FAYETTEVILLE — Simeon Blair came to Arkansas a preferred walk-on and among the other schools that recruited him was UAPB.
On Saturday, Blair and the Razorbacks will take on UAPB at 11 a.m. Saturday in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium. Blair is excited to get to play UAPB since he played at Pine Bluff High School and talked about his consideration of UAPB in the recruiting process.
“I gave it a little thought,” Blair said. “Arkansas ended up telling me how I could work for a scholarship and I felt that would be a great choice for me. I felt like it’s a real honor to go back home and be playing my hometown team that I’ve seen since I’ve really grown up.”
UAPB will bring a 1-5 record into the game, but Blair knows the Hogs will get their best shot.
“I think they will be very excited,” Blair said. “They get to play a bigger school and also I’ll get to see a lot of old school friends that I went to junior high with and high school and elementary school and stuff like that.”
Blair will be playing against a team with several familiar faces on it across from him.
“It’s a great amount of them,” Blair said. “A lot of them have probably left since this is my fifth year but I know quite a few, probably about 10 or 15 players on that team that I played with when I was young.”
Blair talked about what to expect from the UAPB offense that he has seen on tape.
“They’re a very athletic group,” Blair said. “They have great speed with their receivers. They have two quarterbacks. They play both quarterbacks. They have great arms. They can both hit you with the read-option game. I feel like we’re just going to make sure that we do our job with our 11 on the field on defense. We just make sure we do our job and I feel like we’re going to have the outcome that we’re expecting.”
Jalen Catalon, Arkansas’ talented redshirt sophomore season, had surgery on Monday and is out for the season. He was replaced on Saturday against Auburn by Myles Slusher.
“Myles Slusher, he’s a very athletic kid,” Blair said. “He’s very gifted. He has a lot of skills. He works his skills a lot. He has great hips, great breaks. And he’s grown up right in front of our eyes. He’s learning how the game flows more. He’s getting the game speed down. I feel like he’s getting done a wonderful job of stepping up for us and helping us be a great defense. It’s always the next man up mentality and that’s why we build up in our spring and our fall camps.”
It’s possible Jayden Johnson and some of the younger players could see some action on Saturday if Arkansas gets a lead. They are getting more reps in practice this week.
“I think that’s good for them,” Blair said. “It’s great experience and we have a lot of depth. We pride ourselves on being as good as the person that’s in the lineup at that time, so if you’re on the field, you have a chance to make that play and I’m very confident in every defensive back and every position we have, even if it’s a younger guy. They’re going to do their job. That’s how we play, that’s what we do.”
The younger players will need to come on now with Catalon out for the season. Blair talked about how he feels about the depth at safety without Catalon.
“Yes, I definitely feel like we have the depth,” Blair said. “Losing Catalon is a big loss because we all know how he plays the game. We all know how he goes about the game. He takes the game more serious than almost anyone I’ve ever seen. But while working with him, we were able to get his mentality, and we bring that mentality to our room. So, just losing him doesn’t do anything but bring bigger heads to us. We feel like we want to play harder just for him because we know how much he would want to be on the field with us.”
In seven games, Blair has 19 tackles, including 10 solo, and three pass breakups.