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Special teams making strides under Fountain

Senior kicker A.J. Reed knocking through a field goal.
Senior kicker A.J. Reed knocking through a field goal. (Arkansas Athletics)

The Razorbacks have to elevate every phase of the game in 2020 and it's already trending in a positive direction for the third phase–special teams. Led by former Georgia special teams coordinator Scott Fountain and his analyst Mike Krysl, the special teams units received praise from head coach Sam Pittman after their second scrimmage on Friday.

"Scott's assistant head coach and I think a lot of him, but I also feel like he's very important," Pittmans said. "Our guys are buying in. Our kids now, they work special teams. I feel like we've got good punters and kickers and good returners. I've been very pleased with Scott and more importantly, I've been very pleased with the effort of our kids."

The Hogs didn't have a special teams coordinator during the Chad Morris era, and it showed. Several special teams plays ended up on SportsCenter's Not Top 10 and, besides Connor Limpert's kicking, it was a consistent weak point.

Pittman and Fountain went out and found themselves a Lou Groza Watch List member in A.J. Reed from Duke in the offseason, and that use of a scholarship seems to be paying off. Reed and his competitor, Matthew Phillips, went four of five on Friday and they both made 52-yarders.

"To be honest with you, 52 on both of them, on Reed and Phillips was into a little bit of breeze," Pittman said. "Both of them had a little extra to go on it, so I felt real happy about that."

After losing Limpert, Arkansas's most accurate kicker in the record books, it's good to hear there may not be a significant drop off with either Reed or Phillips. Reed was 15 for 18 at Duke in 2019 with a couple made from 50 yards out.

New punter addition George Caratan from Michigan is also improving as camp moves along. After a punting competition on Friday, Pittman said he had a really, really good day.

"I was really pleased with the kicking overall today," Pittman said. "I thought it was much better than last week. So I think we got better there. Obviously you boom one a long ways or make a long field goal, it just does wonders for your confidence, and that’s what we needed with all those kids."

De'Vion Warren is still on campus to remind folks that Arkansas once returned kicks for touchdowns but Razorbacks fans haven't seen a punt returned for a touchdown since Joe Adams versus Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl in 2011.

That means Arkansas has played 99 games without returning a punt for a touchdown. It's the ninth longest streak in the FBS, and fourth longest among Power Five programs.

With Warren healthy and Treylon Burks ready for a second season of double duty, Fountain has to be feeling pretty good about their chances to end the streak in 2020. He's been working with Burks to adjust his catching technique but it'll be Fountains blocking schemes that'll help Burks get to the endzone, or at least past the 50.

The Razorbacks are less than 20 days away from kickoff against Georgia.

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