FAYETTEVILLE — The bye week came at a good time for the University of Arkansas since it has allowed some of the injured players to return.
Sam Pittman was asked if they could enter the Texas A&M game healthier than at any time since the season opener against Georgia?
“We will be,” Pittman said. “However, I don’t know that we’re… We still have a couple of guys who are still on the iffy (side). Maybe they’ll be ready, but we’re certainly – besides the guys who had season-ending injuries – we’re certainly going to be as healthy as we’ve been since the first game.”
Is senior defensive end Dorian Gerald who was injured against Georgia one of the players still in question?
“He’s one of (the iffy guys),” Pittman said. “He’s definitely one of them. Like I said before, and I don’t know in what interview, I had a lot of them last week, but we don’t try to lie to y’all about injuries. We don’t know. Like, Dorian Gerald, I would love to have him back on Saturday, but it’s Monday. We’ll see how he looks today. We just don’t know, but certainly we hope we have him back.”
Junior wide receiver Koilan Jackson is one of the players on the season-ending list.
“Well, you haven’t seen him, so obviously he’s been hurt,” Pittman said. “He had some surgery. He’s going to be fine. It is a season-ending surgery, but he’s fine. He’s doing well. So we’re happy for that.”
Jackson had knee surgery (osteochondral allograft) and Gerald injured his foot in the opener.
Senior running back Rakeem Boyd has been injured and missed some action. He played against Ole Miss and Pittman thinks this two weeks will help him as well.
“Well, for Rakeem, I expect him to be full go and he’ll be ready to play I believe against A&M,” Pittman said. “And the young running backs, Dominique Johnson, he was able to get several carries last week, along with (A’Montae) Spivey.”
The running game has sputtered much of the first four games. Pittman talked about what is needed to get it jumpstarted.
“I don’t know,” Pittman said. “We’ll just have to continue to practice and get better. We’ve been trying so we may need to,….certainly we have enough runs and all those things. We just have to get better. Our backs have to be better. Our line has to be better. Our tight end has to better. Wide outs have to get to safeties better. I mean to have a running game you have to have all 10 guys in there getting after it. Everybody on our team has to get better. Our backs have to break tackles. I mean that’s part of being a good back. All those things we have to continue to work on.”
After four games and a bye week, what are a couple of areas you are wanting to see improvement?
“Well, in special teams, I want to get a big play for us in special teams,” Pittman said. “I want to make sure that the blocked punts and things of that nature, kicking the ball out of bounds on the kickoff, is a thing of the past. Those things have to happen. But on a positive note, we need to get some yards in the punt return game. We need to get some yards in the kickoff game when allowed. A lot times kickers are kicking it out, but that’s one of them there.
“I think we just hit on another spot. We have to be a better rushing football team. And on defense, when people get big on us, we have to be able to stop the run whenever we want to. Those are probably the three aspects – I know you asked for two – but that’s probably the three things we’re really concentrating on.”
Other than getting a few players back from the injured list, what else was productive about the bye week?
“I just thought we had really good mental work, mental preparation on A&M,” Pittman said. “On our game plan on what we’re going to try and get accomplished. I really like the plan on all three sides of the ball and all three different areas of the game. Went back and reviewed it again and I’m really happy with the plan that we have and we’ll just have to – we’re going to start a regular week here now and have a Monday practice and those things so we’ll see a little bit more in action with some pads on today.”
Pittman went into depth about last week’s practice patttern.
“Last week we treated it as A&M basic game plan,” Pittman said. “So we tried to introduce all those things. The introduction, actually, for A&M will be today. What we decided was we were going to make this into a regular week once we got here. A lot of times you would go today’s practice would be a Tuesday practice and then you’d have two Thursdays at the end of the week where you lighten up a little bit on the guys and all that. But we decided we like the preparation that we’ve been having. So we basically used those three days as base game-plan introduction. Today we will introduce everything on Texas A&M and we will have a regular Monday practice. Then it’ll go to Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. So at this point and time, we are back in regular game week mode that we’ve had over the last three weeks.”
Arkansas and Texas A&M will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night and televised on the SEC Network.