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Razorbacks ‘slow’ at install practice

by Tom Murphy | March 15, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
An Arkansas football helmet sits on the ground prior to a game between the Razorbacks and Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Lexington, Ky.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas wrapped up practice No. 4 of spring drills on Tuesday, and the pace of play was a little below the expectations for fourth-year Coach Sam Pittman.

The culprit in his mind: A day of heavy installation on both sides of the ball.

"I was just a little disappointed in team run today," Pittman said. "I didn't think the physicality was there, what it had been the day before on Sunday.

"We started practice a little slow, I thought. ... Today was a pretty good install day for us, so we played what I thought was a little slow. That's probably to be expected on install."

The Razorbacks worked on the outdoor practice fields on a good day for football, with sunshine and temperatures in the mid 50s.

Arkansas will don full pads for the first time in Thursday's practice, which will be the last before the team departs for spring break.

One Razorback noticeably absent from the work but hanging out on the sideline, who has drawn a lot of praise from Pittman since winter conditioning, was receiver Jaedon Wilson.

"Everything is perfectly fine with him, OK, so I don't want to scare anybody," Pittman said. "He was in a car accident today. He's very, very lucky that nothing was wrong with him more than he cracked his tibia.

"So he will be on crutches for about 10 days, and then he will be back. I think that's maybe a six-week deal after that. He'll be through with spring ball. But I'll tell you, if you saw the car – cars – in that, we just thank the Lord that nothing worse happened. I don't believe anybody was hurt in the other vehicle, as well."

Former Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom, now the head coach at UNLV, attended practice with his younger son, Garrett, and Pittman spent a few minutes chatting with the two early in the workout. The Rebels are on spring break this week.

"He texted me yesterday and said he wanted to come out to practice," Pittman said.

Odom served as Pittman's right-hand man and sounding board as a former head coach during Pittman's first three seasons as a major college head coach.

"It was awful good to see him, and the kids enjoyed seeing him, and I'm awful thankful that he came to practice, and for what he's done for our program," Pittman said.

Transfer receiver Andrew Armstrong showed out in man-to-man coverage drills. The 6-4, 201-pounder, displayed good footwork in planting, cutting and juking and got separation a few times to haul in scoring passes from KJ Jefferson and Jacolby Criswell early in the period.

Armstrong ended the drill with an outstanding in cut that left freshman defensive back TJ Metcalf behind for a smooth touchdown throw from Cade Fortin.

"Isn't he smooth?" Pittman asked. "He's a big smooth guy. And he's run 22 [mph] on the catapult. The guy can run. He's big. Good-looking receiver. And he's got really good hands.

"To be honest I think he's playing a little bit faster in one-on-ones than he is in team right now because I think he's still spending a little bit with formations and his responsibility. But you've seen it and I have too that he's very, very talented."

Defensive backs Lorando Johnson and Jaylen Lewis both had interceptions.

Johnson battled transfer receiver Isaac TeSlaa for a 50-50 ball in the right corner of the end zone from Criswell and Johnson came down with possession on what was almost a tie ball.

Lewis undercut a route breaking across the end zone intended for Isaiah Sategna and intercepted Criswell.

Receivers coach Kenny Guiton provided some running commentary. At one point, after Jayden Johnson broke up an end zone pass that Kamron Bibby had his hands on, Guiton said, "They just want it more than we do right now. Later he called back a couple of front-line receivers to go back to the front of the line after running bad routes.

Sategna made a good move to shake coverage from Jayden Johnson, breaking over the middle to haul in a scoring pass from Criswell early on.

Jaylon Braxton, Braylon Watson, Aidan McCowan were among the defensive backs who had pass breakups along with Jayden Johnson during the one-on-one action.

Pittman pointed out several other wideouts.

"I think Bryce Stephens has been the one that's really stood out, along with Jaedon," Pittman said. "The older guys have. I'm very happy with our portal transfer guys that's come in. I think they're doing well.

"They're learning, and then the guys that we've had on our team, Sategna, Mbake. Those guys have done good, as well."

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