FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman said Tuesday the Hogs are dealing with some injuries heading into spring drills, but acknowledged that two key players who left the AutoZone Liberty Bowl early are fine.
Pittman did provide a positive update on junior running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders and senior offensive lineman Ty’Kieast Crawford. Both left the bowl win over Kansas very early in the game with an injury.
“They’ll both be able to go,” Pittman said. “They’re healthy. Man, both of them have had a really good offseason. I think our whole team has. You guys usually ask about specifics, who stood out — Jaedon Wilson has been unbelievable out there. But to answer your question, Rocket and Ty’Kieast have done really well.”
That’s good news for Jimmy Smith and the running back room. Sanders was second in the SEC in rushing with 222 carries for 1,443 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sanders is also the leading receiver returning for 2023. He caught 28 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns in 2022.
Crawford had been playing mostly tackle in a backup role, but with Beaux Limmer moving to center for the bowl game following Ricky Stromberg’s departure for the 2023 NFL Draft he started at right guard. Will Crawford be a guard or tackle now since Limmer is remaining at center and not returning to right guard?
“I think that’s the beauty of spring, trying to find out your five pieces,” Pittman said. “Is he going to start for us, things of that nature, where they go. Obviously if he was the sixth or seventh man, could he play two (positions)? Is he the sixth, seventh man on the right? That’s the exciting thing about spring, is trying to figure out with injuries, who’s your top five and where should they play? And if you had an injury, who would be your next guy or two in there and where would they play?
“It’s really exciting. But I think, to be honest with you, we still have to find out what he would do. We’ve got (Joshua) Braun who came in, (Patrick) Kutas, (E’Marion) Harris, (Andrew) Chamblee — those guys we’ve really got to figure out what our best five is and what positions they need to play. But he would have a chance to play both of them.”
Pittman has only two starters returning on the offensive line which is rare for him since arriving back with the Hogs. But he was impressed with the work of several during the eight-week conditioning drills.
“On the O-line, you have your vets and then Kutas is looking really good,” Pittman said. “He’s gotten big, strong, can move. E’Marion and Chamblee both have looked really good. And our transfer Braun has looked good, along with the older guys.”
Pittman declined to name specific players out with injuries when asked if some would miss the entire 15 practices.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I’d like to — I love the question — I’d like to stay specifically about specific injuries,” Pittman said. “You guys will see them out there. But yes, there will be some guys that miss part of spring. There will be some that will miss all of spring, and you’ll see them out there when you get to practice, but some of them, the medicine treatments have come a long way.
“We’ve had some cartilage injuries that are repairable. Back in the old days, they were trims and repairable would take you 5-6 months to get back fully healthy. There’s been some injuries like that. We’ll have a few class schedule problems depending on certain days, because our class schedules are set up for Tuesday, Thursday for practice. Early, as y’all know, we’re going to practice on a Friday. We may have a few guys come in late, things of that nature. But not a high amount of injuries from the offseason, but we’ve had a few.”
Arkansas’ first practice is today at 3:45 p.m.