FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas held its first preseason practice on Monday and for the most part it left Sam Pittman smiling with the results.
Pittman talked in general terms how the practice went and also reiterated his policy on discussing injuries.
“No, I probably won’t talk a lot about injuries anyway,” Pittman said. “But no we didn’t have any guys dinged up. We pretty much made it though practice. It went well. It was a little hotter out there than I thought it would be. We two-spotted everything all day, so the kids were pretty tired at the end. We finished with a little two-minute drill and we had a two to two-and-a-half hour practice. I was really pleased with the effort. I’ll look at the tape and see what we need to improve on. Our whole talk to them was we have to go to work and they did that today.”
Pittman talked about some of the things that particularly stood out to him.
“I think we have some speed on both sides of the ball,” Pittman said. “Our wideouts got an unbelievable amount of reps today and they fought through it. But I think we practiced well together. You know you have to now, when you don’t have pads on. You have to be smart when you’re practicing against each other. I thought the quarterbacks threw the ball well. I thought the understanding of our offense …there wasn’t a whole lot of missed assignments, I didn’t see, and there wasn’t balls on the ground. Those are things you worry about early in practice and I thought they did a nice job of taking care of the ball and on defense running to the ball.”
Florida grad transfer Feleipe Franks is running first-team quarterback while one particular player is getting the most reps behind him.
“KJ Jefferson is behind him right now,” Pittman said. “And then after that it’s kind of a rotation of the three guys with (John Stephen) Jones, (Jack) Lindsey and Malik (Hornsby). But KJ is behind Feleipe in the depth chart right now.
“Feleipe’s got a very, very strong arm. I thought he was really accurate today. He played like what you certainly hope a veteran quarterback would play. And KJ, I’m really excited about him because he’s learned the offense and run the offense. But you have to understand he’s still very, very young as a quarterback in college. So he’ll have to play faster and things of that nature, but that’ll come with reps. I’m really pleased with all our quarterbacks. I really am. Lindsey took his group down and scored in the two-minute drill. So I’m pleased with where we’re at at that position.”
Pittman did add that Franks’ ankle that cut his junior season short at Florida is 100-percent healed. One of Franks’ and Jefferson’s favorite targets figures to be sophomore Treylon Burks.
“I mean I think it’s time for him to be one of the, you know, to get up there,” Pittman said. “He’s talented enough to be a 1 receiver on several teams in my opinion. We’ve got to find ways to get the ball to him. Whether it’s throwing it to him. Running him out of the backfield. Throwing quick swings to him. He’s a big, fast receiver that we need to get touches to him. He’s earned that in my opinion through the walks, through his off-season workouts and certainly today.
“I think the world of him. He’s a great kid. He was loyal to Arkansas in recruiting and that makes a big difference to me too, so you’ve got to earn that spot, but he’s a talented guy. I really like him.”
Burks will also get a lot of work on special teams according to Pittman.
“Yeah, absolutely we have him on if not all special teams, I think we have him on every special team,” Pittman said. “I think he’s a dynamic return guy and we’re using him there as well.”
Pittman was asked about any particular plays that stood out on Monday?
“I mean, we didn’t have any pads on,” Pittman said. “They were going full speed as far as they could. They were taking care of each other. I don’t know that there were really any standouts today from practice. The defense stopped the one and two offense in the two-minute drill. The three offense scored on the three defense. They played with a lot of energy. They played well together. I thought more than anything they fought through adversity as far as, like I said, we two-spotted all day. There was a lot of running going on out there and I thought our wideouts and DBs fought through that real well. I was real pleased with that.
“We’re trying to be a tough football team, so we had to put them in tough situations, and we did today and they did a really good job.”
One player who Pittman is hoping and needing to have a big season is redshirt freshman tight end Hudson Henry.
“Yeah, we’re planning on him to, I’ll tell ya that,” Pittman said. “I really like him. He’s big, athletic, he’s worked awful hard. I’d love to see some success come his way. We’ll know a little bit more probably on Friday when we put the shoulder pads on. I hope so. He’s such a wonderful person and works hard. He’s very talented, so we’re expecting him to have a good year.”
Pittman is recognized as the premier offensive line coach in the nation, but now that he’s the head coach was it not tempting to work with his former unit?
“Well, if I didn’t have Brad Davis it’d probably be hard, but since I have him, I know what a fine coach he is,” Pittman said. “It’s not so hard. It was fun, to be honest with you. I made it to every individual drill and wrote down some notes about what I’d like to change about different drills and things of that nature. The practice goes a lot longer than it does as an assistant because you’re watching so many different things you’re so ingrained in what you’re doing that the practice seems to go a lot faster than it did today. It was only two-and-a-half hours from start to finish. It shouldn’t have been that long, but it seemed like it was a long time.”
Arkansas will return to the practice field on Wednesday.