FAYETTEVILLE — After being suspended for the LSU game, Myles Slusher’s status for this weekend’s matchup with No. 14 Ole Miss is still up in the air.
Head coach Sam Pittman had previously suspended him and freshman Anthony Brown for “at least” one week after their disorderly conduct arrests in the early-morning hours after the loss to Liberty earlier this month.
Neither of the defensive backs was with the team Saturday after a week spent with the scout team and doing extra conditioning. That was nothing new for Brown, who appears to be on his way to redshirting, but Slusher’s absence was notable because he’s been the Razorbacks’ starting nickel when healthy.
When he met with reporters Monday afternoon, Pittman left the door open for him to return this week, but no official decision has been made.
“I don’t know exactly yet what we’re going to do,” Pittman said. “They’re going to practice. Obviously Ant is on the scout team, so he’ll go there. Slusher will go back up with the defense — not the scout team — and we’ll make a decision. Wednesday, I’ll know for sure at that time.”
With Slusher out, sophomore Jayden Johnson started in his place and played arguably his best game of the season. He played all 67 defensive snaps and earned a career-high 70.0 Pro Football Focus grade, officially finishing with eight tackles.
Fans’ Disappointment a ‘Great Thing’
Fresh off a 9-4 campaign and its first top-25 finish in a decade, expectations for Arkansas football were sky high entering this season.
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, things haven’t gone as they hoped. Already sitting at 5-5, they’re guaranteed to finish with a worse record than last year and they still need one more win just to gain bowl eligibility.
With especially disappointing losses to the likes of Texas A&M and Liberty being part of that record, there’s been a growing segment of the fan base unhappy with Sam Pittman and his staff.
However, Pittman said he understood that comes with the territory as the head coach and he actually welcomes those expectations — and the disappointment that comes with not meeting them.
“I’d rather have the expectations be high and take the criticism than they go, ‘Oh well, you played LSU to 13-10 and they’re West Division champs,’” Pittman said. “We don’t want any of that. We want to win. It doesn’t matter who we play.”
He also made sure to add that the criticisms aren’t weighing on the team, as evidenced by how they fought in Saturday’s loss to LSU. Pittman said he doesn’t anticipate the team letting go of the rope in the final two games of the year.
“Did we go faster than even what I thought we would last year? Probably,” Pittman said. “But I was happy with it. We’re disappointed with where we are, but we can wallow in (it) or we can get bowl eligible. I think you saw Saturday that our team wants to go to postseason play, and I think you’ll see it again Saturday.”
Arkansas Football’s Weekly Press Conference
Here are several other updates from the third-year coach’s weekly Monday press conference, in which he previewed the Arkansas vs Ole Miss matchup, gave some injury updates, took a final look back at the LSU loss and more…
- On facing Ole Miss: Obviously very explosive on offense. They’re running the ball as good as anybody in the SEC, but still pretty balanced. Have great skill players. Really fine talent. Defensively, disruptive, run a 3-2-6, can get after the quarterback. They’ve been blitzing more of late, trying to slow down opponent runs against them. They play extremely hard and are well coached.
- On KJ Jefferson’s status: We anticipate him practicing. We anticipate him playing on Saturday. Those things certainly can change. But I know he feels better than he has since the Auburn game. We’ll have to see how he does at practice, but I know he feels better.
- On who would be the backup quarterback, Malik Hornsby or Cade Fortin: It would be an open competition. The problem is not knowing KJ’s status and game planning. It’s a little easier if Malik is the guy, because there are some similar skills. I think our team and our staff, we just want to know if KJ is going to play, or go the entire week knowing he won’t play. Malik and Cade would battle for that second QB spot.
- On the play of his team: We lost the game, but it would be hard to say that we didn’t play an excellent game on defense. We haven’t necessarily done that. We’re going to take some of that and continue to do those things. We’ve got to get our offense going. A lot of it depends on a healthy KJ Jefferson, but if we don’t have him, we have to do a better job of hanging our hat on something.
- On the lack of broken tackles the last two weeks: I don’t know that we’ve ever been great at breaking tackles. We’ve had some big hole to run through. We’re not getting those opportunities. It’s harder to break tackles when you’re getting hit closer to the line of scrimmage. Right now, it seems like the first guy has been getting us down. We need to run with the demeanor of the first guy isn’t going to get us on the ground.
- On the status of suspended defensive backs Myles Slusher, Anthony Brown: I don’t know exactly what we’re going to do yet. They’re going to practice. Slusher will go back up with the defense, not the scout team. Wednesday, I’ll know for sure.
- On the confidence of the defense: I feel like over the last six quarters, we’ve played like we did our first two years. I don’t know why we didn’t earlier. I think a lot of it has to do with guys not being comfortable with the guys around them because there was a lot of shuffling going on. … We’re getting after the quarterback better of late.
- On Ole Miss ranking third in the SEC in sacks: Their blitzing is primarily to stop the run. … They have gone into much more of a movement blitzing style recently compared to what they were doing earlier in the year. They’ve been defending better in the secondary, so I think that’s why they’ve been able to do that.
- On the Arkansas-Ole Miss series: It’s always exciting to play Ole Miss, especially with Lane. He’s got them going. Fans are going to be excited about the game because there’s going to be a lot of offense. One advantage we have is playing at home and at night. … We recruit a lot of the same kids and obviously Sam Carter left to go over there, so there’s lots to play for.
- On Ty’Kieast Crawford’s first start: Cody (Kennedy) and I were just talking about it before I came over here. We thought Ty’Kieast did a really good job for it being his first start against a really good LSU team. For his first start, I thought he held up pretty darn good.
- On Ole Miss QB Jaxon Dart: He’s a better runner than I want him to be. He’s smart, accurate, not afraid to throw a back-shoulder throw. He’s got some really good receivers, as well. It seems to me that he’s very comfortable in the offense. I’m really concerned with his running ability.
- On right tackle Dalton Wagner: He’s going to practice some today. We’re going to check him in individual drills. We’re going to see what he can do while also being smart.
Watch Sam Pittman’s full interview here:
Arkansas Football Injury Report
Here’s the latest on various Arkansas football players dealing with injuries…
- QB KJ Jefferson (shoulder): Pittman and staff “anticipate” him to practice Monday and be available to play Saturday… Feels as good as he has since the Auburn game
- OL Dalton Wagner (back): Will practice at least in a limited capacity Monday and will see how he responds in individual drills
- TE Nathan Bax (undisclosed): For the second straight week, dressed out and went through pregame warmups, but did not play against LSU… Got injured in practice on Wednesday of Liberty week, but no specifics are known
- DT Taurean Carter (knee): Been out since getting hurt in the Spring Showcase… Pittman said the earliest he might return is the Missouri game
- RB Dominique Johnson (ACL): Out for the year
- QB Kade Renfro (ACL): Out for the year
- CB LaDarrius Bishop (knee): Out for the year
- S Jalen Catalon (shoulder): Out for the year
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.)
|QB||KJ Jefferson||Malik Hornsby||Cade Fortin|
|RB||Rocket Sanders||AJ Green||Rashod Dubinion|
|TE||Trey Knox||Nathan Bax||Hudson Henry|
|WR||Ketron Jackson Jr.||Warren Thompson|
|WR||Jadon Haselwood||Bryce Stephens|
|WR||Matt Landers||Jaedon Wilson|
|LT||Luke Jones||Andrew Chamblee|
|LG||Brady Latham||Jalen St. John|
|C||Ricky Stromberg||Patrick Kutas|
|RG||Beaux Limmer||E’Marion Harris|
|RT||Dalton Wagner||Ty’Kieast Crawford|
- There are no changes on the offensive depth chart.
- However, it’s worth noting that just because Jefferson is listed as the starting quarterback, doesn’t necessarily mean he’s definitely starting. He missed the LSU game with an injury. The same can be said about Wagner at right tackle, as Crawford started in his place because he was out with an injury.
- Similarly, Hornsby is still listed as the No. 2 quarterback and Fortin is the No. 3 quarterback, but Pittman said there would be an open competition for that role this week.
|DE||Landon Jackson -OR-||Jashaud Stewart|
|DT||Terry Hampton||Eric Gregory|
|DT||Isaiah Nichols||Cam Ball|
|DE||Eric Gregory||Zach Williams -OR-||Jordan Domineck|
|MLB||Drew Sanders||Chris Paul Jr.|
|WLB||Bumper Pool||Jordan Crook||Jackson Woodard|
|NB||Myles Slusher||Jayden Johnson||Trent Gordon|
|CB||Dwight McGlothern||Keuan Parker|
|S||Latavious Brini -AND-||Hudson Clark||Khari Johnson|
|S||Simeon Blair||Jayden Johnson|
|CB||Malik Chavis -OR-||Quincey McAdoo|
- There are two new “or” listings on the defensive depth chart.
- First, there is an “or” between Jackson and Stewart at one of the defensive end spots. Stewart has started the last two games despite being listed as the backup.
- The other “or” is between Chavis and McAdoo at one of the cornerback spots. Despite Chavis being listed as the starter, McAdoo made his first career start against LSU and played all but two snaps. Chavis didn’t play at all.
- There is an “and” between Brini and Clark because both of them are on the field at the same time when Arkansas is in its dime package with six defensive backs.
|P||Reid Bauer||Max Fletcher|
|LS||Eli Stein||John Oehrlein -OR-||Francisco Castro|
|KOR||AJ Green||Rashod Dubinion||Harper Cole|
|PR||Bryce Stephens||Harper Cole|
- There are no changes on the special teams depth chart.
- However, it’s worth noting that Fletcher was used for Arkansas’ last punt against LSU.
How to Watch Arkansas vs Ole Miss
Date: Saturday, Nov. 19
Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 6:30 p.m. CT (SEC Network)
Announcers: Tom Hart (play-by-play), Jordan Rodgers (analyst), Cole Cubelic (sideline reporter)
Arkansas’ Rankings: NR (AP) | NR (Coaches) | No. 35 (SP+) | No. 45 (FPI)
ESPN FPI: Arkansas has a 32.1% chance to win (down 18.2 percentage points from preseason projection)
Odds/Betting Line: Ole Miss, -2.5 | O/U 60.5 (FanDuel)
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