HOGS newcomers catching on
FAYETTEVILLE — New Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Andrew Armstrong said Thursday that entering the transfer portal after last season was as stressful as it was exciting.
“Once I hit the portal, it was crazy that first day, I really don’t think I ate that day,” said Armstrong, pictured above during his playing days at Texas A&M Commerce. “I was up from like 8 (a.m.) to 10 (p.m.) just answering phone calls.”
One call Armstrong received really — from the Razorbacks — got his attention.
“They called me on Thanksgiving,” Armstrong said. “They called me on a day when they’re supposed to be home with their family cooking, eating, and having good family time and they were thinking about me. So, I was like, ‘This is where I want to be.’ I set my visit up right there and came up here and didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
Fellow transfer wide receiver Issac TeSlaa (6-4, 214, Hudsonville, Mich.) said he was also hesitant to enter the transfer portal, but his nerves calmed as he started to receive offers from schools.
TeSlaa said the family dynamic he felt within the Razorbacks program was a key factor in him choosing Arkansas.
“It’s a lot different than where I was at up in Michigan to now being down here at Fayetteville,” TeSlaa said. “But I’ve had so many people reach out to me and let me know that they’re happy I’m here, and especially my teammates and coaches welcoming me in.”
Armstrong and TeSlaa are coming off 1,000 receiving yards last season at their respective schools (Armstrong at Texas A&M Commerce, Teslaa at Hillsdale College) but both are coming from lower levels of college football. Texas A&M Commerce moved up to FCS last season, while Hillsdale College competes at the Division II level.
Both players said they know they have to prove themselves to their teammates as well as the coaching staff.“I’m starting to get comfortable and feel my way through practice,” Armstrong said. “I’m starting to learn how the defense plays and finding ways to get open even when the play breaks down.”
“The more practices we have under our belt, it becomes less about thinking and more about playing,” TeSlaa said. “Football is all about playing and if you’re thinking too much you’re not going to do it right and you’re going to mess up. So it’s just about going full speed and making sure you have the knowledge of the game.”
DL JACKSON RETURNING TO FULL SPEED
During a scrimmage in which the defense dominated, possibly nobody stood out more to Pittman last Saturday more than defensive end Landon Jackson.
But Jackson deferred comment away from himself and onto his teammates.
“We were really just getting to the quarterback and playing good ball all around,” Jackson said. “Our new defensive schemes are fitting in really well and it just worked out Saturday.”
Linebacker Antonio Grier, also speaking Thursday, said Jackson’s performance did not go unnoticed.
“I’m behind him watching it, so I get front-row seats,” Grier said. “I told Landon the other day that he’s been practicing great. I’m gonna give him his flowers because he’s a dog.”
Jackson (6-7, 269, Texarkana, Texas) joined the Razorback program last spring after transferring from LSU and played a key role on the defensive line, recording 23 tackles, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble. But Pittman said he believes Jackson can do even more..
“If you look back, Landon was coming off an ACL injury and he was tall and thin,” Pittman said. “He was playing at about three quarter speed.”
Jackson said he felt as if he improved over the course of last season.
“Once the bowl game came around I started to get a lot more confident in my abilities and in my knee,” Jackson said. “I feel like that is allowing me to play like how I know I can play.”
Jackson’s knee is no longer a problem, but his return to health may cause concern to teams on Arkansas’ schedule..
“He’s a problem if you’re an offensive lineman,” Pittman said. “It’s his speed and size now that make him hard to block.”
Jackson will once again look to play a key role in a defensive line group that helped lead the way to the team’s 42 sacks last season, ranking first in the SEC and No. 8 in FBS.
WELCOME TO THE SEC
Armstrong, the transfer WR from FCS member Texas A&M Commerce, said Thursday it didn’t take long for him to realize that things were more intense in the SEC.
“It was that first day of workouts,” Armstrong said, with a chuckle.. “I never felt like that before during a workout. It was just lifting, we didn’t even run. I was in there feeling like I was going to pass out, so I said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to need to go home and drink some water and get my hydration up.’ It was crazy.”
TeSlaa, the transfer from Division II Hillsdale College in Michigan, said the speed of practice caught his eye.
“The SEC is a whole other level, especially the defense and the speed of everyone, even the linebackers,” TeSlaa said.” I feel like some of these linebackers are just as fast as I am. So, it’s been crazy learning the speed and learning how to get off of them.”
FORMER BIG TEN DL SET TO VISIT
Former Minnesota defensive lineman DeAngelo “Trill” Carter is scheduled for an official visit to Fayetteville this weekend.
Carter (6-2, 300; Leesburg, Ga.) started all 13 games and registered 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season for the Gophers, good enough to make him an honorable mention All-Big 10 player.
If Carter were to choose Arkansas, he would become the third defensive linemen to join the Razorbacks after John Morgan III (Pittsburgh) and Trajan Jeffcoat (Missouri) transferred to the team in the offseason and participating in spring practice.