FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt sophomore linebacker Chris “Pooh” Paul Jr. is ready to face BYU from the beginning after last week’s first-half suspension.
Paul missed the opening half against Kent State due to a targeting call in the Western Carolina game. However, that is behind him and he had a productive second half against the Golden Flashes. He had five tackles, three solo, one for loss and a sack in the second half this past Saturday.
“The mindset I had going into the game was really just to dominate,” Paul said. “I sat out the first half due to a targeting call from last week, so I didn’t get to play the whole game. Going in I just wanted to make an impact.
“Coach (Sam) Pittman put a real emphasis on that. He came up to me numerous times in practice telling me you’re not going to be out there in the first half, but when you get out there you need to basically introduce yourself again and things like that. So, when I got out there, I just thought to myself I needed to make plays and put my name back out there.”
It wasn’t just the targeting call, but Paul has battled injuries during the preseason as well. Was it fustrating?
“Honestly, I really didn’t look at it as a frustrating aspect,” Paul said. “I just looked at it as sitting back and being a leader. Just sitting back and coaching up the guys like Brad Spence and things like that. Just keeping the energy alive on the sidelines. I understand that I was injured and I had gotten the targeting call and things like that, but that doesn’t stop the leadership aspect of things.
“So, I prided myself on being vocal with the guys and keeping their spirits high. There really wasn’t any frustration because I knew our defense was in good hands with the guys that would display it out there. They did a great job throughout the week preparing themselves, so I was confident.”
Paul had one of the plays of the game on Saturday. Kent State had a second-and-goal play at the Arkansas 1. Paul stuffed the play. As it turned out Arkansas kept the Golden Flashes off the scoreboard.
“Like I said it was really just going back on what I was saying about having a dominating performance,” Paul said. “I sat back? the whole first half and I told myself I’ve got to make it up to these guys. I’ve got to make some plays. My Pops always told me ‘Big time players make big-time plays when it comes down to it.’ So I came down and I made a big-time play. Yeah, it was just real exciting.”
Paul and the Hogs will face another undefeated team on Saturday. Paul is impressed with what he has seen from BYU.
“We treat every game like we’re playing against ourselves,” Paul said. “We play the Arkansas standard in every game. BYU is a great team by the way. They have a history of winning as we can see. They have a great head coach. The running backs are good, No. 2 and 20 are two decent, good backs. They have a good tight end, No. 83. They also put No. 99 back there at tight end. He’s a great run blocker. They usually use him for max protection and things like that. Overall, a great team. Highly-competitive and well coached.”
It appears that BYU likes to run the football, but like Arkansas they have struggled at times in that area this season.
“Just watching film on those guys, like I said, they have a great team,” Paul said. “Those guys, they take it day by day. I can tell just by watching the film. Also, they have a great offensive line and things like that. They’ve got some guys returning. They lost a few people, but they replaced them with some good competition up front. As long as we go out there and play to the standard, we should be fine.”
BYU quarterback Kaden Slovis has caught Paul’s eye.
“Just a great leader,” Paul said. “You can tell the offense revolves around him and he’s really just a great overall guy. I can see everybody on the offense respects him and respects his game. He has good vision, a great arm by the way. He does a great job with selling out his fakes and things like that. So it’s a going to be a challenge for us this week and we’re ready for it.”
Finally, heading into Week 3 of the season Paul isn’t dealing with a nagging injury nor facing any kind of suspension. That has Paul counting the minutes until Saturday.
“Man, I’m highly excited,” Paul said. “You know, this is my first real game, playing a full game and things like that. Just to get in front of the Razorback crowd and just the atmosphere and the energy that they bring, I just know it’s going to be a great Saturday. I sat back and just prided myself on once I come back, I’ve got a lot to make up for, and that’s fine. I just want to sit back and first off, like Antonio (Grier Jr.) said, just thank God for everything and just go out and play my best brand of football. I’m excited. I’m anxious. I’m ready.”
Unlike in the past a player suspended for targeting could stay on the sideline and not stay in the lockerroom.
“I was able to stay on the sidelines,” Paul said. “Just to me, like I said earlier, it wasn’t anything for me to keep on leading these guys and keep being that positive role model for those guys and things like that. Even though I got thrown out of the game, and I knew what I had done was wrong at the time, I talked to coaches and players and apologized to them. I sat back and just kept bringing that energy. They came over, I showed them things that they can do that’ll help put them in better position and things like that. I just kept the leadership aspect alive once I got taken out of the game.”
Paul has seen two linebackers, Grier and Brad Spence, come up with pick-6 and he feels it’s now his time to do the same.
“Man, OK, I’m glad you said that,” Paul said. “I sat back in the linebacker room the other day and I said, ‘Man, I gotta be next.’ I’ve got to be next to catch a pick six. I was just messing around with those guys and telling them Brad Spence’s first series out there he caught a pick six. And then Antonio’s first play of him being a Razorback was a pick six, so I was like, ‘Man, I got to be next.’ It’s not really a competition. We’re all happy for each other. Like I said, when Antonio caught his pick six, you could see the happiest people out there was the linebackers because we like to see success from each other. But yeah, I want to be next.’”
Arkansas and BYU will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night in Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2.