FAYETTEVILLE — Former Maumelle defensive line standout Nico Davillier was among the standouts on Day 1 of spring practice at Arkansas on Thursday.
Davillier came to Arkansas as a highly recruited talent capable of playing most spots on the defensive line. Sam Pittman was all smiles about Davillier following Thursday’s practice.
“Man, I really like him,” Pittman said. “I really have in the offseason. I think his mind is, ‘I didn’t get to play much last year and I’m sure going to this year.’ He’s chasing the ball as well as anybody that we have.”
Pittman was asked if he thinks Davillier will stay at the edge position or move inside?
“I do,” Pittman said. “I do right now. I think we’re trying to get him ready, to be honest with you, to play that down guy and play that Jack position, that Buck position. Because he can run so well. Good pass rusher, as well. So right now he’s about as big as we probably want him to get. If it ever came to a point where we thought he could get on the field more by moving him inside, we would certainly talk to him about that. But right now he runs well enough, he can stand up and rush from a stand-up or he can drop. I think we got him right where we want him at this point.”
Davillier is listed at 6-foot-4, 273-pounds currently. Thus far the Hogs have recruited two defensive linemen from the transfer portal. Former Pitt standout John Morgan III is one of them competing for playing time at the Jack. Trajan Jeffcoat is a former All-SEC defensive end from Missouri.
“I like them,” Pittman said. “I think they’ll be hard to block, rushing the passer or as a tight end trying to block them. They’re both good sized guys that have motors. Again, we’re not in pads or anything, but you can only impress with what the uniform of the day is and both of them certainly did.”
The secondary is missing some key pieces such as cornerback Quincey McAdoo, super senior cornerback LaDarrius Bishop and safety Alfahiym Walcott. But Pittman had a lot of praise for cornerback Lorando Johnson, who transferred from Baylor with Walcott, and safety Jaylen Lewis.
“And then back in the secondary, we’re beat up a little bit right now,” Pittman said. “I know it’s hard to say when you have your first day of practice, but we’ve got a few guys that have a few injuries. But I thought Snaxx (Johnson) had a good day out there and I’m liking Jaylen Lewis. I think he’s doing a nice job out there, as well. There’s a lot of guys. I missed a bunch of them. But I was proud. It was just spiders and not contact right now, but I thought the practice went well, the kids ran to the football.”
With returning safeties such as Jayden Johnson and Hudson Clark along with Lewis Pittman talked about the first day at that position.
“That’s a group back there where Jayden Johnson has really had a nice offseason,” Pittman said. “Like I said, J-Lew. That’s a group back there, I think we need Al to get healthy, even with (Georgia transfer Jaheim) Singletary and some guys that might allow us to move some guys around.
“That group right there is probably the most injured that we have right now as far as not being out there, ‘cause when you take Quincey out and you take Al out and DayDay’s not healthy quite yet, but he’s close, and then Jaheim’s not here, you’ve got what we think are four guys that can really play. It’ll be great for us because Snaxx went out there and played corner today, and I thought he had a heck of a day, so once we get all the pieces healthy and out there, I think we’ll have a good idea who those safeties will really, truly be.”
The safety group did get a nice addition with redshirt senior Malik Chavis moving back there. Chavis has played both cornerback and safety while at Arkansas.
“Yeah, all he needs is confidence,” Pittman said. “I mean that’s all he needs. He can run, he’s big, I think they’ve taken to Coach (Marcus) Woodson and Coach (Deron) Wilson, and so I think he’s going to be just fine, and again, he’s gotten bigger and stronger, so I think this could be his year.”
Arkansas returns to the practice fields today at 4 p.m.