Pittman eager for Saturday’s scrimmage to see how much Razorbacks have improved

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2024-03-28 15:37 PM


FAYETTEVILLE – With what he considers two very good post-springs break practices in the rear view mirror, Arkansas head football coach Sam Pittman will now turn his attention to Saturday morning’s open scrimmage.

It’s going to be lengthy one per Pittman, who’s team will work begin work inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium at 8:30 a.m.

“I think each guy who’s playing with the ones and twos will get about 50 snaps,” Pittman said. “They’ll be some situations, third down. We’re going to get the ball back two-minute. The threes will probably get around that 30-mark. I think it’ll be about 130, 140-play scrimmage.” 

It will be the eighth practice of the spring for Arkansas and will one where ballcarriers are taken to the ground.

“I just want to see how much we improve,” Pittman said. “… We’ve actually tacked to the ground two times already. I feel like our tackling has been decent. I’d like to see us improve in that. I’d like to see us break some tackles.

“I’d like to see us throw and catch consistently. … I like what we’re doing secondary-wise. But the intermediate pass game, I would for us to be a little bit better on the crossing underneath routes.

“I just want it to function well. I want good snaps. We had a few today that weren’t good. And they weren’t terrible. We’re not snapping it on the ground, over the head, all that kind of stuff. But I want that consistent inside the frame snap and we’re rolling on offense and defense, and just improve off the last two times we’ve done

“ … I can’t really say that we’ve done anything terrible, where I’m going, ‘Oh man, oh man, oh man.’ I would just like to be a little bit more consistent and a little bit better this scrimmage than we were last scrimmage.”

The defense appeared to get the best of Thursday morning’s practice, a reversal of Tuesday’s workout.

“We put a new defensive front in, which obviously affects the back end as well,” Pittman said. “Offense is still adding some plays, too. We won’t add anything coming to Saturday’s practice. We won’t have any new install.

“But to answer your question, I thought it was probably the opposite on Tuesday, that it was today. So I felt like the defense played extremely fast today. Some tweaks that they did with some of their line movements, some of their twist movements that I thought affected the offense a little bit today.

“But as far as the week goes, I don’t know win or lose, but I felt Tuesday the offense had a little bit better day and today I thought the defense did. They’re playing really hard. The one thing we’re not doing, we’re not having wide open guys.

“You guys (media) are at practice, so you see that each ball has been very well contested. Obviously the lower you get down on the depth chart there might be a wide open guy here or there, but I think the foundation, the consistency of our defense is way ahead of where it was a year ago.”

The defense feature a front that has defensive tackle Nico Davillier (6-4, 271) and linebacker Brad Spence (6-2, 240) playing the same position despite the disparity in their size.

Pittman went over the thought process involved in that.

“A lot of times that will be dictated by personnel.” Pittman said. “Offensive personnel. But right now, we’re just trying to find out, I want the odd front, I want it without taking what we would call a big off the field.

“One of the reasons would be offensive personnel with Spence. The other one would be because of his ability to rush the passer, would be another situation out there, but we need to have, in my opinion, a big.

“In other words, a defensive end that can stand up and do that. And we need to have a linebacker in there that can do that as well. Spence, for what we have, size-wise, is.

(Carson) Dean (6-4, 238) could probably, a guy that we may look at doing that same thing starting next week. It’s just two different types of people that you might use against personnel changes on offense.”

One of the positives on offense has been Utah running back transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson (6-2, 235), part of several newcomers added via the portal.

“I think the value of transfers is what kind of people they are,” Pittman said. “Who are they? Obviously we hope we’ve done the right homework from on the field, on tape. We have. But it’s what you bring value, like a Taylen Green, Junior Carmona or Keyshawn Blackstock or (Addison) Nichols or (Xavian) Sorey. Those guys are good kids that wanted a family football team. They wanted that feel.

“And JJ’s the same way. I can tell you a story. I think we probably blocked first and goal from the 10 last scrimmage for 2, and he got 4. Now we’re sitting at 2nd and 6. We probably block the next play for 2 and he got 4. Then the next time it was 3rd and 2 and we probably blocked it for 1 and he got in the end zone.

“I think that’s his size and his pad level. He’s played before. I think that was something we were needing, were looking for he gives it to us.”

Pittman noted that Jackson is also pushing fellow tailbacks Rashod Dubinion (5-10, 199), Isaiah Augustave (6-2, 212), Dominique Johnson (6-1, 251) and freshman Braylon Russell (6-1, 252) to be better.

“And I believe he’s making Rashod Dubinion a better player,” Pittman said. “Because Rashod’s really had a good spring. Obviously I’m high on Braylen and Isaiah and those guys, Domo. They’re all playing better.”

Asked if he believed he had a 1,000-yard rusher among his backs, Pittman spoke instead about their strength collectively.

“I think we have a stable of backs,” Pittman said. “Let me say this, I feel a lot better about our running back situation today than I have in a while. But here’s what I think: I think we have several of them that can average 4 and a half or 5 yards a carry.

“That would be more interesting to me than if we have one. I know what you’re asking: Do we have that one horse yet? I think that’s still, we’re still trying to evaluate that. I think that’ll be a good question for whenever we talk Tuesday. It would be a good question. Maybe I’ll have a little bit better idea then.”

Redshirt sophomore wideout Isaiah Sategna (5-11, 183), who had a standout career at Fayetteville High where his 1,909 yards led the nation in receiving his senior season, is developing under the tutelage of new wide receivers coach Ronnie Fouch.

“He’s a different route runner,” Pittman said. “He’s running his routes and getting out of his break and getting separation better than he has before.

“I think if you go back and look at his high school tape, it was a lot of reverses and a lot of gos. They did a wonderful job over there at Fayetteville High with him, but now he’s running so many different types of routes, I think Ronnie’s done a really good job of getting him in and out of his breaks. With that comes confidence and that, to me, is why he’s catching the ball better than he has.”

Lots of those passes are coming from Green, the Boise State transfer quarterback, who leads a signal caller group that also includes Jacolby Criswell, freshman KJ Jackson and Austin Ledbetter.

Pittman has said he plans to name a starting quarterback at the end of spring drills, which are set to conclude with the Red-White game on April 13.

“I think it’s just fair, to be highest with you,” Pittman said. “We had told them we’d figure it out by the end of spring. You guys have been at practice. But we’ve got to wait till the end of spring and that’s what we’ll do.”

Photo by John D. James

(Last updated: 2024-03-28 15:37 PM)