FAYETTEVILLE — Hudson Clark and the Arkansas secondary is set to face another tough opponent on Saturday when they take on Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Clark, who can play all the secondary positions, has 22 tackles, including 16 solo, two pass breakups, an interception and one fumble recovery this season. Clark knows the Hogs will be tested by the SEC West-leading Tide.
“(Jalen) Milroe, he’s obviously improved from last year,” Pittman said. “He’s doing really good. They’re really talented at receiver and quarterback too. He can throw deep, he can run it, he can do it all. We’ve just to got be on high alert in the secondary.”
Milroe has completed 75-of-111 passes for 1,159 passes for nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has rushed 57 times for 158 yards and four more touchdowns. In relief of an injured Bryce Young last season, Milroe completed 4-of-8 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown against the Hogs. He also rushed six times for 91 yards and a touchdown. Clark expanded on how Milroe has improved from last season.
“Yeah, I would say he definitely throws a lot better, especially on the deep ball,” Clark said. “Last year he came in and he kinda put the game away with his run that was about 80 yards. He’s great in both aspects of the game, run and pass.”
Milroe’s favorite target is wide receiver Jermaine Burton who has caught 17 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns. Clark talked about what he has seen from Burton and the other Tide receivers.
“They’re really talented,” Clark said. “They’ve got great hands. They’re fast, quick and get out of breaks. They can do it all.”
The Arkansas secondary has held up most games despite battling injuries. The Hogs played against Ole Miss without cornerback Dwight McGlothern, who suffered a concussion in the loss to Texas A&M. Against the Rebels, both cornerback Jaylon Braxton and safety Alfahiym Walcott left with injuries.
“Yeah, I mean, we have a next man up mentality,” Clark said. “When one man goes down, the next man, he’s got to step up and be just as good or even better. I think getting reps in practice really helps those guys and they were just flying to the ball. They stepped in and filled their roles greatly.”
Sam Pittman was asked on Wednesday if the secondary has exceeded his expectations this season?
“Really good question,” Pittman said. “I felt like this last week we played the most confident that we have. Now we still gotta get guys on the ground and tackle a little bit better, we’ve got work to do, but I felt like that group played really well. I think some of that has to do with the versatility of guys like a Clark, like Snaxx (Lorando Johnson).
“Obviously we got beat up last week physically, so we’re not quite as what you might call non-confident in our guys. We feel a lot of confidence in them because they’ve been able to play and show that they can have success. Again, we learned that cross-training a little bit during that COVID year and we continue to do that, that way it’s kind of allowing us to get our best five, what we feel is the best five, on the field at the same time. I’m very confident that the kids will go out and play well. They’re to have to defend the long ball and we know that.”
Johnson is a transfer from Baylor who has also shown his versatility this season starting at both cornerback and the Hog position. He has 14 tackles, eight solo, two pass breakups and returned an interception 20 yards against Texas A&M for a touchdown. Pittman talked about what has allowed Johnson, nicknamed Snaxx, to be so versatile.
“I think first of all, it starts in his mind,” Pittman said. “I think he thinks that he could play nose guard. I think he thinks he could. Not an over-confident guy, but he possesses enough size… If you could go out and recruit big corners, that’s what you’d want because now you have a guy that has the size, the ability to play corner, but yet he can go play Hog, he can play safety, all those type things.
“A little bit of that is what Snaxx is. He’s got enough size to play the Hog, but he’s also got enough quickness to play the corner. When we got him, there was not any thought in our mind for him to go to the Hog position. We got him as a corner and then we found out what type of tackler he was and the aggressiveness that he had, then we were able to move him in to Hog. So I hope that answered your question.”
Pittman feels confident that McGlothern and Johnson can hold up against the Tide receivers on Saturday.
“We’ve played some really good wide receivers and we understand that…we played LSU and they’ve got some good ones,” Pittman said. “We’ve played some good wide receivers. It’s going to be about our technique, things of that nature. We know Alabama has outstanding wideouts and a guy that can get it to them. But I feel good about it. Obviously if we don’t feel good about man-to-man coverage, we’ll do some type of zone and we can drop eight and do some different things to try to help the guys. I feel good about our guys playing well.”
True freshmen Jaylon Braxton and TJ Metcalf have helped the Hogs in the secondary. Braxton has earned a starting spot at cornerback, but was injured against Ole Miss. His status for Alabama is unknown. Metcalf has been a steady player at the back of the secondary.
“His only deal is his opportunities haven’t come quite as often as what Braxton’s have, but we have a lot of confidence in him,” Pittman said. “He is playing faster as well, and I think he is going to be a really big part of our future. I really like him a lot. I like his family. I like everything about him but his opportunities haven’t come as often as Braxton’s because of who is playing in front of him, and injury situation and things of that nature, but I think he’s going to be a really good player and he’s doing a really good job for us now.”
Clark and the Hogs will enter the game trying to break two streaks. They haven’t beaten Alabama since 2006 and they have lost four in a row this season.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously every week we’re positive,” Clark said. “We have hope we’re going to win. We’re just working. We’re watching film and trying to do more than we did last week and I think going into every game you have to believe you can win and that’s the beginning of it.”
The kickoff is set for 11 a.m. and televised on ESPN.