FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas started the season having to make some adjustments at linebacker because of targeting calls and it will continue this week.
Arkansas played the first half without Hayden Henry on Saturday because of a targeting call against him in the Alabama game in 2020. Then Arkansas lost Grant Morgan very early in the first quarter on Saturday so Andrew Parker had to fill in. In the second half, Bumper Pool was called for targeting and will now miss the first half against Texas on Saturday. Sam Pittman was asked Monday if there is anything Arkansas can do to avoid getting those calls?
“Man, if I knew we wouldn’t be having them,” Pittman said. “We’re going to change our target down a little lower, our tackling target. Barry (Odom) and I talked about it, and Mike (Scherer) talked about it. We have to. The bottom line is right now if you get a physical tackle they’re going to review it. That’s just a bunch of the time. You’ve just got to make sure that that head gear is out of there. And it’s not just that. You can’t hit the head at all, whether it be shoulder pad or anything. I understand the rule. I think there’s a lot of good thought behind that rule. It’s just the punishment seems to be very harsh to me.”
Pool was outstanding against Rice before the ejection. He led the Razorbacks with 14 tackles, including three solo, and 1.5 for loss. Pittman talked about not having Pool for the first half against the Longhorns on Saturday.
“Well, we have Henry back, so we’ll be fine there,” Pittman said. “It’s just the depth, certainly. Bump’s a good player for us and he’s a good leader and he’s from the state of Texas. I’m sure he’s very disappointed he’s not going to be able to play in the first half. But the same thing happened with Hayden last week, from the Alabama deal. Certainly I feel bad for Bump.
“The penalty for targeting, I understand it. It’s just harsh. It’s very harsh when you’re not — I understand what the rule was put in for and all those things — but it’s hard, especially when the running back’s running and he’s dropping his head or the wide receiver. It’s a tough deal and it’s a shame but I think we’re going to be just fine, especially with Parker. And we’ll ramp up (Jackson) Woodard and Pooh (Chris Paul) too. But the second half we’ll get Bump back.”
Parker finished with four tackles and two quarterback hurries against Rice. Pittman talked about how the 6-foot-2, 245-pound redshirt junior played.
“I think he’s playing more confident,” Pittman said. “He’s reading guards, reading his triangle through, playing physical. If you saw him play last year, to me it was like he was almost questioning everything. Almost like a freshman where I don’t know if this is what I’m supposed to do and I’m a half step behind. He didn’t play that way the other day. He’s really a good story. I think he was frustrated last year because of his playing minutes, and he just stayed in there and got better and better. Certainly, he’s a two right now, but we needed him as a one. He came in and did a fine job. He was ready. You have to give him credit for being mature, working hard and making some nice open field tackles. He did a nice job. I was proud of him.”
The Razorbacks will continue preparations for Texas this afternoon.