HOGS: Day 1 opinions differ

HOGS: Day 1 opinions differ

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FAYETTEVILLE - Sam Pittman opened his Friday post-practice presser by commenting on what a great day his Arkansas quarterbacks had on the  first preseason practice.

Must have been better for some than others. Because by the press conference close, senior linebacker Bumper Pool had recalled a flurry of three or four interceptions that increased to maybe a half dozen.

The Razorbacks had a spirited practice in shorts with no pads.

“We were kind of getting after the ball today as a defense,” Pool said. “I think we had maybe six. I had a couple today, which I was excited about. Just something I wanted to work on was my pass coverage, working on your technique (under linebackers coach Michael Scherer and defensive coordinator Barry Odom) and knowing the coverages better. That’s a credit to Coach Scherer and Coach Odom.”

Though an offensive line coach his entire college assistant career, Pittman, as a second-year non play-calling head coach, takes CEO pains to observe both sides of the ball in practice.

He saw things to like from both sides.

“There was a time in fastball starts where the second-team defense picked us off I think three times in four plays,” Pittman said. “A defensive lineman batted a ball up in the air. I think it was (defensive ends Markell) Utsey or Dorian Gerald, one of those two. And then we got behind them on offense. So I think that’s just part of practice.”

The interceptions aside, Pittman praised starting sophomore QB KJ Jefferson and contending reserve QBs Malik Hornsby, a redshirt freshman, true freshmen Lucas Coley and Little Rock Parkview’s Landon Rogers, fourth-year junior John Stephen Jones and Kade Renfro, a walk-on transfer from Ole Miss.

Renfro threw an impressive deep ball during the first five periods that media witnessed before the remainder of practice was closed.

“That's probably the thing I was most excited about today, was our quarterbacks' accuracy,” Pittman said. “I thought KJ did a nice job in there. I thought Malik had a good day. I thought John Stephen Jones made some really good plays. Coley, Renfro, and I was really excited to see Landon Rogers. He made some really nice long-ball throws down the field. I think (true freshman) Jaedon Wilson at receiver had a nice day, too. It was good to see him catch some balls and get behind some defensive backs."

All that said, Pittman took pains to note none of it matches what you see scrimmaging in full pads.

“It’s hard to say somebody beat somebody in underwear you know,” Pittman said.

As a quarterback with no proven backups, the Razorbacks need Jefferson big and strong and able to take a hit.

Maybe a little too big, Jefferson confessed of himself.

“Conditioning wise, I still feel I can be in better shape,” Jefferson said. “I’m trying to cut down on a little weight I gained over the summer. But as far as working out, I feel like I put on a lot of muscle mass, but I want to at least cut down on the body fat percent.”

What’s he weigh?

“I’m at 247 right now,” Jefferson said. “I at least want to cut down like 10 pounds, try to get probably 235, 230 range, somewhere in there.”

Jefferson should find it easier to lose with this August preseason schedule practicing in the afternoon heat with Friday’s mid-80s expected to climb well into the 90s Saturday and Sunday.

“We’re practicing in the heat of the day,” Pool said. “That’s something we’re going to have to get used to because we practiced in the mornings the previous years. But I think it’s something we need as a team.”

Pool remarked the Razorbacks open at Reynolds Razorback Stadium Sept. 4 and Sept. 11 against teams, the Houston-based Rice Owls and Austin based Texas Longhorns, used to practicing in sweltering summer sauna conditions. 

“Our games are going to be at 1 o’clock that first week then 6,” Pool said. “We’re going to have a bunch of hot games playing teams also practicing in hot temperatures. So I felt that was good.” 

The Razorbacks practice Saturday through Tuesday, use Wednesday as their NCAA mandated day off and don full pads Thursday.

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