Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
What Sam Pittman, Rakeem Boyd and Montaric Brown said about voluntary workouts
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman speaks Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, during a press conference to discuss the early signing period at the Fred W. Smith Football Center on the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman, running back Rakeem Boyd and defensive back Montaric Brown were part of a Zoom conference call with reporters on Tuesday. Here is a rundown of what they said:
Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman
• Reports he has gotten on workouts: I think they're really pleased with how the kids returned in shape. We're in good shape for where we are right now. We've got a much bigger football team than we had in middle-to-late March.
• On the latest Oklahoma transfer Jaquayln Crawford: Very dynamic slot receiver. You watch his tape, he was electric in high school. He contacted us, and I think we finished second on him two years ago at Georgia. He has a great mom, and he has a lot of speed. We're really excited about getting him in here.
• Any concerns about the season? Pittman: No, not really. We can only control what we can control in here. In our SEC head coaches meetings, everything is on schedule for Sept. 5 and that' what we're preparing for. As of today, we're looking forward to start the season off in September.
• The virus has not really impacted us. If you have a positive, it's going to take whoever is around them for a 10-14 day period. It can impact who can work out and who cannot. I'm very proud of the way the players have handled it.
• Our depth chart, we have one now. It'll be an evolving depth chart, I'm sure. You have to have a first way to line them up. A lot of it has to do with last season or maybe the season before, or what we saw in the 8-week offseason program. We need to look at the kids, and in the walkthrough, you can't tell who can hit, run and tackle, but you can tell who has retained information.
• All the kids look like they're in pretty good shape. Andy Boykin came in and looks good. He's a little over 300 pounds. I was pleased with the way they came in. They all have a great attitude. You have to find people who want to be at Arkansas and want to play the game, and we have that with this group.
• I think the media thinks we're not going to have a season more than we do. There hasn't been one ounce of conversation with our team about not having a season. We all believe we're going to. We're preparing for Sept. 5. If it doesn't happen, we'll have to figure out what our next step is.
• We're going to use our special teams in those practices as well. They're going to give you six hours per week for walkthroughs, and we're going to use some of that in special teams. Offense and defense will get about 4.5 hours.
• Graduate transfers: All of them are here now. They've been with us for a little bit.
• I learned a long time ago that media is very important, but it can make your team or break your team if you pay a lot of attention to it. We're going off facts of what we know. I'm going off facts from Greg Sankey. We can speculate for a month. I'm just going off facts of what Sankey is telling us. I don't know, honestly, how you can prepare a team if you look at it any other way than that.
• On Rakeem Boyd: I do know this, we're really happy he came back. He has great leadership skills, he's motivated and I love him. I'm excited to see him play this year. He's working very hard and he knows what this senior season holds for him and this football team. The better he is, the better this team will be. I think he's going to have a heck of a season.
• More on Boyd: He's a dynamic runner and can see the field well and has great vision. In our report we got back, we need to get him more pass protection reps and get him the ball out of the backfield. That's in our offense, and the better he becomes at those things, the more he'll improve his draft stock.
• More on Crawford: He just pushes forward to next season. He will count in the scholarship count for 2021.
• On incoming freshmen moving to campus: It's a relationship business and it's hard to build those over the phone or on Zoom. We feel like we lost 4-5 face-to-face opportunities with recruits. Our entire staff was at The Quads on Friday helping them move in. Our whole Friday was spent trying to help the parents feel comfortable their kids were in the right hands.
• On the offensive line: We're big right now. We've got a pretty good-sized offensive line. Their mommas must be good at cooking, because they've added some quality weight. I like big. We're certainly going to try to keep getting bigger. Jamil Walker has put an emphasis on that. To me, bigger is better as long as you can move. I've been pleased with the way guys came back.
• Myron Cunningham was about 285-87, and he's about 319 now. He needed it. I had a nice talk with him and I think he's going to have a nice season. He worked hard to add weight and stay in shape.
• On Montaric Brown: I'm so happy he's on the team. He's a great kid who works his tail off. He had an injury back in January and the next day he was ready to go. He loves the game. He and Rakeem Boyd are great ambassadors for our football team. He's loyal. I think he's a special person.
• Guys who have risen above the position they held in terms of leadership: We truly are in our own little world over here separate from the workouts. I wish we could answer that question, but we can't.
• We've gotten better and better at social distancing as we progress through the weeks. The education has worked. We choose to trust and believe in our team because they're grown men.
• On Boyd playing for so many staffs: I don't know if it has a lot to do with how his thinking is. Ever since we've been here, he's been outstanding and worked his tail off. He's done a heck of a job for us.
• I've heard a lot of stuff, when asked if he'd heard the season could be flipped to the spring. Before we get to that point I think they'd shorten the season. There are a lot of scenarios. We're planning for Sept. 5.
Running back Rakeem Boyd
• On improvements to his game: Over this virus stretch, I went to WR workouts and caught balls with them. In pass blocking, I'm just working out and trying to get bigger in my upper body.
• On workouts: A lot of guys have come together. John Stephen Jones, Deon Edwards and Simeon Blair have been steady and have stood out. They've pushed me to go harder.
• On how he feels physically: I feel, honestly, the best I've ever felt. This time has been good for me. I've never really had an offseason to really work out. It's my last season.
• On playing for four staffs in his career: I thought about that the other day. It helps a lot. I've learned a lot from each coach I've had. It's been a struggle, but it's also been a blessing on top of it. You learn what each coach is about.
• On his workouts: I've been knowing Justin Allen for a long time, like before Texas A&M. He's best friends with a guy who was on Last Chance U a while back. I needed to get in shape. He was the guy.
• This is probably the best the offensive line has looked in my two years. As a running back, when you see that, you can't do anything but smile. They're in shape. That's probably the most impressive group right now. Myron Cunningham looks good. Offensive line and defensive backs have stood out so far.
• Some outsiders don't know what we have here, but Sam Pittman is the guy. He's part of the reason I came back.
• We want to get over on every team, basically. We're all training. That's motivating us to win. We haven't been winning, so we're going to need everybody.
• I probably talk to Jeff Traylor twice a month now. He's the head coach at UTSA now. It's good talks every time we catch up.
• Coach Pittman, as everyone knows, he' a straight-up dude. He's going to give it to you how it is. He doesn't sugarcoat anything. He's kind of an old school kind of coach.
• On Pittman standing up for players and their families: As a head coach, I wouldn't know what to do, but he's a coach who handled it well and repped his team well. During that time, I was proud of him. That's big.
Defensive back Montaric Brown
• Workouts during time away to come back in shape: I had surgery in January and had to do rehab. I was doing rehab during the day. My goal is to be more vocal as a leader. I wasn't being vocal early in my career. I want to be more involved.
• The workouts, everyone has been working their tails off. Everyone is listening to Coach Walker. Greg Brooks and Jerry Jacobs have stood out to me.
• We listen to Coach Pittman and what he's said about the virus. We're following what he says.
• On his role: I think I'll hold down a corner spot. My mindset is to dominate. I'll do what I have to do.
• On Boyd: I expect an incredible season from. I'm expecting big things from him. I think he's the best back in the SEC. He's fast. It'll surprise you and sneak up on you.
• If you want a season, you're going to abide by those rules. We've been following the rules.
• Thanks to Coach Pittman and his staff for bringing in a great class, the freshmen have a chance to play early. I'm ready to see those freshmen come out and play.
• Coming off two 2-10 seasons, people don't expect much from us. We're wanting to come in and try to dominate every game.
• Everybody isn't working out. Workouts are voluntary, but we're treating them like they're mandatory. We're trying to get the upper hand on the other teams.
• During the coaching change and we found out Coach Pittman was coming in, I had no thoughts about leaving. He's a straight-up guy, like Rakeem said.
• On the secondary: So far, I can say guys will step up. Nick Turner, Jerry Jacobs, Malik Chavis and LaDarrius Bishop have stepped up. Greg Brooks, Jerry Jacobs have worked at nickel.
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