FAYETTEVILLE — When Arkansas football brought in a pair of wide receiver transfers who began their careers in the Division II ranks, there was understandably some apprehension about how well they’d adjust to a new level.
Before spring ball, even head coach Sam Pittman said he had some concerns about that.
The Razorbacks haven’t reached the heart of their schedule yet, having faced only Western Carolina and Kent State, but confidence in that tandem is no longer in question.
Andrew Armstrong has emerged as KJ Jefferson’s ultimate safety net, leading the team in both receptions (9) and touchdown catches (3), while Isaac TeSlaa has made some acrobatic plays and has a team-high 117 yards.
Even though the former of those two was coming from Texas A&M-Commerce, which moved up to the FCS last season, Pittman had higher expectations for the Hillsdale College transfer.
In fact, he admitted to being surprised at just how good Armstrong has been for the Razorbacks through two games during Monday afternoon’s press conference.
“He’s just a lot better than I thought he would be, to be perfectly honest with you,” Pittman said. “He’s a lot faster. He showed flashes on tape of all the things that we’ve seen here. Let’s put it like this: TeSlaa is about what I thought he would be and Armstrong is much better than what I thought he would be.”
The quick mesh between Jefferson and those two transfers has been vital for Arkansas because of its struggles in the run game and could be a big factor when Armstrong and TeSlaa get their first true taste of big-time college football with Saturday’s matchup with first-year Big 12 member BYU.
It’s also been important because of the lack of production from fellow transfer Tyrone Broden, who actually played FBS football at Bowling Green before coming to Fayetteville.
He has only one reception for three yards, but has made an impact on special teams as the gunner for the punt coverage unit. He is officially credited with only one tackle, but Pro Football Focus credits him with two and he’s forced multiple fair catches because of his proximity to the return man when the punt his caught.
“I wish we could get him the ball because I think he is really good, but…he’s so valuable,” Pittman said. “For a transfer kid like that to not be getting the balls that he wants and to continue to play like he has says a lot about who he is.”
Kickoff against the Cougars is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Arkansas Football’s Weekly Press Conference
Here are several other updates from the fourth-year coach’s weekly Monday press conference, in which he looked back at the Kent State win, previewed the Arkansas vs BYU matchup, gave some injury updates and more…
- On the offensive line and run game: Here’s what I saw: Our fits up front have to get better. Everything is getting popped out to safeties and we’re not making them miss, either. We quit putting RPO on the back end of it. We weren’t throwing and catching the ball well either. … Our fits aren’t good at tight end. They’ve gotta get better. Our fits up front aren’t good consistently. Our blocking on the outside has to get better.
- On BYU: Anyone who’s undefeated is hard to beat. They play extremely hard. They did last year. I think they’re a better team than last year. Big, physical team. They have a guy at each level on defense who I think is really good.
- On linebacker Chris “Pooh” Paul Jr.: Health wise, he’s fine and ready to go. We had a little problem with the tight end crossing into the flat. But Pooh is running well, moving well. Made a tackle down the field. He’s just been hurt or out of the game. We need to get him settled in. Thomas has been the most consistent guy we’ve had at linebacker.
- On BYU’s offense: BYU got quite a few explosive plays through the air this past week. It was a lot better than the week before. The quarterback (Kedon Slovis) threw it really well.
- On the play of his defense through two weeks: We’re not giving up easy points. We’ve had a few (missed assignments) on some underneath throws, but I think we’re swarming the ball well. I didn’t think we tackled as well Saturday as we did in the first game. I’ve been really proud of our defense. We’ve been a lot better in situational ball.
- On linebacker Jaheim Thomas: He’s been pretty much mistake free. He’s our most consistent tackler right now. Not jumping out of gaps. Pretty much gap sound in there. He’s just a guy that’s been playing really well.
- On defensive tackle Keivie Rose and the possibility of more playing time: Keivie is a guy we’re talking about moving into the first team. However, no one is playing much and I don’t know who I’d take out. Jeffcoat played 30 snaps, but everyone else was less than that on the defensive line.
- On defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat’s performance vs. Kent State: He didn’t really have any production the first week. I think that drove him some. He played very physical and very hard. Seemed like he was more into the game this week than last week.
- Update on offensive lineman E’Marion Harris, who battled an injury late in fall camp: E’Marion Harris is closer to playing. I don’t know if he’s close enough to being in the rotation, but he’s closer.
Watch Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman’s full press conference ahead of Arkansas vs BYU here:
Arkansas Football Injury Report
Here’s the latest on various Arkansas football players dealing with injuries…
- RB Rocket Sanders (knee): Will miss Arkansas vs. BYU game, the second straight week he’ll be out… “Got to get some swelling off of him,” Pittman said. “Once we do that, we’ll see how fast [we can get him back]. Whether we can have him back for LSU, I just don’t know right now.”
- CB Dwight McGlothern (turf toe): Expected to return vs. BYU… Suffered a turf toe injury in last Thursday’s practice… Played just one snap vs. Kent State
- S Malik Chavis (hand/wrist): Has not played or dressed out for either game this season… No update from Pittman
- OL Josh Street (undisclosed): Was not present for the Kent State game
- DT Marcus Miller (undisclosed): Did not dress out for the Kent State game
- DB Dallas Young (undisclosed): Did not dress out for the Kent State game
- DE Quincy Rhodes Jr. (head): Did not dress out for the Kent State game… Had to be helped off the field during the Western Carolina game… Pittman said after that game that his head hit the turf, likely meaning he has a concussion
- OL Luke Brown (undisclosed): Did not dress out for the Kent State game
- CB Quincey McAdoo (neck): Out for the season
- OL Terry Wells (torn pec): Out for the season
- WR Sam Mbake (knee): Out for the season
Arkansas Football Depth Chart
The following depth chart was released to the media by the UA in its weekly game notes…
(NOTE: It’s important to remember that this depth chart is essentially worthless, as has been proved time and time again.)
|Nathan Bax -OR-
Var’keyes Gumms -OR-
|Andrew Chamblee -OR-
- The only change to the offensive depth chart is that there is no “or” between Wilson and Sategna. Wilson is now listed as the sole starter, which makes sense because he’s started both of the first two games.
- Despite Chamblee starting both of the first two games, there is still an “or” between him and Manuel at left tackle. They have been rotating at that spot.
- Sanders is still listed as the starting running back, but Pittman has already declared him out for this week. Expect Green to start in his place again.
- There is no “or” at right guard, but Braun and Crawford rotated some during the Kent State game.
|John Morgan III
|Anthony Booker Jr.
|Chris Paul Jr.
|Antonio Grier -OR-
- The most notable change on defense is at linebacker, where Paul and Thomas are now listed as the two starters. There had been an “or” between them at one spot and Crook listed as the starter at the other spot. However, Spence started against Kent State with Paul serving a first-half suspension for targeting. Grier is also listed on the depth chart for the first time after missing the opener.
- There is no “or” between Johnson and Clark at safety. Johnson, who started each of the first two games, is listed as the sole starter. Clark is his backup and, even though it’s not reflected on the depth chart, the backup at nickel, as well.
- At cornerback, Stewart and Braxton are listed as the sole backups with Bishop as the third guy behind both of them. There had been an “or” at the backup cornerback spots involving Stewart, Braxton and Bishop.
- There are no changes to the special teams depth chart for Arkansas vs BYU.
How to Watch Arkansas vs BYU
Date: Saturday, Sept. 16
Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 6:30 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
Announcers: Brian Custer (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (analyst), Lauren Sisler (reporter)
Arkansas’ Rankings: RV (AP) | RV (Coaches) | No. 26 (SP+) | No. 36 (FPI)
ESPN FPI: Arkansas has a 79.2% chance to win
SP+ Projection: Arkansas has a 73% chance to win, favored by 10.4 (proj. score: 33-22)
Odds/Betting Line: Arkansas, -9.5 | O/U 51.5 (BetSaracen)
BONUS VIDEO: Kalani Sitake previews Arkansas vs BYU
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