FAYETTEVILLE – On Wednesday’s SEC Coaches/Media teleconference Sam Pittman said his Razorbacks “got a little healthier last week with the time off.”
As proof that last week’s bye week healed some the of Hogs with Arkansas, 2-2, readying for Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. SEC Network televised SEC West game against the 3-1 nationally eighth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies at A&M’s Kyle Field, Pittman noted previously injured cornerback Montaric “Busta” Brown is cleared to play Saturday and that injured linebacker Bumper Pool and injured defensive end Dorian Gerald have been practicing.
Pittman said it’s still unclear if Gerald, injured during the season-opening loss to Georgia, would be cleared for Saturday’s game.
Pool’s game status also was not specified.
Brown’s return, presumably teamed with redshirt freshman cornerback Hudson Clark, zoomed from last year’s walk-on scout-team obscurity to nationally honored for his three interceptions in the 33-21 victory over Ole Miss when Arkansas last played on Oct. 17, comes as early-season starter and grad transfer cornerback Jerry Jacobs has opted out from playing for the remainder of the season.
True freshman Khari Johnson and Clark started ahead of Jacobs against Ole Miss.
“ It won’t really affect our rotation,” Pittman replied when asked about Jacobs’ absence. “We’re adding some guys back from injury, so we should be fine there.”
Originally contracted to play Saturday’s game in September at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, the Arkansas vs. Texas A&M game got moved to Saturday at A&M’s Kyle Field in College Station, Texas because of covid-19 coronavirus concerns compelling the SEC in August revising its 12-game schedule that included four nonconference games to all SEC teams playing a 10-game schedule strictly within the SEC.
Arkansas won’t get a home and home out of this. Next year’s Arkansas vs. Texas A&M game is set for the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
“We would obviously rather play at a neutral site if we could,” Pittman said regarding Saturday’s game. “But we’re looking forward to going down there and next year playing in Dallas Stadium. We’ll look forward to playing them there, too. There’s not a whole lot as a football coach that I can do about that. We are going to play them there and then play in Dallas next year and we’re excited about both venues.”
Pittman said Saturday’s travel squad is “excited” to play at Kyle Field because none have played there before.
Pittman was in his first of three years as Arkansas’ offensive line coach under Bret Bielema when the Razorbacks in 2013 last played at Kyle Field.
Pittman sounds like he would be impressed with Coach Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies regardless of venue.
“Man do they have a nice football team!” Pittman said. “Really playing well, well coached. They have a lot of returning starters on their team at A&M and just a really good-looking football team.”
Pittman was asked if it was good or bad, as it could indicate the defense is too much and too long on the field, if Razorbacks linebackers Grant Morgan and Pool and safety Jalen Catalon all are among the SEC’s leading tacklers.
“ I don’t think it would be a bad thing, guys making tackles,” Pittman responded wryly. “I don’t think we have guys on the field too much. If they want to get off the field, they’ll three and out them and get off the field. They control that.”
Tight end was the Arkansas offensive position most concerning Pittman when preseason practice began last summer.
But between them with six catches each, redshirt freshman tight Hudson Henry of Little Rock and senior tight end Blake Kern of Lamar have caught 12 passes for 113 yards, one a Henry touchdown.
“I think it’s about what we expected,” Pittman said. “I knew we were a young tight ends group, and certainly Kern has come in as an older player there and helped us when Hudson was out or out maybe a game and a half. I think we’re going to be fine there at tight end, it’s just we’re very young. We have one older guy that’s played and he’s done a good job. I think they’ve actually improved more over the last two or three weeks than even anticipated. I think they’ve become a much better group there.”