HOGS to target Burks more; Notes
FAYETTEVILLE - More T.J. Hammonds and Treylon Burks are in Arkansas’ game plan Saturday at Missouri.
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said as much Thursday before his Razorbacks (3-5) prepped for Saturday’s 11 a.m. SEC game against the 4-3 Tigers. The SEC Network will televise the game at Mizzou’s Faurot Field.
Hammonds, a reserve running back/receiver, elevates to No. 2 running back, while Trelon Smith promotes to full-time starter since senior Rakeem Boyd opted out of the rest of the season to prepare for the spring NFL draft.
In Arkansas’ last game, the 27-24 Nov. 21 loss to LSU, Smith started and Hammonds carried once as a running back for 29 yards. As a receiver, Hammonds caught a 51-yard pass from quarterback Feleipe Franks.
YES AND YES
Based on that LSU game, Hammonds worked strictly at running back in this week’s closed practices and will touch the ball more against Mizzou than his two touches against LSU.
“Yes and yes,” Pittman said. “Yes he’s moved there, and yes I believe he’s earned the right to touch the ball more. He did a nice job against LSU. He made a couple of big plays for us. He’s had a really good week, and it’s been a physical week here.”
Sophomore receiver Burks of Warren, added this week to the Fred Biletnikoff Award Watch List that postseason honors the nation’s best receiver, had a big game against LSU by catching five passes for 90 yards, including a 65-yard TD from Franks.
Pittman said Burks would’ve had a bigger game with more touches.
“I think we have to get him more than six touches,” Pittman said. “A lot of times you have to force that. The way you force that I don’t think necessarily is in the passing game. I think you can throw some screens to him. Give him the ball on some motions and give him the ball out of the backfield and things of that nature.
Just get the ball in his hands.”
Good things generally happen when that happens, Pittman said. “He’s dynamic,” Pittman said. “He’s big (6-3, 232). He’s fast. We need to get the ball 10, 12, 15 times a game to him. I don’t know if we’ll ever get him that many, but I’d like to see it in his hands that many times.”
NOT OUT OF WOODS
While defenses blanket Burks (a team leading 39 catches for 598 yards and six TDs), junior receiver Mike Woods caught four passes for 140 yards against LSU and two balls, both TDs of 87 and 42 yards, for 129 yards in the 63-35 loss at Florida. Woods has 27 receptions this fall for 553 yards and four TDs.
Pittman did not sound optimistic that injured starting right offensive tackle Noah Gatlin, absent the past three games with fourth-year junior Dalton Wagner starting at right tackle, can return against Mizzou.
“I’m concerned there,” Pittman said. “I don’t know if he’ll be cleared yet or not. I thought there was a good possibility early in the week, but I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see there.
Pittman did say this week’s first two of three covid-19 tests bode well for the Hogs, who had to postpone last week’s game at Mizzou because too many positive covid-19 tests and quarantines from contact tracing put them under the SEC healthy roster protocol.
Mizzou used the Arkansas postponement to play its earlier postponed by covid game with Vanderbilt, clobbering the Commodores 41-0 last week in Columbia.
“Covid's been kind to us this week,” Pittman said Thursday. “They tested today, so we'll get the results back in the morning. But it's been a good week as far as negatives and covid tests.”
Pittman expects a hard-fought battle from the Tigers, who were a physical outfit when first-year Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom head coached Mizzou from 2016-2019. They remain so under first-year head coach and Alma native Eliah Drinkwitz.
“We have to win both lines of scrimmage,” Pittman said. “That’s a tall task because they’re very good on both sides of the ball. To me, that’s where this game is going to come down to, because if we don’t, coach will just turn around and hand the ball off, like he did against Kentucky, and control the clock for 40 minutes. We understand that. We’ve had really spirited and good practices.”