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.
Slusher impresses in return from injury
Arkansas defensive back Myles Slusher (2) reacts after a tackle, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, during the first quarter of a football game against Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
FAYETTEVILLE — It's easy to expect a player returning from injury to immediately revert to pre-injury form.
It is not necessarily fair to the player, especially when he misses valuable practice time and game reps that key growth and development to instead receive treatment that aides recovery. A drop in game-level conditioning can take a hit, too.
Myles Slusher last Saturday threw that notion to the side.
In his first game back from an undisclosed upper-body injury suffered in Week 1 against Cincinnati, the nickel back was arguably Arkansas’ top defensive player in a 23-21 loss to Texas A&M. Slusher finished second on the team with 6 tackles, 1 pass breakup and 1 quarterback hurry.
“I was really pleased with the way he played,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said Monday. “I don’t want to use ‘surprise’ as a word, but I was pleased that he played so well having been out. I was concerned about his conditioning, as well, and some things.
“But he played the entire game and played well.”
Pro Football Focus analytics back up Pittman’s assessment. According to the site, Slusher posted Arkansas’ best overall defense grade at 81.0.
He was also at the top of the list in run defense (80.9 in 26 snaps) and coverage (74.6 in 30 snaps). Slusher showcased his durability by playing all 60 of the Razorbacks’ defensive snaps.
“He’s a big deal on our defense,” Pittman said. “I mean, he’s a good player. That nickel spot in our defense is probably … you get outside the core, it’s probably the most important position that we have because it’s a run position and a pass position, I mean, at the point of attack, and a cover position.”
In pass coverage, PFF shows that he allowed 1 catch for 4 yards on 3 targets.
Among his key plays in Arkansas’ first loss was a tackle for a 4-yard loss on Aggies tailback Devon Achane on Texas A&M's second offensive series. Then, on the Aggies’ final play of the first quarter, he broke up a Max Johnson pass intended for receiver Ainias Smith.
Slusher’s first pass breakup since the regular-season finale against Missouri in 2021 ensured Texas A&M would not record a first down in the first quarter. Late in the third quarter he also teamed with Georgia transfer Latavious Brini to bring down Achane 1 yard shy of the line to gain on third-and-2.
Arkansas’ offense went on to score on its next drive.
“He's a good player. I think he was all over the place and made a lot of tackles,” Pittman said Saturday. “He's a good player now. I mean, a really good player.
“And we need him to stay healthy.”
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