HOGS: D shines but flags fly
FAYETTEVILLE - Though the hitting fit his criteria, head coach Sam Pittman saw too much flag football Saturday during Arkansas' first preseason scrimmage.
An authentic SEC officiating crew threw too many flags.
“I thought we played extremely hard, but we had too many penalties,” Pittman said. “Too many defensive pass interferences. Too many false starts on offense. I think we cut down our jumps on the defensive line, there were two there, but that's two too many. Too much holding on the offensive line.
"It wasn't what I would call sloppy until maybe the fourth quarter. Then it got kind of sloppy, which tells you we're not anywhere near where we need to be."
Better to see those flags in a scrimmage than a real game, said All-SEC sophomore safety Jalen Catalon and sophomore starting quarterback KJ Jefferson.
“A couple of holding calls,” Catalon said. “A couple of offside penalties that we can't have as a defense. But as a first scrimmage, I'd rather get those out now than to have them in a game where they're crucial. I think we'll learn from all the mistakes and clean them up. I think the second scrimmage (next Saturday) will be a lot smoother.”
Jefferson concurred regarding the offensive flags.
The penalties were about all that marred the defense that mostly got the best of it, Pittman implied, particularly late scrimmage.
“I thought our defense out-lasted the offense,” Pittman said. “I felt like maybe the last half of the scrimmage that the defense controlled the energy.”
Catalon said the defense came out "with some juice today."
“We played really well," Catalon said. "The D-line was getting back there. The linebackers were plugging up the holes and the DB’s were doing really well. The offense gave us some tough times, too. They had a couple of explosive plays here and there, but I thought for the most part we held our own, which is good for our first scrimmage”.
The defense forced turnovers, including cornerback Montaric Brown’s jarring hit for a fumble recovered by senior All-SEC middle linebacker Grant Morgan and a tipped ball intercepted by defensive back Malik Chavis.
“The defense stopped the offense on the goal line from the 1 two plays in a row,” Pittman said. “They were on the 4, and they got it down to the 1 on the first play and were stopped there. Mo Brown had a corner blitz and hit the running back and knocked the ball loose. Great disguise and a real physical hit.”
Unfortunately, UA athletic director Hunter Yurachek absorbed Saturday’s most imprinted hit. Posting his picture on Twitter, Yurachek obviously got too close to the action on the sideline. He took a cleat to the face from which he received several gashes on his nose and just above his mouth.
“I know he's going to be fine,” Pittman said. “I had a nice conversation with him.”
As for players, senior linebacker Deon “De De” Edwards was “dinged up a bit” Saturday, Pittman said, and freshman running back AJ Green was injured earlier in the week and withheld from Saturday’s scrimmage.
Pittman said Green and starting center Ricky Stromberg, injured at last week’s outset, should be able to scrimmage next Saturday.
Freshman Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, netting a 1-yard touchdown, and track sprinter Josh Oglesby did much of Saturday’s backup running back work behind starter Trelon Smith.
Though moved during the week from running back to tight end, redshirt freshman Dominique Johnson also took running back snaps Saturday, Pittman said.
The “other Catalon,” Jalen’s older brother, Kendall, activated this year after redshirting in 2020 as a junior transfer from Southern University, struck Saturday’s biggest offensive blow with a 50-yard TD catch of a Jefferson pass.
“Kendall Catalon caught a routine 15-yard out and went for a touchdown,” Pittman said. “That was good to see him make that play.”
Jalen Catalon was asked about the mixed emotion of seeing the defense burned but his brother.
“It was 50-50,” Jalen said. “When he first scored, I looked and was like, 'Dang!’ But then I turned away and gave him a little smirk. I was happy for him. As a defense, you want to succeed, but at the end of the day, I always celebrate for my blood, for my brother.”
Asked to describe his TD pass, Jefferson said: “We knew coming in that we were going to have a 1-on-1 matchup with Kendall on the route. Luckily, I got the ball to him with great protection from our line.”
By his account and Pittman’s, Jefferson had an “average” scrimmage.
Pittman explained it’s hard when adorned with a no-hit, caution jersey in scrimmages, for a powerful running QB like Jefferson to do all he can do.
“It's just hard in scrimmages for him a lot of times to get into a routine,” Pittman said.
Because of the caution jerseys all QBs wear in practice, scrimmage sack stats are quick whistle estimates.
However, Pittman said Missouri transfer defensive end Tre Williams had at least two sacks in the bag.
“Tre Williams might have had two, three sacks,” Pittman said.
Highly touted freshman Cam Little continues to hold the place-kicking post. Little has done all the first-team preseason place-kicking, including field goals Saturday of 46, 52 and 37 yards.
“He knows how to kick the ball between them two deals pretty consistently,” Pittman said. “We had a hurry field goal situation the other day and it was 57 (yards), and he kicked it 65. I guarantee you.”