HOGS work on flaws; more notes

HOGS work on flaws; more notes

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FAYETTEVILLE - Since the NCAA cancelled all sports’ practices on Election Day so athletes and coaches can vote, Arkansas coach Sam Pittman and his staff evaluated film Tuesday of the Tennessee Volunteers.

Arkansas (2-3) comes off Saturday’s 42-31 loss at No. 7 Texas A&M. Coach Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols (2-3) were open last week after consecutive losses to No. 5 Georgia, Kentucky and No. 2 Alabama. 

Arkansas plays host to Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on the SEC Network.

The 34-7 loss to Kentucky plunged the Vols to their performance nadir. They opened impressively by winning 31-27 at South Carolina and beating Missouri 35-12 in Knoxville.

Other than against Kentucky, the Vols’ offensive line has netted praise.

“They have a very talented offensive line, a huge offensive line,” Pittman said. “They have a really good 'back in (Eric) Gray. Actually, they have two with him and (Ty) Chandler. And (senior quarterback Jarrett) Guarantano is a veteran guy. He’s played in 39 games there at Tennessee, so a veteran quarterback.  (Josh) Palmer is one of the leading receivers they have, along with (Velus) Jones and (Ramel) Keyton.”

Gray and Chandler average 4.5 and 4.4 yards per carry behind an offensive line from left tackle to right tackle listed at 6-5 320, 6-6 330, 6-3 300, 6-6 320 and 6-6 330.

Senior starting left guard Trey Smith has not allowed a sack since 2018.

Palmer (19 receptions for 295 and four touchdowns), Brandon Johnson (13 for 155 yards) and Gray (16 for 123 with a TD) statistically lead Tennessee’s receivers.

Guarantano has completed 83 of 135 passes for 914 yards and six TDs vs. three interceptions.

“They’re an SEC-looking defense,” Pittman said.

“They’re big. Their front three with (Matthew) Butler, (Aubrey) Solomon and (Latrell) Bumphas are very talented kids who can run. I think the key to their defense is Henry To’o To’o. He’s as good a linebacker as there is in the SEC and probably the nation. On the back end, they’re very physical. They can cover.”

Defensive back Trevon Flowers leads the Vols tacklers (35) with two for losses, and he has broken up two passes and forced a fumble.

Arkansas’ defense had drawn rave reviews in its first four games, but Pittman said Texas A&M exposed Arkansas flaws in College Station.

“We didn’t tackle well,” Pittman said. “As the game wore on, I thought our tackling was worse.”

Pittman said game film revealed defensive positives.

“I did think our D-line played better than what I was thinking during the game,” Pittman said. “I thought (junior college transfer) Julius Coates had his best game. And of course (senior tackle and defensive co-captain) Jon Marshall is a guy we certainly can count on.”

Senior running back Rakeem Boyd, with a 100 yards rushing on 18 carries performance, showed he’s healthy for the first time since getting injured during the season’s second game, a 21-14 victory at Mississippi State.

“I think Rakeem is just going to get better and better each week,” Pittman said. “He's healthy now. I loved his attitude and how hard he ran.”

Given that Chad Morris’ 0-8, 0-8 in the SEC Razorbacks of 2018 and 2019 played a bad game of quarterback roulette, it seems hard to Florida grad transfer Feleipe Franks.  Franks sports 11 touchdowns vs. three interceptions and has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,293 yards in five games as Arkansas' QB. Franks even rushed 91 yards vs. Texas A&M.

But “I think he’s holding the ball a little too long,” Pittman conceded Monday.

“There are situations where you don’t want to take a sack,” Pittman said.  “But I’m more concerned about him taking hits. He’s waiting on his receivers. Anytime a quarterback’s holding the ball, that means one good thing, the protection’s pretty good. And another bad thing: we’re not getting open. We’ve got to get open, and he’s got to see his reads probably a little bit faster. But I’m not going to  say I’m disappointed in the way he’s played because he’s playing pretty good. He’s tough.” 

Franks willingly takes a hit if it means extra time for receiver Treylon Burks  (26 catches for 366 yards and four TDs in four games) to get open.

Because of Tuesday’s off day, the Razorbacks practiced Monday in full pads and resume drills Wednesday in full pads.

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