Tom Murphy is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. He was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Hogs plan lots of hitting during today's work
Arkansas quarterback KJj Jefferson hands the ball off Thursday, March 9, 2023, to running back Raheim Sanders during practice in the university practice facility in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas will lace up and strap on the full pads today for the first time this spring and Coach Sam Pittman and staff will waste no time getting cracking.
The Razorbacks will scrimmage for parts of spring workout No. 5, which comes on a day with potential storms in the forecast for late in the afternoon.
Pittman, who is entering his fourth season at the helm, said the first three practices had gone very well before the Razorbacks showed a lack of physicality, particularly in the team run periods, on Tuesday.
“That’s probably to be expected on install,” Pittman said. “It’s not what you want, but probably to be expected.”
Pittman declared the Razorbacks were “ready” for the full pads workout today.
“Now, what we’re going to do [today], we’re going to have a segmented scrimmage. We’re going to thud, we’re going to thud, and then there’s going to be two separate situations where they get six … live reps apiece.”
That means each of the first three units, matched against their corresponding unit on the other side, will have live tackling during the workout.
“There will be two situations like that, so each one will get 12 reps, each two will get 12, each three will get 12 in a full, live situation,” Pittman said. “And I think we’re ready for it. We’ll find out after the sub scrimmage, but we need to, and the game’s about tackling. We need to do that, and I think the kids are excited about it.”
Pittman said no veterans will be held out of the scrimmage work unless they are dealing with injuries.
“Not this first time,” Pittman responded when asked if certain veterans had earned their way out of the live tackling, the way players like Bumper Pool, Jalen Catalon, Dalton Wagner and others have done in recent years.
“As it gets going on, maybe we’ll take them out at different points. But this first one we’re going to play good on good.”
Quarterbacks will, as always, be off limits for the live tackling.
Pittman touted the work of several newcomers and younger players during a video conference on Tuesday.
Among them, freshman tight ends Ty Washington and Luke Hasz who are filtering in on the top offensive units with veteran Nathan Bax.
“That’s a position that we really don’t have a lot of experience at is tight end,” Pittman said. “So I think Tyrus has really done a nice job there and Luke has stepped up.
“Luke Hasz. That’s the guy that I think has really come on.”
While the Razorbacks are waiting for all their defensive backs to heal up or show up, new defensive coordinator Travis Williams and defensive back coaches Marcus Woodson and Deron Wilson have gotten a strong look at Baylor transfer cornerback Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson playing opposite returning starter Dwight McGlothern.
“I’ll tell you, Snaxx has done really well,” Pittman said. “He’s a good corner now. He’s a good football player.”
Pittman was also asked about other impact new defenders and he touted linebacker Antonio Grier and defensive ends Trajan Jeffcoat and John Morgan.
“Grier has helped us at linebacker, and then you’ve got those two defensive ends that are really good players,” Pittman said. “Jeffcoat’s a really good player, and John Morgan is a really good player.
“I’ll tell you what, Snaxx is better than what I thought he was at this point. Jeffcoat, John Morgan and Grier, they’re all going to help us a lot. They were really good gets.”
Pittman said a heavy day of installation might have slowed the energy on Tuesday. The Razorbacks will go on spring break following today’s work, then resume on March 28. He said installation would likely continue for another five practices after the resumption.
The Razorbacks will wrap up the 15 practices of the session with their spring showcase on April 15, which is the day the NCAA transfer portal officially opens again for 15 days. Arkansas will have up to eight scholarships available to dole out to reach the maximum of 85 scholarships.
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