do.

“He’s so big and such a good runner, it’s just hard in scrimmages for him a lot of times to get into a routine,” Pittman said.

Because of the caution jerseys all quarterbacks were in practice, scrimmage sack stats are mostly quick whistle estimates.

However Pittman said via Missouri transfer defensive end Tre Williams had at least two sacks in the bag.

“Tre Williams might have had two, three sacks,” Pittman said.  “I know he had two, may have been more.”

Highly touted freshman Cam Little continues locking the place-kicking post.

Little has done all the first-team preseason place-kicking including Saturday field goals of 46 52 and 37 yards.

“He knows how to kick the ball between them two deals pretty consistently,” Pittman said.  “We had a hurry field goal situation the other day and it was 57 (yards) and he kicked it 65 I guarantee you.”

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