Takeaways from Sam Pittman's first press conference of spring football
Head coach Sam Pittman and his Arkansas Razorbacks are gearing up for the start of spring practice on Thursday and there are plenty of questions to be answered.
The Razorbacks replaced both coordinators, adding Travis Williams as defensive coordinator, Marcus Woodson as co-defensive coordinator and Dan Enos as offensive coordinator. They also added a pair of new on-field assistants in tight ends coach Morgan Turner and secondary coach Deron Wilson.
On top of the coaching changes, Arkansas will have 10 new transfers and 12 freshmen participating in spring ball, with more to come later — including former Georgia Bulldog Jaheim Singletary, who Pittman announced Tuesday has signed with Arkansas and will enroll in June.
Though they have plenty of newcomers, the Razorbacks also lost 25 scholarship players to the transfer portal. Pittman mentioned that he thinks his team will be fine, but the staff needs to develop relationships with players more often.
"I guess is the bottom line, is we need to communicate with our kids more often," Pittman said. "We need to see them in settings other than just football, which we’ve done. And try to foster a relationship with these guys more than just on the field. I think we’ll be fine...I’m really excited where we are right now as far as relationship building with our kids."
Tuesday marked Pittman's first time meeting with the media since Feb. 1, when he focused on new hires and National Signing Day. So, there was plenty to talk about...
Pittman's announcement that Jaheim Singletary signed with Arkansas came as a surprise to most. The native of Jacksonville, Florida, was the No. 2 cornerback prospect and five-star 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's signed his SEC agreement with us. We're excited about him. Big-time player out of Georgia.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Singletary played 13 snaps on defense last season and he appeared in three total games. The 6-foot-1, 175 pound defensive back entered the transfer portal on Jan. 13.
Singletary is the second Georgia defensive back to transfer to Arkansas in as many years, as the Hogs added safety Latavious Brini prior to last season.
Pittman wants four on the d-line
After running primarily a three-man front during the three-year stretch with Barry Odom as defensive coordinator, Pittman seemed to make it a priority to find a new defensive coordinator that can rush four.
"What I wanted when (Travis Williams) came in is I wanted four d-linemen," Pittman said. "Even if we were in an odd package, I wanted four d-linemen on the field."
The Razorbacks added a pair of big men from the transfer portal in John Morgan III from Pittsburgh and Trajan Jeffcoat from Missouri. They also added back defensive tackle Taurean Carter, who is cleared to practice after suffering a torn ACL last spring.
Pittman said the big thing he wants to find out is who will play as the boundary/standup pass rusher at the weakside defensive end position.
"We've been looking at several of them," Pittman said. "I think Nico Davillier is doing a good job there. Landon Jackson has done a really good job there. And of course, we recruited John Morgan kind of in that role.
"So, we'll see what happens, but I think we have that person or people on our team that can play that spot. I think that's probably the biggest question mark going into spring ball is who that guy's going to be because we're pretty comfortable with the rest of the guys."
As far as the interior goes, Pittman said he feels like getting Carter back is almost as if they are adding a new transfer after he missed all of last season. He also mentioned Eric Gregory as a player who has added weight and can move inside after he worked at the defensive end spot in three-man fronts last year.
"Certainly, that would be a position that we might need to continue to add to through the portal," Pittman said. "Again, nothing negative towards the guys we have. That one there is a little light in depth but certainly not talent but in depth."
Enos and Jefferson developing strong relationship
After spending three seasons under offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Arkansas starting quarterback KJ Jefferson will have to get used to a new play caller this season.
Pittman brought in former Maryland offensive coordinator Dan Enos to replace Briles, who left for TCU. Enos has a strong resume of quarterbacks who have seen success on the next level, including Brandon Allen, who Enos coached during his time 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 Dan coach him to be not only a better quarterback at Arkansas, but a lot better opportunity to be in the National Football League by understanding pro-type schemes and checks and things of that nature," Pittman said. "I think certainly KJ is bought into that. I think they've got a really nice relationship. I knew they would, but you've got to work on those things."
Will Quincey McAdoo be a corner or receiver?
A big talking point over the offseason has been whether Quincey McAdoo will stick at cornerback or move back to receiver. As a true freshman in 2022, McAdoo began as a receiver but offered to work with a depleted defensive back group.
McAdoo saw his first defensive action in a 21-19 loss to Liberty on Nov. 5 and he also recorded his first career interception and blocked a punt in the contest. The Clarendon native didn't look back, as he started at corner for the Hogs' final four games of the season.
So, the question has been whether or not McAdoo would stay at corner or move back to receiver, the position he was rated a four-star prospect at coming out of high school.
"Exactly what we talked to him about," Pittman said. "We’ve had extensive conversations about him on offense, him on defense. With the emergence of the new staff, I think he’s more comfortable staying where he was. I think there might have been a point where he might have wanted to move to offense, but he’s going to stay on defense because I think he feels like he can help the team, help himself, more over there.
"We have talked to him about a third down package. Then I’ve talked to our staff about that. There’s two things there. One, he has to do it. It’s going to be extra work on him, which he’s willing to do that. And then the other thing is he has to be one of our top three receivers, or top four, to get on the field. As long as that happens, then certainly we’re going to look at it because I told him we would."
Injury report...sort of
Pittman didn't mention any specific names of players who are injured, but he did make it seem like there will be a few that won't participate in the spring.
"There will be some guys that miss part of spring," Pittman said. "There will be some that will miss all of spring, and you'll see them out there when you get to practice, but some of them, the medicine treatments have come a long way.
"We've had some cartilage injuries that are repairable. Back in the old days, they were trims and repairable would take you 5-6 months to get back fully healthy. There's been some injuries like that."
He also mentioned that a few players will have class schedule conflicts and they may show up late to practice. Overall, it sounds like there are at least a few guys dealing with injuries, but Pittman was reluctant to reveal any names. More information on that front should come out as practice is opening up later in the week.
Hogs to feature the tight end more
With the addition of Enos, it would make sense for Arkansas to feature the tight end position more than it has over the past three years, which is very little.
Last season, Razorback starter Trey Knox caught 26 passes for 296 yards and five scores. Behind Knox was Nathan Bax and Hudson Henry, who combined to record seven catches for 43 yards.
Bax is the only name back from that trio, and Pittman said he thinks the super senior has "stepped up" and is moving better. Redshirt freshman Tyrus Washington caught a touchdown in the Liberty Bowl win over Kansas, and he should be able to make a difference this season.
"We know what Tyrus is going to be able to do and what Bax is going to be able to do," Pittman said. "And if we feel like we’ve got enough tight ends to function, then we would stay out of the portal. If not, just numbers alone we would go in and see if we could find somebody."
Pittman also mentioned that the tight end group will play more this season than they have over 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 scores that year. Also in 2015, Jeremy Sprinkle caught 27 passes for 389 yards and six touchdowns. The next year, Sprinkle hauled in 33 passes for 380 yards and four scores.
Along with Enos, the Hogs added tight ends coach Morgan Turner, who helped develop some of the best tight ends on the next level — including Zach Ertz, Austin Hooper, Dalton Shultz, Coby Fleener and Colby Parkinson — during his time at Stanford from 2013-22.