HOGS handle heat well; Notes

HOGS handle heat well; Notes

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FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks weathered their sixth practice Thursday and first in full pads through humid, mid 90-degrees temperatures.

A cooler 84-degree forecast with possible rain awaits them for Saturday’s first of two full-scale preseason scrimmages, but Thursday’s conditions, junior nickel back Greg Brooks opined, might return for the 1 p.m. season-opener Sept. 4 against visiting Rice.

“I felt like we did good since it was so hot,” Brooks said concurring with senior teammate Tyson Morris. “First game is going to be just like that. So I feel like we adjusted really well and came out there and practiced hard.”

Morris, the Helena native become Fayetteville High grad and fifth-year senior receiver, said he was following Coach Sam Pittman’s lead.

“I feel like it was high tempo, good pace from everybody on the offense and the defense,” Morris said. “Coach Pittman agreed. He felt we had a good practice, first day in pads and stuff like that. Real physical.”

Pittman certainly did agree.

“In my opinion, it was the best practice we've had this camp,” Pittman said. “I don't even want to say they fought through the heat because you didn't even notice they were struggling through it. We got a lot done, and they did a wonderful job of it.”

Well, wonderful to a point.

“We've got to get better at protection,” Pittman said. “We're violating our eyes a little bit, and between the 'backs and O-line, we have to get better there because we can't cut somebody loose on our quarterback.”

As a head coach, Pittman looks for better pass protection from his offense and a better pass rush from his defense.

“Obviously, we haven’t tackled,” Pittman said, noting Thursday was a “thud" practice of not bringing ball-carriers to the ground. “So I want to see how well we tackle. We’re finding out a little bit more about our pass-rush abilities. I want to see if we can protect the quarterback and I want to see if we can run the ball. And I want to see if we can stop the ball-carrier. There’s a special teams part of it as well. Right now we feel like Cam Little is really kicking the ball well. Then we have to find our punter and returner.”

Highly touted scholarship freshman Little has done all the first-team place-kicking thus far. Punting remains open among returnees Sam Loy, Reid Bauer, Matthew Phillips plus Little.

Brooks is among those contending as punt returner.

A punt returner in addition to a four-star high school cornerback in Harvey, La., Brooks said during the summer he lobbied special teams coach Scott Fountain for a punt return audition.

“I’m getting adjusted to it,” Brooks said. "I thought about it when I first came here, but then I broke my thumb. So, just getting back in the flow of it.”

During the summer, former longtime college offensive line coach Pittman said how good it would be for 2018-2019 starting center Ty Clary to concentrate at right guard, mostly his position last year other than when starting center Ricky Stromberg was unavailable for one game.

But with Stromberg on the injury mend since Sunday, Clary practices at first-team center while Beaux Limmer fills Clary’s spot at first-team right guard.

“Obviously, he (Clary) has played center in the past,” Pittman said Thursday. “He's doing a nice job of it. I think he's improving each day.”

Last year linebacker Levi Draper brought an injury-riddled history with him upon transferring from Oklahoma, then injured his shoulder during Arkansas’ season opener. Draper missed the entire 2020 season and spring ball.

Draper injured his shoulder yet again this week when moved to tight end. He’s accepted a medical hardship ending his football career.

“He’s already had three surgeries in his career,” Pittman said. “Two last year. I talked to him, and he has my blessing.”

True freshman tight end Erin Outley of Little Rock Parkview isn’t in the physical condition that Pittman believes he should be to practice in this heat.

“Erin’s just not ready, yet,” Pittman said. “He came in a little heavy. We as a staff, and  as a medical staff, don’t think that he’s healthy enough right now to go out there.”

Third-year sophomore Devin Bush, a 2018 four-star defensive back prospect from New Orleans, has emerged this week at second-team cornerback. Injury plagued, Bush has played so little that he never cracked the 2-deep and played just nine snaps in 2020. 

“His name came up a lot,” Pittman said of Bush’s workouts this preseason. “So I’m going, ‘Well, if it comes up that much, why don’t we just put him with the two's and see how he is against a little bit better competition?”

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