FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas lost to No. 7 LSU 13-10 on Saturday without two starters on offense, but Sam Pittman said Wednesday that pair should be back for No. 14 Ole Miss.
Quarterback KJ Jefferson and right tackle Dalton Wagner are healthier this week and practicing. In addition defensive back Myles Slusher is back after serving a one-game suspension for a legal issue.
“Well it seems like we’re getting healthier,” Pittman said. “He’s (Jefferson) practiced most every play this week, so I feel good about him. Dalton Wagner also has practiced a lot this week. And I have cut the suspension off of Slusher, so he has practiced this week as well.
“So we’re probably about as healthy as we’ve been for a long, long time and certainly there’s some soreness in those first two I talked about, but that’s going to happen in Game No. 11 in our league. So I feel pretty good about all those guys.”
Pittman also addressed the reports Tuesday night that redshirt senior wide receiver Warren Thompson had left the team and talked about the receiver who will be up to the fifth slot in the rotation.
“Yeah, he quit the team,” Pittman said of Thompson. “Jaedon Wilson would be the fifth guy up. Obviously Warren hasn’t started a whole lot of games with Matt (Landers) and all those things, but Jaedon Wilson, to answer your question, would be the next guy in that rotation.”
The starters are Landers, Jadon Haselwood and Ketron Jackson. Midway through the season Bryce Stephens moved into the fourth slot thus pushing Thompson to fifth in the rotation after the Florida State transfer played in 13 games in 2021 including three starts. Thompson had 12 receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns this season. Wilson, a redshirt freshman, has caught one pass for two yards.
Pittman said not only did the Hogs miss Jackson’s quarterback play, but also praised his leadership ability while not playing.
“I think it’s a huge deal because KJ is one of those leaders that leads the entire team, not just the offense,” Pittman said. “It’s big for us. We challenged him whenever we figured out that he wasn’t going to be able to play. Feleipe Franks did the same thing to him two years ago in his first start when we went to Missouri and Feleipe was very encouraging and seeing things and talking to him on the sideline during that entire game. That was KJ’s first start since I’ve been here. And he did the same thing. I thought he was well into the game, focused, just unfortunately he wasn’t healthy enough to play.”
Even though Ole Miss suffered a 30-24 loss to Alabama last Saturday, Pittman was impressed with the 8-2 Rebels.
“They came out ready to play,” Pittman said. “Could have won the game as easy as lost the game. Had the lead. Very physical. Their team plays extremely hard. Their defense has certainly got a lot better. They seem to get better each and every week and played a really physical.
“Had a really nice scheme, blitz pattern against the run I thought last week. And (Jaxson) Dart’s a heck of a player, and so is (Quinshon) Judkins. Their offensive line is playing really well, and (Jonathan) Mingo’s a superstar, and so are the other two wideouts, (Malik) Heath and (Jordan) Watkins. But they played extremely hard. Played their hearts out, and Alabama just found a way to win there at the end of the game.”
Dart has completed 150 of 247 passes for 2,123 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has 96 carries for 508 yards. Judkins leads the SEC in rushing with 205 carries for 1,171 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also has caught 10 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Mingo has caught 37 passes for 723 yards and five touchdowns. Heath has 38 receptions for 614 yards and three touchdowns. Watkins is next with 23 passes hauled in for 335 yards and a touchdown.
The kickoff Saturday is set for 6:30 p.m. and televised on the SEC Network.