Pittman pleased with progress of kicking game

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account
Published: Monday, September 7, 2020
Arkansas kicker AJ Reed (35) watches a field goal attempt during a preseason practice on Sept. 4, 2020, in Fayetteville.
( Walt Beazley, Arkansas Razorbacks )
Arkansas kicker AJ Reed (35) watches a field goal attempt during a preseason practice on Sept. 4, 2020, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman was glad that a reporter asked for an update on the Razorbacks’ kicking game on Friday.

In the team’s second scrimmage of the preseason, Arkansas’ specialists impressed the coaching staff and took a step forward over the previous week's intrasquad work. Pittman was eager to brag on them.

“I was really pleased with the kicking overall,” he said via Zoom. “I thought it was much better than last week. I think we got better there.”

The Razorbacks held a punting and field goal competition in addition to the 90-plus-play scrimmage. Michigan transfer George Caratan punted well and had a “really, really good day,” the coach noted.

Arkansas appears to be counting on Caratan, who did not see the field in his two seasons with the Wolverines, to provide some pop at punter — something it has not had since Toby Baker in 2016. According to cfbstats.com, a Razorbacks punter has ranked last in the SEC among qualified players in yards per punt in each of the last three seasons.

Sam Loy, who figures to be Caratan’s primary competition for the starting job, averaged 39.4 yards per punt in conference games last fall.

A pair of players — Duke transfer AJ Reed and Matthew Phillips — are also battling to be the replacement for the most accurate field goal kicker in program history in Connor Limpert. To cap Week 3 of camp, both nailed a 52-yard kick.

In the field goal competition, Pittman said both kickers connected on 4 of 5 attempts.

“Obviously, you boom one a long ways or make a long field goal, it just does wonders for your confidence,” Pittman added. “That’s what we needed with all those kids. To be honest with you, (the 52-yard kicks were) into a little bit of a breeze.

“Both of them had a little extra to go on it. I felt real happy about that.”

When assessing special teams as a whole, Pittman said he believes he has a solid bunch of punters, kickers and return men. He has been pleased with the effort of his special teamers and the work of special teams coordinator Scott Fountain.

Fountain, who has been in charge of or had a hand in special teams at Auburn, Mississippi State and Georgia since 2013, was the first coach Pittman offered the coordinator job to.

“I think Scott Fountain is as good of a coordinator as there is in America. I really do,” he added. “You can lose or win games strictly ... you can be even-even, (but) if your special teams is better than theirs, you can win it. I believe that.

“I think a lot of him. I also feel like he's very important. Our guys are buying in. Our kids now, they work special teams.”


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