FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas practiced in the Walker Pavilion on Tuesday with coach Sam Pittman opting to change things up.
It did rain heavily in the Fayetteville area, but cleared out before practice. Pittman acknowledged they could have gone outside, but stayed inside to change things up some.
On the field, Arkansas seems to be getting good news with redshirt safety Jalen Catalon healthy again and ready to participate in Friday’s scrimmage.
“Oh yeah, he practiced full go today,” Pittman said. “The safety spot, it’s kind of the same type guys I talked to you about. Catalon, obviously, is doing a real good job back there. We’re kind of rotating a little bit in field boundary safeties, nickels, things of that nature. We’re just trying to make sure that we find the right guys. You have to multiple teach in that area, because of the fact of injuries and honestly because of COVID.”
In addition to safety and cornerback, several others are getting looks at the nickel spot.
“Greg’s (Greg Brooks) done a nice job,” Pittman said. “(Jarques) McClellion’s done a nice job out there. We’ve moved Slush (Myles Slusher) in there some, done some of that. Joe Foucha has come down and played that spot a little bit. It’s a hybrid, you know. It’s not really a linebacker, it’s not really a safety. It’s just a guy… (Myles) Mason… It’s just a guy that’s a big, physical guy that has to be a linebacker in the run and a corner or a safety in the passing game, so those guys are very, very valuable to us, and we feel pretty confident on where we’re headed with that position.
Pittman obviously has been one of the nation’s most successful offensive line coaches prior to taking the head job at Arkansas. He was asked if he’s happy with the progression on the offensive line?
“I think it’s coming along really fine,” Pittman said. “I do. If you grade them as a whole in the scrimmage on Friday they played really well. Protected well, ran the ball really well and had some nice holes in there. Played hard and had fun.
“Then the last two days I had say we’ve run the ball pretty well, but we haven’t protected the quarterback. That’s concerning to me and we’ve got to get better. It’s concerning to coach (Brad) Davis and concerning to the O-line. I think we’re progressing really well. I think we have plenty of tackles on the team that can play in this league. We’re still haven’t quite found all our inside pieces yet and we’re still looking at several different guys at the guard spots and certainly second and third center.”
Among the tackles are junior Dalton Wagner, sophomore Noah Gatlin, senior Myron Cunningham and some true freshmen as well as others. Cunningham is expected to start at left tackle with Wagner or Gatlin likely on the right side. Last year’s starter at center, senior Ty Clary, has been getting a lot of reps at guard. Is that permanent?
“No, I don’t so,” Pittman said. “I think Clary brings a lot of experience to the O-line and we are looking at him as a possibility as a guard along with Luke Jones as a guard as well as a center. And (Shane) Clenin as a guard as well as a center. The center and quarterback handle the ball every single snap and certainly we have to be consistent there. We have looked at several different guys at that spot. At those three spots actually, and we’re just trying to find the right combination. We feel like we’re pretty close. The left guard position is probably the most open position that we have on the offensive line.”
Sophomore Ricky Stromberg is playing center along with Clary and Jones. Redshirt freshman Beaux Limmer also is getting a lot of reps at guard. Pittman expects some clarity on the offensive line after Friday’s scrimmage.
“It’s big. It’s not all or nothing, but I think you’ll solidify four of them and then there’ll be another position there where you go, ‘You know what, this is a guy we’re going to put with the 1s and we’re going to live with it unless somebody else just looks really good in the next week after the scrimmage,”‘ Pittman said. “It’s a big deal. You can tell a lot about your team when everything is live. The answer is yes, the scrimmage is a big deal for everybody – probably especially the offensive line.”
Arkansas will practice on Wednesday and then scrimmage in the stadium on Friday.