Sam Pittman Makes Understatement of the Summer Heading into Arkansas vs. Cincinnati

Sam Pittman, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — It is officially game week for Arkansas football, as Saturday marks the first game of the 2022 season with Cincinnati visiting Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

To preview the matchup with the Bearcats, Sam Pittman met with the media for about 30 minutes Monday afternoon. The Hogs head coach touched on several topics, including injury updates, depth chart battles and more. Here are some updates from the press conference…

  • On the excitement of game week: Kind of started a little bit Friday night with the mock game. Some things in life are inevitable and one of them is Saturday, Cincinnati is going to be here and we’re going to be here. As it gets closer, it’s a little surreal. It’s exciting.
  • On the battle at cornerback: I don’t know that we’re set there, to be honest with you. We feel like Hudson Clark has played the most consistent. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do with the second spot. LaDarrius Bishop, Malik Chavis and Dwight McGlothern are all in the mix. They’re all going to play, but we’re still trying to figure out who will run out with the ones.
  • Update on injuries: Jadon Haselwood and Brady Latham are both expected back at practice, possibly as soon as this afternoon. Both will be ready to go Saturday.
  • Update on running back Dominique Johnson: We’re going to try to add to Dominique Johnson’s reps today. I think we need to do some cutting with him where we’re not telling him where to go.
  • Update on Arkansas’ punter battle: Pittman says there’s a chance both punters – Reid Bauer and Max Fletcher – could play against Cincinnati. “I don’t know what we’re going to do there yet.”
  • On his relationship with Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell: I met him at the AFCA banquet where they were giving out the coach of the year. He won it and we were talking backstage. His kids wrestle and he was a wrestler. He’s just a really nice fella, nice guy. I know guys who’ve worked for him and he sure has a great reputation as a coach and a man.
  • On what he wants to see from his team in Arkansas vs Cincinnati: As an overall team, I want to see what we have at wideout. I want to see how much we miss Dominique Johnson. I want to see how good Drew Sanders is. Is our D-line better than a year ago? If we go multiple fronts, can we do that? How are we going to hang on to the ball? We were good last year. When Cincinnati breaks games, it’s when they get turnovers.
  • On Cincinnati’s offensive line: Any time you have them all coming back, that’s a good thing. They run the duo play about as good as anybody. They’ll try to bloody your nose and come right at you. They’re really good at pass pro. They’re well-coached. They play really well together. I think it’s a strength of their team. Really been impressed with their physicality.
  • On KJ Jefferson’s physical playing style: It’s hard to coach that out of a kid. You can tell him, ‘We gotta have you healthy,’ but he’s going to do whatever he’s going to do. It depends on the moment of the game. He’s a big guy. He can handle physical tackles. We’re going to run him. We’re not going to change our offense. I would like him to get on the ground more and get out of bounds some.
  • On having 13 penalties in last year’s opener vs. Rice: If we do that again, we lose. I think we’ve been a little cleaner. We’ve been clean with the ball. I told them after the first scrimmage that we’ll have a holding call or two and you’re going to have a pass interference, but the ones where you jump offsides on defense or illegal procedure, those are things you don’t see in high school. That’s also coaching.
  • On the excitement for Jalen Catalon to return: Very. I’m excited for him, excited for the team. It’s hard on a guy when he’s sitting out there and we’re having our best year since he’s been here. I’m sure that’s very hard on him. Any time you lose something, it becomes more special when you get it back. I think he’s really excited to play.
  • On Cincinnati’s defense: They lost a lot of really good players. I like both of their linebackers and they have a good defensive end, Van. In the secondary, Bush and Hicks are good. Van played a lot of ball for them. I really like 13, he’s the SAM linebacker. They’ll run and hit you.
  • On Luke Jones at left tackle: He’ll be great. I’m not worried about him one bit. He’ll do a really nice job.
  • On the excitement about opening the season with a top-25 matchup: It’s a big deal that SEC Nation is here. We’re one of three top-25 matchups. We’re on ESPN. You want that for the program, publicity for the program. Obviously we want to be standing room only, which I think we are. It’s changed a little bit over the last couple of years. The expectations are certainly high.

To say that the vibe around the Arkansas football program has “changed a little bit over the last couple of years” is probably the understatement of the summer coming from the Hogs. Sure, COVID-19 social distancing policies made stadium audiences much more sparse two years ago at this time, but that was the case with all college and pro teams.

The biggest change is what the average Razorback fan and college football analyst alike feel the program is realistically capable of. Two years ago, the program was still trying to unearth itself from the mountain of shame that Chad Morris had heaped upon it. Now, the biggest question is no longer how to achieve a massive U-turn in fortunes. Instead, it’s about how to keep building on two years of evidence that the Razorbacks could contend for a College Football Playoffs appearance as soon as this winter.

Watch Sam Pittman’s full interview here:

Arkansas Football Injury Report

Here’s the latest on various Arkansas football players dealing with injuries…

  • OL Brady Latham (undisclosed): Returned to practice Monday in a regular white jersey, expected to play vs. Cincinnati
  • WR Jadon Haselwood (undisclosed): Returned to practice Monday in a green non-contact jersey, expected to play vs. Cincinnati
  • RB Dominique Johnson (ACL): Will do more drills in practice that require cutting this week, likely out vs. Cincinnati
  • OL Marcus Henderson (pectoral): Still in a green non-contact jersey like he has been all fall, likely out vs. Cincinnati
  • OL Devon Manuel (undisclosed): Returned to practice Monday with a limited role but in a regular white jersey, status TBD
  • OL Josh Street (ankle): Wasn’t spotted Monday, has missed several practices, status TBD
  • DT Marcus Miller (knee): Returned to practice last Thursday, appears full-go
  • WR Jaedon Wilson (shoulder): Has been in a green contact jersey since returning to practice last week, expected to play vs. Cincinnati

Monday Practice Observations

Arkansas opened up about 20 minutes of Monday’s practice to the media. Here are a few takeaways from that viewing period…

  • After spending a majority of fall camp with the third-team defense and only recently getting bumped up to the second unit, LSU transfer Dwight McGlothern was spotted as the second starting cornerback opposite Hudson Clark in two team periods.
  • During the first team period, the defense was lined up in a 3-3-5 formation in which linebacker Drew Sanders was essentially an edge rusher with Bumper Pool and Chris Paul Jr. serving as the traditional linebacker. The three-man front featured Eric Gregory and Zach Williams at defensive end and Isaiah Nichols in the middle at defensive tackle.
  • As the media was leaving the practice field, we caught a glimpse of the first-team defense lined up against a scout team offense. It was in a traditional 4-2-5 look that featured Williams and Jashaud Stewart at defensive end, Gregory and Nichols at defensive tackle, and Pool and Sanders at linebacker.
  • Although he was back at practice and not in green, left guard Brady Latham did not participate in the team period seen by the media. Instead, Beaux Limmer slid over from right guard to left guard and Ty’Kieast Crawford filled in at right guard – which is what the first-team offensive line has looked like since Latham went down with an undisclosed injury.
  • The second-team offensive line was exactly how it’s listed on the depth chart below, but Terry Well was lined up at right tackle with Crawford up with the first unit.
  • Dominique Johnson has been participating in individual drills the last week or so, but he’s probably not quite ready to play yet. He didn’t look particularly comfortable in a drill that required him to cut side to side over blocking bags on the ground.
  • Wide receiver Jadon Haselwood was not seen at a couple of practices last week thanks to an undisclosed injury, but was back in a green non-contact jersey Monday. He didn’t participate in the team period, but he didn’t seem to be obviously hampered by anything while running routes on air. He looked smooth and healthy.
  • There is an “or” between Nathan Bax and Hudson Henry on the depth chart for the backup tight end spot, but Bax – as usual – ran with the second-team offense during the team period.

Arkansas Football Depth Chart

The following depth chart was released to the media by the UA in its weekly game notes…

Offense

POS.FirstSecondThird
QBKJ JeffersonMalik Hornsby
RBRocket SandersAJ Green
TETrey KnoxNathan Bax -OR-Hudson Henry
WRWarren ThompsonJaedon WilsonQuincey McAdoo
WRJadon HaselwoodBryce StephensIsaiah Sategna
Harper Cole
WRMatt LandersKetron Jackson Jr.Sam Mbake
LTLuke JonesAndrew Chamblee
LGBrady LathamJalen St. John
CRicky StrombergPatrick Kutas
RGBeaux LimmerE’Marion Harris
RTDalton WagnerTy’Kieast Crawford

Notable…

  • The only “or” on the offense is at tight end, where Nathan Bax and Hudson Henry are listed as co-backups behind Trey Knox.
  • Despite missing practice time last week, Jadon Haselwood and Brady Latham are listed as starters. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will definitely be available and/or start.
  • Devon Manuel and Josh Street were working as the second-team left tackle and center before they went down with injuries. They are not listed on this week’s depth chart.
  • Even though he’s listed as the backup center, Patrick Kutas likely wouldn’t replace Ricky Stromberg in the event of an injury. Instead, Beaux Limmer would likely slide over and Ty’Kieast Crawford would fill in at right guard.

Defense

POS.FirstSecondThird
DEZach WilliamsJordan Domineck
DTIsaiah NicholsCam Ball
DTEric GregoryTerry Hampton
DEJashaud StewartLandon Jackson
WLBBumper PoolJordan CrookJackson Woodard
MLBDrew SandersChris Paul Jr.
NBMyles SlusherTrent GordonJacorrei Turner
CBHudson ClarkDwight McGlothern -OR-Khari Johnson
SJalen CatalonLatavious Brini
SLatavious BriniJayden Johnson
CBLaDarrius BishopMalik Chavis

Notable…

  • The only “or” on the defense is at cornerback, where Dwight McGlothern and Khari Johnson are listed as co-backups behind Hudson Clark.
  • It’s worth noting that Pittman has indicated there’s still a three-man battle between listed starter LaDarrius Bishop, backup Malik Chavis and McGlothern for the second cornerback spot.
  • There aren’t really any other surprises on the depth chart.

Special Teams

POSFirstSecondThird
KCam LittleJake Bates
KOCam Little -OR-Jake Bates
PReid Bauer -OR-Max Fletcher
LSEli Stein -OR-Francisco Castro -OR-John Oehrlein
HReid Bauer
KORAJ GreenRashod Dubinion
PRBryce StephensHarper Cole

Notable…

  • As expected, Arkansas has yet to name a starter at punter or kickoff specialist.
  • Although there is still an “or” between all three long snappers, Sam Pittman has previously said freshman Eli Stein leads the race to start.
  • Interestingly, the listed backup punt returner is Harper Cole and not Isaiah Sategna.

How to Watch Arkansas vs. Cincinnati

Date: Saturday, Sept. 3

Location: Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)

Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 2:30 p.m. CT (ESPN)

Cincinnati’s Preseason Rankings: No. 23 (AP) | No. 22 (Coaches) | No. 16 (SP+) | No. 26 (FPI)

ESPN FPI: Arkansas has a 59.6% chance to win

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