Arkansas’ linebackers continue to play well

By Otis Kirk
on 2022-09-12 12:22 PM

FAYETTEVILLE — One aspect of Arkansas Football that has been impressive thus far is the No. 10 Razorbacks are getting solid play at linebacker.

Drew Sanders, Bumper Pool and Chris “Pooh” Paul played particularly well in the 44-30 win over South Carolina on Thursday. Sanders, a transfer from Alabama, earned Walter Camp National Player of the Week for his play. Then on Monday added SEC Defensive Player of Week.

Sanders had 11 tackles, eight solo, two sacks, three tackles for loss, a pair of forced fumbles, one quarterback hurry and a pass breakup. Following Saturday’s game Sam Pittman was asked about Sanders play. He gave a very positive answer, but after watching the tape had even more to say.

“I felt like obviously, I was asked after the game about Drew Sanders’ play,” Pittman said. “I thought he had a good game. I didn’t know he had a hell of a game. I thought he had a really good game, but he did some things that were pretty incredible. Thought we played well on special teams. The problem there is minus the two penalties, you know. We have a live kick and we have penalties. So, we have to become a more disciplined team. Offensive line played real well I thought. Controlled the ballgame. That was kind of what I saw.”

Paul, a redshirt freshman, graded great on Pro Football Focus. Pittman was asked about Paul’s play.

“Well, that’s awesome,” Pittman said. “I’ll have to look at those one of these days. I haven’t yet. I’m 60. But let’s say I did. I think I agree with them. I think he played really well. He got more reps this week than he did the previous week. He’s a good player. A physical guy. He knows what he’s doing better now than what he ever has. He’s playing mistake-free football. So I don’t know. When he gets a lot of his reps is when we’re in that three-linebacker look when Drew’s on the field as a rush/jack/buck whatever you want to call him. We’re getting a little more comfortable with that set because of the play of Pooh. So it certainly could happen.”

Pittman was asked to compare Pool and Sanders to Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry.

“I think Bump and Drew are close,” Pittman said. “I think they’re good friends. I think they’ve earned each other’s respect. I think there’s two totally different personalities there. Hayden and Grant… Probably Hayden was more of an extreme away from that. Hayden was just a slobber knocker. All he wanted to do was just hit people. Boy, I liked that kid, though. Man, what a good player he was. And then Grant was Mr. Everything — best talker, best coach we had, best talker, best leader. He was something really special there, as well. There’s not really a huge similarity between those two duos. This group here plays really well together, plays really complementary football. They’re both really good players. Drew Sanders is a really, really good player.”

One oddity of a stat is Sanders had six tackles on Saturday before anyone else had more than one. Other teams start to run away from Sanders?

“Well, the thing is with him being in the box, it’s really hard to run away from him.” Pittman said. “I guess you could check and he’d have to run another 2-2.5 yards. I could see if they knew we were putting him up on the line of scrimmage doing some things there differently… The thing he has is range and he can really run. I mean, he’s really fast. I don’t know. I don’t know if South Carolina changed anything of that or not. The game was dictating a little bit how they were calling their offense because we had gotten up by 18 or whatever it was. So I really don’t know, but I know people are going to know where he is, where he’s lined up.”

While he’s no longer a Razorback linebacker, Andrew Parker transferred to App State in the offseason. Parker and his teammates defeated Texas A&M on Saturday.

“Good for him, and good for App State and for those kids,” Pittman said. “I’m gonna catch heck for saying that from A&M. I wasn’t rooting for App State, but good for him. I hope he played well. I haven’t looked at the game yet but good for him.”

It was announced on Monday the Hogs will face the Aggies on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m. in AT&T Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Arkansas (2-0) hosts Missouri State (2-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 on ESPN+/SECN+.

(Last updated: 2022-09-12 12:22 PM)