FAYETTEVILLE — The weather hasn’t been kind to the University of Arkansas this week with rain pouring down much of the time so they have practiced inside the Walker Pavilion.
Sam Pittman said during a Zoom conference prior to Thursday’s practice the team might go outside today, but that was still to be determined. Pittman joked about being soft and thus the reason for going inside.
“Oh, I’ve kind of gone soft,” Pittman said. “We went inside every day you know. I felt kind of bad. I saw a couple of high schools post on Twitter where they went outside you know. We just made a decision that we knew we could get a better practice by practicing inside, so that’s what we did. I haven’t checked outside for a while, but if we can get out today we will. If we can’t then we’ll go inside again.
“You know for years we’d go outside and it’d be sloppy and all this. If the weather was going to be let’s say like going to Auburn was, well then we’d be out there practicing in it. But I just think we can get a better practice inside. That’s why they make the indoors you know. I think it’s going to be nice weather when we get down to College Station. We’ll see about today. I’d love to get outside and get on the grass if it’s not too slick. About an hour ago I felt like we couldn’t go out there.”
Is practicing inside a hindrance in your preparation for Texas A&M?
“I don’t think so, I really don’t,” Pittman said. “Actually I kind of like indoor practices. I like the smell of it, the pop of it, the sound of it. But obviously you have two fields for a reason. You can spread out, have a little more room, things of that nature. But when we designed our indoor, they did a nice job. Where you’re concerned about indoor fields is that the end of them where we have those glass doors. We just elected to make the goal line the 10-yard line. So we don’t have problems with the doors.
“But on the edges, we have plenty of room on both sides. So we feel like we’re very safe inside. Obviously we feel like grass you can be a little less injury, but not necessarily when it’s raining. Now, we have gone outside to punt the ball. We’ll hit the fan sometimes punting indoors, so we have gone outside to punt ball.
“Whether we do or not today I don’t know. But if we can we’ll go outside to do that at least. I don’t think it’ll be a problem. I don’t think it’ll be a problem that we’ve practiced inside and then have to go, obviously, play outdoors.”
It does appear that senior defensive end Dorian Gerald, who injured a bone in his foot against Georgia and then underwent surgery, is close to returning.
“Dorian looked a little bit better yesterday,” Pittman said. “So I don’t know … we’re going to take him on the trip. Then we’ll find out how he is a little bit more after practice today and we’ll find out how he is in pregame and see if he can go or not. I think that’s the only one.”
Pittman said they didn’t scale back the practices since Monday after lighting the load during the bye week.
“I think we kind of amped it up to be honest with you,” Pittman said. “We know we’re going to be in a physical game. We went good on good several times this week for the physicality of what we know we’re going to get Saturday night.
“Last week was kind of our week to heal up. We have been smart, obviously, with Dorian and Bumper (Pool) as far as that part of it goes. But the rest of the team, we banged heads pretty good this week.”
Cornerback Montaric Brown will return to action after being injured against Mississippi State. Pittman doesn’t worry about Brown having to shake off any rust.
“To be honest with you, he practiced the week of Ole Miss,” Pittman said. “He practiced non-contact, but he practiced. Then didn’t get cleared and then last week he practiced. Then he finally got cleared as of Sunday. But obviously non-contact, but he has practiced so I don’t look at it too much he has been out too long because he’s had 11 practices since he hasn’t played. I think he’ll be ready to go.”
He and Hudson Clark have played the same cornerback position, but will now start together against the Aggies. Pittman said the players are prepared to play various positions.
“I think you hit it on the head,” Pittman said. “It’s all about cross-training. I wouldn’t be shocked if all of them hadn’t played every position up there in the secondary. We feel very comfortable with those guys playing either side on corners and nickel, as far as that goes. Nickel and safety. COVID forced us to do that. The way that we practiced early helped us with that, and we have full confidence that they can do that. But more importantly they have confidence they can do it. I think we’re ready to go as far as that goes. They can play either side.”
Arkansas took its last COVID test prior to leaving for College Station on Friday. Pittman said the first two tests this week have been good.
“We were good on Tuesday,” Pittman said. “We tested again this morning, so we’ll get that result back tomorrow morning. Your Thursday tests are … Sunday and Thursday. Sunday is a big day because of quarantine possibilities from the bus rides or from the plane ride. Thursday, because that’s the timespan where it hits you from the weekend before. So we’ve been good. Knock on wood that we’ll be good again and ready to go. We’ll know something by maybe 8, 8:30, 9 in the morning. Y’all won’t. You’ll find out whenever we run out there for the game, but we’ll know about 8:30 a.m. (on Friday).”
Due to COVID concerns, Pittman said the team hasn’t shared a hotel with many people this season.
“When we went to Auburn, there was other folks there,” Pittman said. “When we’re at a home game, I don’t know what we tell them, but I don’t see anybody but us in the hotel. Now, maybe there is, but I don’t think so. I think we pretty much have the whole place over there to ourselves. And then, whenever we went to Mississippi State, I believe we were the only ones in the Courtyard over there, as well, so I just think it’s a safety issue and things of that nature, but I know there was other folks in the hotel at Auburn.”
So the team dominates the hotel pretty much then?
“Yeah, that’s what we’ve done,” Pittman said. “You know, obviously COVID is a scary deal healthwise and certainly scary for your football team because if you get if you get quarantined, you’re 14 days out. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. You’re 14 days out. And basically 11 if you get the virus. Course, there’s all kinds of complications that go with the virus. Haven’t affected our kids who’ve had it physically, but we certainly don’t want any of them to get it. That’s the easiest way. We test three times a week, so you’re not necessarily going to be around somebody with the virus if you stay inside our little bubble, so you kind of keep it that way as much as you possibly can.”
Arkansas and Texas A&M will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night and televised on the SEC Network.