FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt freshman safety Jalen Catalon has been one of Arkansas’ best players this season, but he was disqualified from the game Saturday night due to a personal foul.
On Monday, Sam Pittman talked about the loss of Catalon and the depth in the secondary.
“Well, I think they’ve done a really good job,” Pittman said. “You know, obviously losing Catalon the other night, it showed. We had certainly practiced without him and things of that nature. But he’s probably as important as anybody we have on the defense. He’s been playing really well. Just an unfortunate situation that he wasn’t able to play in the rest of the second quarter and the second half. He’s very valuable back there. We learned a lesson there about having another guy at his position ready to go.
“(Myles) Slusher was a guy that we felt like could do that. (Simeon) Blair was a guy. But of course, Slusher had an ankle injury that we didn’t know for sure he was going to be able to play or not going into the game. We’re pretty healthy right now, and so I think we’re going to be OK there.”
Pittman was asked if Catalon has set the tone this season with big hits?
“Well, he has,” Pittman said. “Blair has. Joe has. But he’s, like I say, he’s the most valuable guy we have back there. I mean, he runs it. He’s aware of what teams are doing because he watches a tremendous amount of film. So does the whole secondary back there, but very, very, very valuable to our football team as a young man and as a player. And so, obviously you want to keep those guys on the field as much as you can, but he tries to knock a guy out a little bit too much for me. He’s going to have to slow down and wrap up a little bit every now and then. He’ll miss some tackles that certainly he wanted to make. But you don’t want to take that physicality away from him because he’ll also kind of knock you out. So, we’d like to keep the knockout part and maybe wrap up a little bit more.”
Redshirt freshman Hudson Henry had six catches for 33 yards on Saturday night. Pittman praised him on Monday.
“I thought he had his best performance Saturday,” Pittman said. “And I’m just talking about a physicality, toughness standpoint. Like I said earlier, he took a couple of nice shots. The best they could give him. And he got the ball to the official, got lined up and got ready to play. He wasn’t shaken, wasn’t shook. I don’t know which way you’re supposed to say that. I do know this — earlier in the year that would have affected him. So he’s maturing, he’s growing. He understands that he’s a weapon. He’s really perfect for our offense.”
Pittman talked about the tight ends including Henry and how they are improving.
“I think they’re doing a really good job,” Pittman said. “You know, actually on our good tape yesterday, we actually showed Hudson. He took a couple of really nice shots from the guys at A&M and he gave the ball to the official, got up, went to his alignment, assignment and went on about his business. That’s a redshirt freshman and he’s getting tougher. He’s getting better.
“Blake Kern I think has done a nice job as well. He caught a very important pass down to about the 1- or 2-yard line against A&M. He’s doing a better blocking. Both of them – obviously we can improve and they know it, but they’re working awful hard. I’ve been very happy with those two guys.
“Obviously Blayne Toll is probably No. 3 on the depth chart right now. Not getting him quite as much reps as we anticipated, but he’s done a nice job on special teams.”