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Head Coach Sam Pittman and his Arkansas Razorbacks are gearing up for spring training to begin Thursday, and there are many questions to be answered.
The Razorbacks replaced both coordinators and added Travis Williams as defensive coordinator, Marcus Woodson as co-defensive coordinator, and Dan Enos as offensive coordinator. They also added two new on-field assistants in tight ends coach Morgan Turner and secondary coach Deron Wilson.
In addition to the coaching changes, Arkansas will have 10 new transfers and 12 newcomers participating in Spring Ball, with more to come later — including former Georgia Bulldog Jaheim Singletary, whom Pittman signed with Arkansas on Tuesday and will sign on in June.
Although they have many recruits, the Razorbacks also lost 25 scholarship holders to the transfer portal. Pittman mentioned that he believes his team will be fine, but staff need to build relationships with players more often.
“I think the bottom line is that we need to communicate with our kids more often,” Pittman said. “We need to see them in other environments than just football, which is what we did. And try to have a relationship with these guys more than just on the field. I think we’re going to make it… I’m really excited about where we are at in terms of building relationships with our kids.”
Tuesday was Pittman’s first meeting with the media since February 1, when he focused on hiring and National Signing Day. So there was a lot to talk about…
Pittman’s announcement that Jaheim Singletary had signed with Arkansas came as a surprise to most. The Jacksonville, Fla. native was the No. 2 cornerback prospect and five-star player in the Class of 2022, according to Rivals.
“He was here on his OV this Sunday, Monday and left this morning,” Pittman said. “I can talk about him because he signed his SEC agreement with us. We are excited about him. Big player from Georgia.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Singletary played 13 snaps in defense last season and appeared in a total of three games. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound defender entered the transfer portal on Jan. 13.
Singletary is the second Georgia defenseman to move to Arkansas in as many years as the Hogs kept Latavious Brini safe before last season.
Pittman wants four on the d-line
After Pittman mostly managed a three-man front during the three years with Barry Odom as defensive coordinator, finding a new defensive coordinator who can bring down four seemed a priority.
“What I wanted when[Travis Williams]came in was I wanted four D linemen,” Pittman said. “Even though we were in an odd package, I wanted four D-Linemen on the field.”
The Razorbacks added two big men from the transfer portal in John Morgan III of Pittsburgh and Trajan Jeffcoat of Missouri. They also added defensive tackle Taurean Carter, who was released for practice after tearing his cruciate ligament last spring.
Pittman said the most important thing he wants to find out is who will play as the boundary/standup pass rusher at the weakside’s defensive end position.
“We looked at several of them,” Pittman said. “I think Nico Davillier is doing a good job there. Landon Jackson did a really good job there. And of course we recruited John Morgan for this role.
“So we’ll see what happens, but I think we have that person or people on our team who can play that court. I think probably the biggest question mark in jumping ball is who this guy is going to be because we’re pretty comfortable with the other guys.”
As for the interior, Pittman said he felt getting Carter back was almost like they were adding a new transfer after missing all of last season. He also mentioned Eric Gregory as a player who has gained weight and can move inside after working on the defensive end position in three-man fronts last year.
“Certainly that would be a position that we might need to add to further through the portal,” Pittman said. “Again, nothing negative about the guys we have.
Enos and Jefferson develop a strong relationship
After three seasons under offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Arkansas starting quarterback KJ Jefferson has to adjust to a new play caller this season.
Pittman brought in former Maryland offensive coordinator Dan Enos to replace Briles, who went to TCU. Enos has a strong record of next-level quarterbacks, including Brandon Allen, whom Enos coached during his tenure as Arkansas offensive coordinator from 2015-17.
According to the Head Hog, Jefferson and Enos have already developed a good relationship.
“I think KJ believes that Dan will not only make him a better quarterback at Arkansas, but by understanding pro-type schemes and checks and things like that, he’ll have a much better opportunity to play in the National Football League.” , said Pittman. “I think KJ is convinced of that. I think they have a really nice relationship. I knew they would, but you have to work on these things.”
Will Quincey McAdoo be a corner or a receiver?
A big topic of conversation during the offseason was whether Quincey McAdoo will stay at cornerback or return to receiver. A true freshman in 2022, McAdoo started as a receiver but offered to work with an exhausted defensive group.
McAdoo saw his first save in a 21-19 loss to Liberty on November 5 and he also recorded his first career interception, blocking a punt in the contest. The Clarendon native did not look back as he stood on the corner for the Hogs in the last four games of the season.
So the question was whether McAdoo would stay on the corner or switch back to receiver, the position for which he was rated a four-star candidate after leaving high school.
“Exactly what we talked to him about,” Pittman said. “We’ve had extensive conversations about him on offense and him on defense. With the arrival of the new staff, he feels more comfortable where he was. I think there might have been a point where he might have wanted to switch offense, but he’s going to stay on defense because I think he feels like he can help the team, he can help himself, more over there.
“We spoke to him about a third down pack. Then I spoke to our employees about it. There are two things. First, he must do it. It’s going to be extra work for him that he’s willing to do that. And the other thing is he has to be one of our top three receivers or top four to get on the field.”
Injury report… sort of
Pittman didn’t name specific injured players, but he left the impression that there will be some who won’t be participating in the spring.
“There will be some people who miss part of spring,” Pittman said. “There will be some that will miss all of spring and you will see them out there when you come to practice, but some of them, the medical treatments, have come a long way.
“We had some cartilage injuries that are repairable. It used to be cuts and repairable it took 5-6 months to fully recover. There have been some injuries like this.”
He also mentioned that some players have conflicts with the lesson schedule and may be late for practice. Overall, it sounds like there are at least a few people struggling with injuries, but Pittman was hesitant to reveal any names. More information on that front should be released as practice opens later in the week.
Pigs to show the tight end more
With the addition of Enos, it would make sense for Arkansas to have the tight end position more than it has in the last three years, which is very little.
Last season, Razorback starter Trey Knox caught 26 passes for 296 yards and five points. Behind Knox were Nathan Bax and Hudson Henry, who combined for seven catches for 43 yards.
Bax is the only name coming back from this trio, and Pittman said he believes the supersenior has “leveled up” and is moving better. Redshirt freshman Tyrus Washington scored a touchdown in the Liberty Bowl win over Kansas and he should be able to make the difference this season.
The Hogs have also added two four-star newcomers in Luke Hasz, who enrolled early, and Shamar Easter, who will join the team after the Spring Ball.
“We know what Tire will be able to do and what Bax will be able to do,” Pittman said. “And if we felt like we had enough tight ends to work, then we would stay out of the portal. If not, we’d just go in numbers alone and see if we could find someone.”
Pittman also mentioned that the tight end group will play more this season than it has in the past three years.
During Enos’ first stint in Fayetteville, Arkansas great Hunter Henry won the Mackey Award during Enos’ first season with the Hogs in 2015. Henry caught 51 passes for 739 yards and three points that year. Also in 2015, Jeremy Sprinkle caught 27 passes for 389 yards and six touchdowns. The next year, Sprinkle caught 33 passes for 380 yards and four points.
Along with Enos, the Hogs added tight ends coach Morgan Turner, who while at Stanford from 2013 helped develop some of the best next-level tight ends – including Zach Ertz, Austin Hooper, Dalton Shultz, Coby Fleener and Colby Parkinson -22.
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