Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
What Sam Pittman said during his bye week radio show
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman (left) and radio announcer Chuck Barrett are shown during Pittman's radio show Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said his first bye week as a head coach has a different look than what his future ones might.
The Razorbacks have practiced without pads twice this week and are scheduled to conduct a third helmet-only practice Thursday, Pittman said Wednesday during his weekly radio show at the Catfish Hole. Following a team lift Friday morning, players will have off until a mandatory covid-19 screening Sunday night.
All three practices this week are geared toward preparing for Arkansas’ next game against Texas A&M on Oct. 31. The week began, though, with coaches scouting Tennessee, their scheduled Nov. 7 opponent.
The advance work was necessary because the team will have to alter its practice schedule that week due to the Nov. 3 general election. The NCAA passed legislation this year that bars teams from having any activities, including practice, on a national election day.
Pittman said the Razorbacks will practice on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of the Tennessee game week, instead of the normal four-day practice week that begins Monday and ends Thursday.
“We have to come back from A&M — which we’ll get home at 2:30, 3 in the morning — and then we’ll have to practice Sunday night with our first practice for Tennessee,” Pittman said.
Pittman did not spend much time talking about the No. 7 Aggies on his show. He said the open week comes at a good time for his team, which is beat up following a 33-21 victory over Ole Miss that improved the Razorbacks’ record to 2-2.
Pittman said the team was trying to get defensive end Dorian Gerald “and a couple of other guys” back to practice this week. Without specifying which injured players he was referencing, he said some may be held out of practice until next week.
Gerald (ankle) hasn’t played since the first half of the season opener against Georgia. Arkansas was without starting linebacker Bumper Pool (ribs) and cornerback Montaric Brown (upper body) during the Ole Miss game, and receiver Treylon Burks (knee) and linebacker Grant Morgan (elbow) played through injuries.
“We have a couple of guys we may hold (out of Thursday’s practice), but the rest of the team I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Pittman said.
“There’s a feeling we could play our best football with our best talent. The problem is we’re playing in the SEC, so we’re still playing LSU and Alabama and Florida and on and on — Texas A&M, Tennessee and Missouri. But we’re going to be a deeper team, a better football team when we get everybody back.”
Referencing the good play by some backups who have started due to injuries, Pittman said “somebody might get Wally Pipp-ed,” a reference to the former New York Yankees first baseman Pipp, who was replaced by Lou Gehrig in the starting lineup because of a headache in 1925. Gehrig started the Yankees’ next 2,130 games.
“That’s not a negative,” Pittman said. “If a guy gets a chance, sometimes you might lose your spot. That gives you depth.”
The most likely to play the role of Gehrig seems to be cornerback Hudson Clark, who has played admirably in three games — including two starts — since Brown was injured during the Oct. 3 game at Mississippi State. Pittman informed Clark on Sunday that he would be placed on scholarship in January.
"All he needed was an opportunity," Pittman said. "Sometimes you don't get the opportunity because the person who has already proved it on a Saturday is already doing it; not necessarily that he's 100% better than you, he's just already proven it on a grand stage.
"(Clark) hadn't had his opportunity, but when he got it we're going, 'Man, this kid is good.'
"I'm just so proud of him because he never said a word. He just came in and worked. It wasn't, 'Coach, why am I not on scholarship?' — none of that stuff. It was, 'I'm going to make you give me a scholarship.'"
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.