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story.lead_photo.caption An Arkansas Razorbacks football helmet sits on the field during a preseason practice on Sept. 15, 2020 in Fayetteville. ( Walt Beazley, Arkansas Razorbacks )

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said the Razorbacks entered "game week" testing protocols for covid-19 last week.

That meant three tests for players and staff as part of the SEC plan to reduce the risk of spread in league play.

"So you test on Sunday, you'll get your results back some time Monday," Pittman said. "It could be in the afternoon, it could be in the evening. You test Wednesday, same thing. You'll get the results back Thursday. It could be in the afternoon, could be in the evening.

"Friday is what they call a rapid test, and that's supposed to be a 15-minute return on negative or positive. So we went through that this week. We tested obviously the rapid test today, and then we'll turn around and test again Sunday, Wednesday and Friday of the remaining 11 weeks."

The UA has not released its testing numbers since late July, but sources with knowledge said the Razorbacks have experienced some positive results and resulting quarantines. Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek told the UA board of trustees in a video conference Thursday that the Razorbacks could have fielded a representative team if they had been scheduled to play each of the past two weeks, and Pittman said he was "very confident" the Razorbacks are on course to meet the SEC's minimum requirements to play a game.

Pittman also said the amount of offense and defense the Razorbacks have installed is satisfactory, despite working around some absences.

"I think we have plenty of offense, plenty of defense in," he said. "We're trying to fine-tune what we're going to do against the University of Georgia. The virus is obviously real and you have to adjust.

"We test three times a week, so there have been some adjustments made. You have to be able to play different guys at different positions to make sure by game time you have your best 11 out there at one time."

High on Nichols

Coach Sam Pittman said Friday that sophomore defensive tackle Isaiah Nichols, who has been getting work with the starting unit, is someone he can count on.

"He's very consistent," Pittman said of the 6-3, 281-pounder from Springdale. "We've been playing him inside at both positions, the nose and the three. And when we go into multiple fronts he's playing other positions as well. He's done a really nice job. I've been really proud to see his development."

'Fine' line

The Razorbacks have had to deal with various personnel issues in camp along the offensive front that have sparked good position battles, particularly at left guard and right tackle, but Coach Sam Pittman thinks the group will be OK heading into the opening week of the season.

"I think we'll be fine there," Pittman said Friday. "Obviously, we have three more tests for covid. But I think we're sitting in good shape there to put a quality offensive line out there.

"Certainly that's what we're expecting. But you continue to test each week, and that can certainly adjust who's out there. But I think we have enough depth there that if something did happen, we'd be in pretty good shape."

Jefferson better

Receiver De'Vion Warren said redshirt freshman quarterback K.J. Jefferson has come a long way since last season.

"The improvement that K.J. has had since he's been here has been incredible," Warren said. "More from a confidence standpoint. He's able to take control of the offense and take control of the team he's working with. He's been great."

In-game sound

UA officials said the athletic department is working on tweaks to its game-day presentation to add ambience to Reynolds Razorback Stadium, capacity 76,000, which will have a cap of about 16,500 for game days, or about 22% of capacity.

"We will be adding fan sound effects, cheering, maybe even a little booing and some other fun things with our video and sound system to try to create as much of a game-day atmosphere as we can from a sound, audio and visual standpoint," said Rick Thorpe, deputy athletic director for external engagement. "It'll be different, but we're going to do the best job we can to deliver that same experience. We're hoping the fans who have tickets definitely come out or have a friend come in their place."

Chris Pohl, senior athletic director for game management and fan experience, said the band and cheer squads will still be noticeable, even though there will not be the traditional running through the "A" or any on-field activities.

"The band and cheer, you'll notice, will be different, because we're not permitted to do anything pre-game or halftime ... on the field," Pohl said. "However, they will be very present during the game. The band will be playing from the seats. And the cheer squads will be around the stadium in different positions."

UA officials gave a primer to media members Thursday to help inform fans of new game-day procedures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We're going to learn from our first game to our second game and our third game," Thorpe said. "And things might change over the course of the entire season across all of our sports."

Grad guys

The Razorbacks will have a hefty number of players rocking the SEC graduate patch this season.

UA sports information said 13 Razorbacks have received undergraduate degrees, including transfers in quarterback Feleipe Franks, cornerback Jerry Jacobs, defensive tackle Xavier Kelly and kicker A.J. Reed.

The others are linebackers Hayden Henry and Grant Morgan; offensive linemen Shane Clenin and Dalton Wagner; defensive linemen Jonathan Marshall and Eli Hale; quarterback Jack Lindsey; receiver Tyson Morris; and tight end Blake Kern.

The SEC introduced the graduate patch as a jersey accessory in 2016, so it will be entering its fifth season this fall.

Caratan holding

Quarterback Jack Lindsey was Arkansas' primary holder on field goals and extra points the past two years, but now punter George Caratan appears to have the No. 1 job.

It's not that Lindsey hasn't been a good holder, but new special teams coordinator Scott Fountain said he likes someone to hold who is with the specialists throughout practice. When Lindsey works with the snappers and kickers, it's after he has spent most of practice with the offense.

"I'd rather have a guy that gets comfortable, that's with [the kickers and snappers] all the time, as opposed to working with a guy right after practice when he's exhausted, and you try to get four holds out of him," Fountain said. "So, that's always been my approach. And that's really what they do in the NFL as well, so I kind of model that after them, starting around 10, 11 years ago."

Caratan, a junior, transferred from Michigan in the offseason. Lindsey is now the backup holder.

In a snap

Jordan Silver is entering this third season as Arkansas' No. 1 deep snapper.

"I've been real pleased with Jordan," special teams coordinator Scott Fountain said. "He's a kid that when I first got here I was really pleased with his leadership ability.

"He's one of the guys in my room that was coming back that had played some, so I was really drawn to his leadership. He's tried to lead the group."

Fountain said he's spent time working with Silver to improve his coverage after punt snaps.

Jones on protocols

Stephen Jones, executive vice president of the Dallas Cowboys and a former Razorback, was asked on a radio show about his comfort level with his son, Arkansas reserve quarterback John Stephen Jones, playing college football during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jones said he's been asked that same question by Dallas players, and his answer is that he feels good about it.

"I think obviously we get a lot of information from doctors," Jones told 105.3-FM, The Fan on Friday. "We get a lot of information, have a lot of resources between the league, between all the different people that we gather these resources from. At the end of the day, I feel that he is safe, and that, if and when, or he's had it, I think at the end of the day he'll be fine.

"When your son leaves the house at night in a car there's not a 100% chance that he's going to be safe. You think he is, but you're never 100% about anything. Nothing's guaranteed.

"Our players asked me, 'Do you feel good about John Stephen playing?' And I said, 'I do. I really do.' "

Trial set

Federal judge P.K. Holmes issued a final scheduling order on Friday in former Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema's $7 million lawsuit against the Razorback Foundation which sets the jury trial in the case for the week of June 1, 2021, in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Arkansas.

All discovery in the case must be completed by March 2, 2021, Holmes also ordered, and all experts who are expected to testify must be identified and disclosed by Dec. 31, 2020. Rebuttal experts are to be reported by Feb. 2, 2021.

If the parties agree to a settlement conference with a magistrate judge, they are ordered to contact the judge by April 1, 2021, Holmes ordered.

Bielema's attorneys sued the foundation for a little more than $7 million in June, and the foundation countersued Bielema earlier this month for no less than $4.55 million, the amount it had paid in what was an $11.9 million settlement agreement.


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