Razorback football report: Latham expected back, Hogs lead FBS

By: Bob Holt Bob Holt's Twitter account , Tom Murphy Tom Murphy's Twitter account
Published: Thursday, September 7, 2023
Arkansas offensive lineman Brady Latham is shown Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Fayetteville.
( Hank Layton)
Arkansas offensive lineman Brady Latham is shown Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Veteran University of Arkansas offensive lineman Brady Latham is expected to return to the starting lineup for Saturday’s 3 p.m. campus opener against Kent State.

Latham, whose program-high 36-game streak of consecutive starts came to an end with last week’s 56-13 win over Western Carolina at Little Rock, had a green no-contact jersey on during Monday’s practice but was back in his white No. 62 practice jersey the past two days.

“Brady’s back, he’s practiced all week and we need him,” Coach Sam Pittman said on his radio show Wednesday night. “That’s nothing against [Josh] Braun, who played well over there, and all that. … But he’s [Latham] is a veteran, experienced guy. We need him back in there.

“He and [center] Beaux Limmer are best buddies. I’m sure he can’t wait for him to play again side by side.”

The Razorbacks should also have the services of linebacker Antonio Grier, who missed a chunk of preseason camp with a quad muscle injury and just got back to practice last week.

“He’s practiced,” Pittman said on a video conference Wednesday. “He practiced partially, indy [individual drills] and things like that before the Western Carolina game. But he’s practiced all week, so they cleared him to do everything. And he’s been good over the last two days. And he’s practicing today so I expect him to be available.”

The Razorbacks will be without redshirt sophomore linebacker Chris Paul for the first half against Kent State due to a targeting ejection in the second half last week.

Transfer Jaheim Thomas and freshman Brad Spence ran with the first unit in Tuesday’s fastball starts, while Paul and sophomore Jordan Crook were on the second team.

FBS best

Arkansas leads the country in turnover margin through the first two weeks of the season after racking up five takeaways and playing a turnover-free game in last Saturday’s season-opening 56-13 victory over Western Carolina in Little Rock.

The Razorbacks’ margin of plus 5 is one better than Liberty, which had a 5-1 margin in its opener.

First timer

Arkansas will play a second consecutive opponent for the first time in Saturday’s campus opener against Kent State.

The Razorbacks will have played a first-time opponent for the fourth time in the past nine games and the eighth time in a stretch of 26 games, dating to a 45-10 win over Georgia Southern on Sept. 18, 2021.

Guarantee it

Arkansas is paying Kent State a guarantee of $1.6 million for Saturday’s game, according to the Record-Courier newspaper in Kent, Ohio.

Central Florida, which beat Kent State 56-6 in a season-opener at Orlando, Fla., paid a guarantee of $900,000, the Record-Courier reported.

Boomer Fletcher

Sophomore punter Max Fletcher enjoyed a successful opener with punts that covered 51, 52 and 52 yards, an average of 49 yards on five punts and only 2 returns for 1 yard.

Two of Fletcher’s punts landed inside the 20-yard line, and teammates Hudson Clark and Tyrone Broden stopped returner AJ Colombo basically dead in his tracks on the two he tried to return.

“I thought our special teams performed as good as we have in a first game,” Coach Sam Pittman said.”But I was real pleased with him and I was pleased with how high he kicked the ball.

“I think we had a 50-something yarder and no return … or Broden made the tackle. He was always down there. I was really pleased with Fletcher because he kicked the ball fairly consistent, and he’s got that kind of leg.”

HOF invite

Former Arkansas quarterback Kevin Scanlon will be among nine honorees inducted into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame on Oct. 11 during an event at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas.

Scanlon, a transfer from North Carolina State, played two seasons with the Razorbacks and earned Southwest Conference player of the year honors in 1979 after leading Arkansas to a 10-2 record, including a 17-14 win over No. 2 Texas, a share of the SWC crown and a final ranking of No. 8. His completion percentage of 66.2% in 1979 was an Arkansas record for 41 yards until Feleipe Franks eclipsed it in 2020.

Scanlon serves as executive vice -resident of Stephens Inc. and chairman of the Razorback Foundation Board. He was inducted into the UA Sports Hall of Honor in 2010 and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.

Getting votes

The Razorbacks are three slots out of the first Associated Press top 25 of the regular season after opening with a 56-13 win over Western Carolina.

Arkansas accrued 28 points from the ballots of 63 panelists from across the country, which was 113 points behind No. 25 Clemson, and trailed only Iowa (73) and UCLA (55) among other teams receiving votes.

Vito’s back

Kicker Vito Calvaruso has transferred back to Arkansas from Wisconsin.

Calvaruso, from Jefferson City, Mo., handled kickoffs for the Razorbacks in 2020 and 2021 and had 96 touchbacks on 112 attempts (85.7%).

With Cam Little entrenched as the Razorbacks’ placekicker, Calvaruso transferred to Wisconsin. However, he didn’t get a lot of action with the Badgers, going 7 for 7 on extra points and 1 for 3 on field goals. Calvaruso has to redshirt in 2023 as a two-time transfer who hasn’t yet graduated.

“Man, it’s good to have him back,” Coach Sam Pittman said.

Pittman said he believes Calvaruso has two seasons of eligibility in 2024 and 2025.

Kenni & Bret

Kent State Coach Kenni Burns said he’s never been to Arkansas, but he’s gotten a scouting report on what it’s like to play at Reynolds Razorback Stadium from coaches.

“I’ve talked to a lot of coaches … that have given me great insight on the kind of the things that come with playing down there,” Burns said. “I’m looking forward to it. I know it’s one of the better venues in college sports.”

Burns said he’s talked to Bret Bielema, the Hogs’ coach for five seasons (2013-17) who is now in his third year at Illinois.

Burns, who played running back at Indiana and most recently was an assistant coach at Minnesota, said Bielema was a Wisconsin assistant who recruited him out of Sacred Heart Griffin High School in Springfield, Ill.

“He’s just always treated me well,” Burns said. “And when I’d gotten into coaching, I was at Minnesota and an opportunity opened up at Illinois to go there and we talked a little bit about that opportunity, but it didn’t work itself out.

“But he’s just always been a good person and a good man, and I love the style of play that he has. He’s done a great job at Illinois.”

Burns said he knows about the Hog Call, but that he didn’t talk with Bielema about it.

“I have seen video,” Burns said. “I’m a very meticulous guy, so I did look up a lot of things that go with Arkansas, and I did see the Hog Call, so I’m ready for that as well.”


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