FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt junior Nathan Parodi drew praise from Sam Pittman on Wednesday for his job returning punts.
Parodi also stepped in at Georgia last weekend on kickoff returns when the Hogs decided they would fair catch all of them. Will Parodi continue to do the returns?
“I think right now it’s Parodi’s job,” Pittman said. “He’s done a really good job with it. We haven’t really had on punt returns a look where you’re going, ‘Man, with a 10-flat kid or a 10.2 100 meter guy we score a touchdown there.’ I think Parodi’s doing a nice job of catching it and trying to steal first downs and return the ball and I have a lot of trust in him back there.”
Pittman shared a conversation he had with Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher following Arkansas’ 20-10 victory in Arlington earlier this season.
“You know punters are getting better nowadays with hang time and things of that nature,” Pittman said. “I don’t know how many returns people have had on us. Not many. One of the first things that Coach Fisher said after the A&M game is we took their punt returner completely out of the game. He had no return yardage. A bunch of that is our punter put it in locations and had the hang time and with that. So you need a dynamic punt returner but teams can take that person out of the game fairly easy. So right now, and I’m not saying Parodi’s not a dynamic punt returner I’m just saying right now I need somebody back there I can trust and if we can steal a first down on a return that would be really a big deal for us.”
Parodi has returned eight punts for 33 yards (4.1 per return) with a long of 10. As far as kickoff returner, Pittman has already used LaDarrius Bishop, Rocket Sanders and AJ Green back there in addition to Parodi. Bishop is averaging 28.8 yards on five returns to lead the team. Green has returned two for 15 yards, 7.5 per return, and Sanders one for 19 yards.
“You know, I like AJ Green back there,” Pittman said. “I like Day-Day. I’m not saying I don’t like Parodi either, he’s usually the off returner. We put him back there the other day because of that atmosphere and AJ’s a freshman, we thought he was ready for that. And I’m not going to make a mountain out of a mole hill, he dropped a fair catch. But, we thought helping him out and helping the team out as well, we’d put a more – a veteran back there and be able to – because they were kicking it so high. Like I said, I think I saw seven or eight guys inside the 25 when we caught the first kickoff. Well, that’s not good. I mean, it is if you’re Georgia but it’s not good for us. So, we’d rather just take it on the 25 than the 15 or 16 or 17, wherever we got it out to. So, I still believe in those guys we had back there, I think we were just trying to save AJ a little bit. You know, you can ruin a young kid if you don’t watch it. You don’t want to ruin his confidence, so we didn’t.”
On another note concerning special teams true freshman Cam Little missed his first field goal attempt last Saturday at Georgia. He had been perfect to that point. Pittman talked about how Little has bounced back this week after his first miss.
“Well, he made them all yesterday,” Pittman said Wednesday. “A guy’s going to miss every now and then. I don’t what he is, 9 for 10 or something like that (8 for 9), 10 for 11, whatever it may be. He’s really good. For a freshman to come in, you know, last year we had a tough time at times making extra points.
“So I’m really, really happy with him. I know we’re going to miss a field goal every now and then. And that’s what happened. But I’ll tell you this — every single time I send him out there I believe we’re going to make it. That doesn’t just come from I’m a positive guy. That comes from he’s making them in practice every single day.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields today.