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Hogs may be without OL starters

by Tom Murphy | September 21, 2021 at 2:01 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The depth on the University of Arkansas' offensive line was tested in last week's 45-10 romp over Georgia Southern, and the same issue might be on tap this week.

Coach Sam Pittman said center Ricky Stromberg and right tackle Dalton Wagner, both starters, would miss Monday's workout for the No. 16 Razorbacks and would be questionable for Saturday's showdown against No. 7 Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas.

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Wagner had a recurrence of a back issue that slowed him during training camp and left the game in the first half, while Stromberg had his left leg rolled up from behind early in the third quarter against the Eagles.

Pittman did not directly discuss either injury and said offensive line coach Cody Kennedy should prepare this week as if neither will be available against the Aggies.

"I think it's just going to be ... I'll probably know Wednesday," Pittman said when asked for the status of Wagner and Stromberg. "I don't think either one of them will practice today. I'm positive neither one of them will practice today.

"Then we'll kind of go on with Tuesday, Wednesday. I told Coach Kennedy we'd better get ready as if neither of them will be able to play, and that's what we're going to do."

Pittman also added that starting tailback Trelon Smith, the team's leading rusher with 216 yards, is dinged up with an undisclosed issue following the turf toe he experienced during camp.

"I think he's playing extremely hard," Pittman said. "He's playing beat up. ... He has some different injuries. But I don't think he's been healthy yet. He is an inspiring guy in that room and on our team."

Tight end Hudson Henry saw minimal action last week after missing time in practice with an injury. Henry played behind Blake Kern, Nathan Bax and Trey Knox at the spot.

Cam comp

Texas A&M defensive back Leon O'Neal described Arkansas as a gritty "ground and pound" team and paid quarterback KJ Jefferson a strong compliment on Monday.

"With a big quarterback like 6-3, 245, guy like [Jefferson], got a lot of Cam Newton about him," O'Neal said. "I think he's a big-time leader on that team, and we've got to be able to stop him and everything they do."

Stromberg honored

Center Ricky Stromberg pulled down an honor Monday that was nearly five years in the making. Stromberg was honored as an SEC co-offensive lineman of the week by the league office, sharing the award with Jeremy James of Ole Miss.

Stromberg, a junior from Tulsa, is the first Razorback to be named the SEC's offensive lineman of the week award since Dan Skipper did it on Nov. 19, 2016, after a 31-10 win over No. 11 Florida.

Pro Football Focus has Stromberg with a grade of 77.3, highest among SEC centers through three games.

Jimbo & Sam

Sam Pittman, asked Monday if Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher tried to hire him when Pittman was Georgia's offensive line coach, played dodgeball with his response.

"Well, you'd have to ask him," Pittman said. "I don't know. I mean, I don't know. Ask him."

A reporter mentioned to Pittman that he would know if Fisher tried to hire him.

"Well, if I wanted to tell you, I would," Pittman said. "But I don't."

One for Texas

Former Southwest Conference rivals Arkansas, Rice and Texas completed a three-game round robin last week with the Longhorns notching an impressive 58-0 rout of the Owls.

Arkansas won the retro mini-tourney with a 2-0 record. The Razorbacks had a 78-38 combined scoring edge, while Texas went 1-1 with a combined score of 79-40. Rice was outscored 96-17.

Tube talk

Arkansas' road game at Georgia on Oct. 2, has been selected for an 11 a.m. kickoff, the SEC office announced.

The Razorbacks and Bulldogs will meet for the second consecutive season and the first time at Sanford Stadium since Arkansas captured a 31-24 win there on Sept. 18, 2010. The game will be broadcast by ESPN.

Getting greedy

Arkansas freshman tailback Javion Hunt had an 11-yard run on his first college carry last Saturday.

Offensive line coach Cody Kennedy said he thought it could have gone for more, according to Coach Sam Pittman, who ribbed Kennedy on Saturday.

"The first run, Coach Kennedy was on the headset going, 'He missed the read,' and he ran for 11 yards," Pittman said. "I was like, 'Be cool man. He rushed for 11 yards.'

"Cody's getting the big head, you know. If we don't get 20 yards a carry he's like, nah. But I thought he hit it well and he went up there and ran for 11 yards."

Hunt ran for 19 yards on four carries against Georgia Southern, giving Arkansas eight ball carriers with at least 19 yards on the season.

P.T. for JJ

Freshman safety Jayden Johnson had two tackles in 27 snaps against Georgia Southern, including a stop of quarterback Justin Tomlin for a 4-yard loss.

"He brought it a couple of times," Coach Sam Pittman said. "Big ol' kid."

Johnson, from Cedartown, Ga., is 6-2, 215 pounds.

"I thought he did great," safety Jalen Catalon said. "I thought he came in and did his job. When he had to stick his nose in there, he stuck his nose in there. I think he's showing he has the potential to be a really great safety here."

Catalon, who is 5-10, 198, said he would love to have Johnson's size.

"He's just a beast out there," he said. "I tell him, 'Dude, people are going to be scared of you when you go out there, so don't be afraid to be physical.' And I think he showed that he wasn't afraid to be physical."

Johnson has a 73.7 run grade in 47 snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

"I think he's going to get better and better, so yes, we want to get him on the field," Pittman said.

The Vito show

Kickoff man Vito Calvaruso had seven touchbacks on eight kickoffs against the Georgia Southern. The Eagles called a fair catch on the only kickoff that wasn't a touchback, giving them no return yards in the game.

Calvaruso had a 70% touchback ratio in 2020, and he's improved that to 83.3% (20 of 24) through three games.

"He's unbelievable," Coach Sam Pittman said Monday before noting Calvaruso is still not on scholarship.

"I've certainly talked to him about that and things. We can retro it back if we decided to go that route.

"It's easy to sit here and go, 'I'm not going to put a kickoff guy on scholarship,' but whenever he goes out there and kicks it out of the back of the end zone, you go, 'Man, how much is this worth?' It's worth a lot."

Back in '33

Arkansas has started 3-0 by winning all three of its games in Fayetteville for the first time in 88 years, according to the UA media relations staff.

The Razorbacks also won three games in Fayetteville to start 1933 season when they beat College of the Ozarks 40-0, Oklahoma Baptist 42-7 and TCU 13-0.

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