FAYETTEVILLE — Two freshmen who signed with Arkansas in December and started classes in January are getting extra praise from Sam Pittman.

Bixby (Okla.) four-star tight end Luke Hasz, 6-3, 226, and Carrollton (Texas) Hebron linebacker Carson Dean, 6-4, 232, are getting attention for their play after six spring drills.

Hasz plays a position that has him competing with super senior Nathan Bax and redshirt freshman Tyrus Washington for playing time. Incoming freshman Shamar Easter will join that mix this summer.

“We have to continue working on his blocking,” Pittman said. “He doesn’t have the biggest stature. He’s not the biggest tight end, but he’s willing and he’s capable. We have to continue working that with him. But he’s a really good route runner, he’s exceptional catching the football and when he has it in his hand he’s hard to tackle. It just seems like every day he has 6, 8, 10 catches in some type of team setting. He gets open and catches everything that’s close to him. I’ve been really, really pleased with him.”

As a senior, Hasz tallied 35 receptions for 597 yards (17.1 ypc) and nine touchdowns. He also rushed for a 17-yard touchdown and caught three two-point conversions for a state championship squad. Pittman talked about what kind of tight end Hasz is at this weight and age.

“I think the only way he’s ever going to become an on-the-line tight end is if — he’s got to practice it — he gains some weight,” Pittman said. “I think that is … we’ve talked to him about it as well. We don’t necessarily want to bring him off the field because he can’t block in-line. He’s willing, he’s very, very strong, comes from a great high school program of lifting. We’ve just got to get a little bit of weight on him. And we’ll continue to work him technique-wise, but if we were playing today, he’d be off the ball and that kind of tight end. We’re hoping he can develop over the summer and become that every-down tight end.”

Dean is playing a position that’s more crowded for playing time. Redshirt sophomore Chris “Pooh” Paul returns and is among the top linebackers in the SEC even at his age. Jordan Crook started the bowl game as a redshirt freshman. Antonio Grier was an outstanding linebacker at the University of South Florida who transferred to the Hogs in January. Mani Powell, Kaden Henley, Brad Spence and Alex Sanford, who will arrive in late May or early June, are others in the mix at linebacker.

“I think the rise of Carson Dean would be something else that stood out as I reviewed the first five,” Pittman said. “Carson Dean I think will be able to play for us this year.”

As a senior, Dean recorded 85 total tackles, including 21.0 tackles for loss and a sack. He also had three quarterback hurries, tallied four pass breakups and two interceptions. In addition, Dean forced one fumble, recovered two and blocked a pair of kicks.

“He’s smart and he can run,” Pittman said. “I mean, he’s faster than what I thought he was when he came in and he’s really picked it up. He’s played with the 1s some. And certainly is a guy that, like you said, has the size. That’s usually what keeps…either they don’t know the defense or they’re not strong enough or big enough to play early in their career. And none of those is necessarily a detriment to him. He can do all of those things. I just feel like if he continues to improve, I feel like he’ll be in that rotation of guys.”

Both Hasz and Dean were four-star recruits in the Class of 2023.