While some of Arkansas top performers this season will not be playing against Kansas in the Dec. 28th Liberty Bowl, there will be plenty of youngsters getting a chance to get a jumpstart on next season.
That includes freshman tight end Tyrus Washington (6-4, 247), who will be able to play after the NCAA approved a blanket waiver Thursday to allow participation in bowl games without counting against the four-game redshirt limit.
The addition of Washington will help Arkansas with depth since starting tight end Trey Knox decided to enter the transfer portal.
Hudson Henry and Nathan Bax will also be available for Morgan Turner, Arkansas’ new tight ends coach from Stanford.
“Hudson Henry is going to play in the bowl,” Pittman said. “And Bax. And we found out today – or yesterday, that the NCAA passed a rule with Tyrus Washington to where your fifth game would not count towards your eligibility number. So he’ll be able to play.”
Washington had approached coaches after playing in his fourth game this season with a request to keep his redshirt.
“Which we were holding him at four, so he’ll be able to be active and play as well,” Pittman said. “It’s a great rule, especially with the numbers are down probably for a lot of teams. So I think that was a great rule.
The loss of receivers Jadon Haselwood and Ketron Jackson opens up some playing time for freshmen Isaiah Sategna and Sam Mbake, redshirt freshmen Bryce Stephens and Jaedon Wilson and a few others.
“He’s got Mbake and he has Bryce Stephens and he’s got Jaedon Wilson,” Pittman said. “And let me think, young guys, Sategna. We’re a little short there in numbers and in playing experience. We went out and won the Outback Bowl last year without Burks. We did not just light it up in the air as well. I think we were around 100 yards.
“But it’s time (for) Landon Rogers. It’s time for these guys. Chris Harris is a guy that can go. Harper Cole…We talked about it being next year and I know we’ve got a couple of young guys coming in and certainly we have to go in the portal there, not necessarily to put these guys on the bench. We don’t have very many on scholarship.”
Arkansas will be without starting linebackers Bumper Pool – out with an injury – and first-team All-American Drew Sanders, who has declared for the NFL draft.
That will allow Christopher “Pooh” Paul, Jackson Woodward and freshmen Jordan Crook, Mani Powell, Kaden Henley and Brooks Both snaps and a chance to shine.
“You know I think Mani Powell would be a guy, certainly,” Pittman said. “Brooks Both is a guy as well. Woodard has played special teams all the time, so he’ll have to move up to that three or four linebacker spot.
“So you’ve got Pooh and Crook and those two guys and with Mani Powell and Woodard those would be probably your four guys there. And of course Kaden Henley’s going to have to step up as well.”
Arkansas will also be without offensive lineman Jalen St. James and defensive lineman Tauren Carter, who has not played this season because of an injury suffered in the spring.
“Jalen St. John is still suspended indefinitely,” Pittman said. “Taurean Carter will not play in the bowl game. It is (due to injury). You know we talked, I sat down and talked to him about it and I just don’t know .
“…He’s moving, running, doing some great things. But if you think about it, if you can hold him one more game then that allows him certainly another three months of healing and it hadn’t been the nine month usual deal.
“So between myself and Taurean we just decided that would probably be the smartest thing to do with him.”
Starting offensive lineman Luke Jones will play in the bowl per Pittman, but is not planning on playing next season.
It appears that Arkansas will get in 10 bowl practices.
“Over the next 12 days before the game, we will practice nine of the 12 days,” Pittman said. “ We’ll go shells today. We probably won’t really get into Kansas prep until Monday.
“All of our coaches have been on the road. We have had one practice, but we’ll have today and tomorrow. It will basically be us versus us, then we’ll get into Kansas starting on Monday.”