Never Good Enough: Pittman Addresses Naysaying of Latest Ranking + Injuries, Depth Chart

Plus, Bobby Petrino is Coming to Town

Sam Pittman, Arkansas vs Missouri State
photo credit: Nick Wenger

FAYETTEVILLE — Off to a 1-0 start in SEC play for a second straight year, Arkansas football dips out of conference again for its annual game against an FCS foe.

This isn’t just any FCS foe, though, as the Razorbacks are set to welcome Missouri State and Bobby Petrino to Reynolds Razorback Stadium for a 6 p.m. CT kickoff Saturday. Petrino, of course, is the former Arkansas football coach whose tenure in Fayetteville ended in scandal about a decade ago.

Not only are there the obvious storylines surrounding Petrino’s return to Arkansas, but his Missouri State team is very good. Coming off back-to-back appearances in the FCS playoffs, he has the Bears ranked No. 7 in this week’s FCS Coaches Poll.

Of course, the Razorbacks are also pretty good. Following their 44-30 win over South Carolina, and a slew of upsets across college football, they moved up six spots to No. 10 in the AP Poll. It’s the second time they’ve cracked the top 10 under Pittman and, unlike some coaches, he doesn’t easily dismiss the accomplishment.

In fact, he tweeted a graphic that proudly displayed Arkansas’ No. 10 ranking Sunday afternoon and he said he was met with a surprising amount of negativity and fans saying, “It doesn’t matter.” Pittman made sure to address those fans Monday afternoon.

“Well, I ain’t tweeting it out to you guys or a 50-year-old man,” Pittman said. “I’m trying to use it as recruiting. So I really don’t care what the guy says, you know what I mean? I’m trying to recruit. Not him or them. I recruit. So we’re proud of it. Sure we’re proud of it. That doesn’t mean that that’s where we want to stay.”

Here are several other updates from the third-year coach’s 27-minute press conference, in which he previewed the Arkansas vs Missouri State matchup, gave some injury updates, took a final look back at the South Carolina win and more…

  • On the upcoming matchup with Missouri State: We’re excited to play Missouri State. Last time Arkansas was relevant was when Coach Petrino was here and we’re grateful for his time here. We’ve used that in recruiting. Without him and his staff, we wouldn’t have been able to do that. They’ve got a good team. 
  • On his takeaways after reviewing the South Carolina film: The No. 1 thing was our penalties. We have to figure out how to get those cleaned up. Most of them on defense happened on third down. That just can’t happen. We have to really emphasize it. I felt like Drew Sanders had a good game. I didn’t know he had a hell of a game. He did some things that were pretty incredible. I thought we played well on special teams, minus the two penalties.
  • On facing a top-10 FCS team coached by Bobby Petrino getting the team’s attention: These weeks are about trying to get better, trying to see who can help us win ballgames. Like last week, we took the stance of ‘we have to get better ourselves.’ I’ve been proud of our team for putting the last game away and focusing on the next game.
  • On Bobby Petrino: He’s a great coach. He was when he was here and Louisville, coached the Falcons. They tried several different people before him and he’s gotten them back to the playoffs. He’s just a really good coach and has a good staff. Went into the transfer portal and got a lot of players there. Been a really great job he’s done there.
  • On the offensive play calling through two games: I think Kendal has called two really good games. I thought he had South Carolina a little bit on edge with some of the things he was doing. They’ve had great game plans on offense. Our offensive line is playing well and that includes Trey Knox and Nathan Bax. Kendal is really using the personnel we have.
  • On Arkansas’ improved pass rush: It’s had a big impact. We have to get to the quarterback. Our secondary is continuing to get better. We had a couple of injuries that hurt us. But we have to get pressure on the quarterback. That’s why we went into the portal. Drew Sanders is one of those guys, along with some of the other new guys. It’s helped us. We’re also not playing as much 3-man front. We’re not the same defense as we were last year.
  • On the secondary: DayDay (LaDarrius Bishop) is injured right now. He’s another one we won’t have on Saturday. Where we are now, we have to multitask those guys. I’d like to see Keuan Parker get some work at corner. He’s worked hard in practice and is a good cover guy. Hopefully we can get Slusher back. Chavis is going to have to play corner and safety.
  • On linebacker Chris Paul Jr.: I think he played really well. He got more reps this week than the previous week. He’s a good player. Physical guy. Knows what he’s doing now better than before.
  • On wide receiver Jadon Haselwood: I think he’s having a good time. He’s a physical kid. He’s a man. Not afraid to say his opinion, which helps the football team. Not afraid to lead. Brings a lot of confidence to the offense. He’s never down. I like everything about him.
  • Update on Trey Knox’s ankle injury: I think we have to watch him. I think he’ll be fine this weekend, but we have to watch him. He has the potential to practice.
  • On Rocket Sanders leading the SEC in rushing: I think the line is playing pretty good and that helps him. He’s making decisions faster. You have to find the right hole in there and he’s finding it faster. He’s attacking the line of scrimmage better and running through arm tackle. He’s playing with a lot of confidence.
  • Comparing the Bumper Pool/Drew Sanders tandem to Grant Morgan/Hayden Henry: I think Bump and Drew are close. They’re good friends and earned each other’s respect. There’s two totally different personalities there. Hayden was a slobberknocker who just wanted to hit people. Grant was Mr. Everything – best talker, best coach, best leader. He was something really special. There’s not a huge similarity between those duos, but this one plays really good football.
  • On Ricky Stromberg’s performance: I don’t think (Stromberg) played some of his best ball against Cincinnati. I thought he had one of his better games Saturday. We challenged the offensive line. We felt like they could take over the game. They controlled most of the first half.
  • On Bobby Petrino: I think he’s fantastic. I mean, a really good coach. Schematically, he knows what he wants to do and he’s got a good quarterback. Has a nice running back and a couple of good wide receivers and uses them well. They’re a physical football team. He knows the personnel he has and uses them.

Watch Sam Pittman’s full interview here:

Arkansas Football Injury Report

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

  • S Jalen Catalon (shoulder): needs “reconstructive” surgery on his shoulder, will miss rest of the season (what it means for Arkansas)
  • NB Myles Slusher (undisclosed): could return vs. Missouri State, missed the South Carolina game with an injury suffered in Week 1 against Cincinnati
  • TE Trey Knox (ankle): day-to-day with ankle injury that he had going into the South Carolina game, caused him to miss time in that game
  • S Latavious Brini (ankle): day-to-day with ankle injury that caused him to miss time in the South Carolina game, Pittman said he was probably healthier than Knox at this point
  • CB LaDarrius Bishop (undisclosed): Pittman revealed he had an injury and would be out this week
  • RB Dominique Johnson (ACL): “hopeful” he can return this week; dressed out and went through pregame warmups for a second straight week, but again did not play against South Carolina
  • QB Kade Renfro (ACL): dressed out and went through pregame warmups, but did not play against Cincinnati or South Carolina; Pittman said on Aug. 31 that he had not yet been fully cleared for contact
  • OL Marcus Henderson (pectoral): dressed out and went through pregame warmups, but did not play against South Carolina
  • DT Taurean Carter (knee): did not dress out against South Carolina, expected to be out a while

Monday Practice Observations — Missouri State Week

Arkansas opened up about 15 minutes of Monday’s practice to the media. Here are a few takeaways from that viewing period…

  • As usual for a Monday, the Razorbacks worked out in “shells” – helmets, shoulder pads and shorts.
  • No players wore green non-contact jerseys.
  • Tight end Trey Knox was in a regular white jersey, but he was still clearly favoring his ankle while going through individual drills.
  • Safety Latavious Brini was in a regular red jersey and was seen walking gingerly on his injured ankle at times, but as Pittman mentioned in the press conference, he didn’t seem to be further along than Knox.
  • Running back Dominique Johnson continues to improve and seemed to go through drills with no issues. He was getting his reps after the trio of Rocket Sanders, AJ Green and Rashod Dubinion.
  • A pair of defensive backs were not spotted during the viewing period: cornerback LaDarrius Bishop and nickel Myles Slusher. Bishop has already been declared out for this week by Pittman, while there is optimism surrounding Slusher’s status.
  • With their absences, plus the loss of Jalen Catalon, the Razorbacks are pretty thin in the secondary. Malik Chavis played some safety against South Carolina, but was practicing with the cornerbacks. Khari Johnson, who started the season as a cornerback, is still working with the safeties.
  • Another interesting thing of note: As the media was leaving the practice field, the defense lined up to go against a scout team offense in a 7-on-7 setting. The first-team cornerbacks were Dwight McGlothern and Malik Chavis. Usual starter Hudson Clark went with the second team, along with Keuan Parker.
  • Sam Pittman won’t let linebacker Drew Sanders rest on his laurels. When the junior failed to finish a drill to Pittman’s liking, the third-year coach got on him about winning the “National Lombardi Award” – referring to him being named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week – and asked if he wasn’t going to finish drills today.

Arkansas Football Depth Chart

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

Offense

POSFirstSecondThird
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…

  • There are no changes on the offensive depth chart.
  • However, Knox being listed as a starter doesn’t mean he’s a lock to play against Missouri State as he deals with an ankle injury. Although there is an “or” between them, Bax has played the backup snaps through two weeks. Henry only got in after Knox went down.
  • Among the wide receivers, Jackson is the clear No. 4 guy. Beyond him and the starters, Hornsby has been the Razorbacks’ fifth wide receiver, but Wilson did play a couple of snaps Saturday.
  • Kutas is listed as the backup center, but if something were to happen to Stromberg, Limmer would likely slide over to center and Crawford would replace him at right guard.

Defense

POSFirstSecondThird
DEZach WilliamsJordan Domineck
DTIsaiah NicholsCam Ball
DTEric GregoryTerry Hampton
DEJashaud StewartLandon Jackson
MLBDrew SandersChris Paul Jr.
WLBBumper PoolJordan CrookJackson Woodard
NBMyles SlusherTrent GordonJacorrei Turner
CBHudson ClarkMalik Chavis
SLatavious BriniKhari Johnson
SSimeon BlairJayden Johnson
CBDwight McGlothernLaDarrius Bishop

Notable…

  • The only change on the entire depth chart is at safety, as Jalen Catalon was removed because he is out for the season. Brini moved into the starting spot and Khari Johnson, who had previously been listed as a cornerback, is listed as his backup.
  • Myles Slusher being listed as the starting nickel does not necessarily mean he is going to play this weekend because he was also listed as the starter last week, as was Catalon, but neither played.
  • Although Gordon is listed as the backup nickel, Jayden Johnson – who’s listed as a backup safety – got the start at nickel against South Carolina.

Special Teams

POSFirstSecondThird
KCam Little
KOJake Bates
PMax FletcherReid Bauer
LSEli SteinJohn Oehrlein -OR-Francisco Castro
HReid Bauer
KORAJ GreenRashod Dubinion
PRBryce StephensHarper Cole

Notable…

  • There are no changes on the special teams depth chart.

How to Watch Arkansas vs Missouri State

Date: Saturday, Sept. 17

Location: Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)

Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 6 p.m. CT (ESPN+/SECN+)

Missouri State’s Rankings: No. 5 (STATS Perform FCS Top 25) | No. 7 (FCS Coaches) | No. 9 (FCS SP+)

Arkansas’ Rankings: No. 10 (AP) | No. 11 (Coaches) | No. 17 (SP+) | No. 21 (FPI)

ESPN FPI: Arkansas has a 99.2% chance to win (down 0.2 percentage points from preseason projection)

Odds/Betting Line: TBA

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