FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman and his staff rallied during the recruiting season to finish with what was thought to be a very good class.
Now that the athletes are on campus, it appears that was indeed the case. Pittman was asked Monday who has made a strong early impression?
“I like the D-linemen,” Pittman said. “I’m not talking about (Julius) Coates. I mean, he’s new and (Xavier) Kelly is new, but they’re older. Those two guys have done well as well. I like the young D-linemen with (Andy) Boykin, (Blayne) Toll and (Jashaud) Stewart. I think they’re going to be good players for us eventually – down the road. And I like the offensive linemen.
“And then Malik Hornsby has done a really good job. He’s a really good arm on him. He’s fast. I got to see him throw today, you know, instead of (arm motion) without a ball. He’s got a strong arm – an accurate arm. I was pleased with those guys. The transfer guys at this point, we feel like we hit home runs with those guys. Every one of those guys we think is going to help us, with (Levi) Draper and some of those guys, and (A.J.) Reed and (George) Caratan. I think we’ve upgraded our football team with the transfers, and they really have good character, so they fit in with the team. But the young kids, the O- and D-linemen have probably stood out the most in that group of true freshman along with Malik.”
Coates is a defensive end who transferred in at midterm. Kelly is a defensive lineman who is a grad transfer from Clemson. Draper is a grad transfer linebacker from Oklahoma. Reed is a grad transfer kicker from Duke while Caratan is a transfer punter from Michigan. Early reports suggests Caratan is booming the punts in practice and he is eligible this season.
Junior linebacker Bumper Pool is also impressed with Draper.
“First day went great,” Pool said. “He’s a very smart player. You can tell he’s experienced. He came from a program where they were very successful. You get any guy from a program like that, they’re going to be good. I think he’s picked up on the defense just like all we have. Flies around to the ball, makes plays. I’m excited we have him.”
Marcus Henderson is an offensive lineman who was highly sought and signed with the Hogs.
“As you know, he’s a very talented kid,” Pittman said. “He’s got ability. … He’s got real good feet. He’s very talented. I mean, he’s smart. He’s trying to work his way into that two deep. He’s certainly talented enough to do that. We’re really pleased with him. We’d take him every year if we could get one like him. He’s going to be a really good player for us.”
Pool also likes the group of freshmen linebackers in the Class of 2020. Arkansas has J.T. Towers, Kelin Burrle and Eric Thomas Jr.
“I think any freshman that comes in, there’s always that transition period from high school to SEC football,” Pool said. “Those guys have picked it up well. I’m excited with what they’re doing. Their biggest strengths are that they listen. They look to us. We tell them something to do, they’re going to work hard to make sure they try to get it. I think we’ve got a good group coming up.”
Pool, like Pittman, is impressed with how Coates has played at defensive end.
“That group, ones and twos, they really attacked it, and they got big,” Pool said. “I think we have a lot more talent as a whole unit this year. Obviously, we lost some big key guys, but as a unit I’m really excited to see what they have. They’re smart players, and they have high motors. Julius Coates, that kid is an animal. He’s explosive. I’m excited to see what he can do for us. Across the board… Dorian (Gerald), J-Marsh (Jonathan Marshall), (Mataio) Soli, those guys are just really good players, and they’re finally filling into those shoes. I’m excited to see what they can do.”
Another grad transfer is defensive back Jerry Jacobs. Pools said he had a big play on Monday.
“Joe (Foucha) got a pick today,” Pool said. “Jerry (Jacobs) had a big knocked down ball in our two minute deal. Fumble wise, the offense held onto the ball pretty well. We had a ton of reps today. I think the guys attacked it. That was the biggest thing, just fighting when we’re tired. We haven’t really gone through a full practice in eight months. So getting back out there, feeling how your legs feel after a long practice was big. Thought we looked good. Offense looks good. Excited to see where we’re at Wednesday.”
Senior running back Rakeem Boyd is very impressed with Jalen St. John on the offensive line. He referred to St. John as Chop.
“Noah Gatlin is back and he is moving well,” Boyd said. “He’s getting the hang of it. You’re not going to come back and just automatic and be Superman, you know what I mean. You’ve got to work and he’s worked. The whole line is working. A guy that’s really impressed me, and I love my O-lineman, I think of as my recruit, Chop. I love Chop.”
Boyd also praised freshman running back Dominique Johnson and newcomer Josh Oglesby from the track team. Oglesby is a sophomore.
“Man, A’Montae Spivey has impressed me,”Boyd said. “I think he runs literally just like me. The kid has some of my ways, but he’s young so he’s still learning. Once he gets it, it’s there. He already has it already. You’ve got (Josh) Oglesby, Oglesby is really fast. He can hit the hole. You’ve got Dominique, who is big and fast. He has good vision, really good vision. He reminds me of myself with the vision he’s got. He’s got some real good vision as a freshman, and that’s big-time. You have all those packages as a running back. You get to do more things. You get to be a first down, second down, and third down back. All of those guys are becoming every-down backs. I’m still trying to become one. I don’t think I am one. People do, but I’ve still got to work on things. Those guys have been great. Jimmy Smith is a great dude, a great running backs coach. I’m doing stuff I’ve never done before and it’s making me better. It’s good, all around it’s good this year.”
Arkansas will practice again on Wednesday.