Football scrimmage open to fans Saturday

There’s nothing like a little taste of the product to help make a sale or get customers enthusiastic, right? It’s a tried-and-true policy.

So, there’s no better marketing for the Arkansas Razorback football program than giving fans a sneak preview of the work-in-progress that head coach Sam Pittman’s Hogs are at this moment as they go through spring football drills.

It’s great that Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek and Pittman recognize this for Hog fans who are without a doubt hungry for some football action.

Saturday morning’s scrimmage is open for fans to attend with Gate 1 to Reynolds Razorback Stadium opening at 10:30 a.m.

Only the west side of the stadium will be open, and all fans entering the stadium must wear a mask and practice social distancing while inside.

No food or drink will be allowed to be brought in the stadium, but concessions will be sold on the south concourse. All regular-season policies will be in place, including using a clear bag for items that are brought into the stadium.

Parking Lot Nos. 72, 73, 73A and 74 located on the west side of the stadium will be open as well as Lot 44 on the north side of the stadium.

This might be your best and/or only chance to see the Razorbacks in action before the Hogs’ Spring Football Game at 2 p.m. on April 17 that will streamed live on ESPN+.

Though Pittman has entered his second season as head coach, he is directing his first spring practice at Arkansas because last March Covid-19 put the kibosh on spring practice just as the Hogs were getting ready to start.

Pittman’s predecessor Chad Morris was a bit shy about allowing fans to watch spring scrimmages, and his results on the field might have given a clue of why. He probably didn’t want fans to know how disorganized his operation was.

Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman / Video still:

You might say that’s an unfair shot, and maybe it is. However, the results Morris produced on the field were unfair to the fans and the program itself. His two squads went 4-18 before Yurachek dismissed him with two games remaining in the 2019 season.

Morris proudly claimed he was a “high school” coach when he took over the program, and I’m not sure an Arkansas head coach has offered a more telling assessment of his skills.

Oh, well, why wallow in the past when the future appears so much brighter?

Brighter, you might ask?

Why so optimistic after Pittman’s 3-7 season first season, the Razorbacks’ fourth losing record in a row?

Well, the Hogs were oh so close to being a 6-4 squad against what inarguably was the most difficult schedule in the history of SEC football.

Officiating errors robbed Arkansas of the Auburn game. An injury to linebacker Grant Morgan turned the Missouri game completely around, and the Hogs had enough Covid-19 issues in the LSU game that they could have postponed the contest and no one would have blamed them. But like true Razorbacks, Pittman and the Hogs opted to play anyway and just about won.

Had the Hogs finished 6-4, Pittman might have been named SEC Coach of the Year. He certainly would have deserved to have been mentioned for the honor.

Now, that might be a rose-colored assessment of last season, but any fan who paid attention noticed the difference in the fight displayed by Pittman’s first Razorback team and what we had endured for at least the previous two seasons.

Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman / Photo:

What I also liked is that though the Razorbacks showed improvement last season, Pittman didn’t stand pat with his coaching staff. He made moves that he felt needed to be made to make his football team better.

Receivers coach Justin Stepp left the program to take a similar post at South Carolina, in his home state. It was a good move for Stepp and the Razorback program. Arkansas’ receivers might be its most talented offensive position group, but they had issues at times getting open. Maybe new receivers coach Kenny Guiton from Colorado State can improve their skills and technique.

Likewise coaching changes were made at the linebacker, defensive line, and tight end positions with the respective promotion of Micheal Scherer from an analyst to assistant and the hires of Jermial Ashley, formerly at Tulsa; and Cody Kennedy, formerly at Southern Miss and Tulane at the other two position groups.

Each of the new hires are hungry, young-ish coaches who have shown promise but are looking to make a name for themselves and advance their careers in the Southeastern Conference. Zoom interviews with them following their hires showed energy and charisma, two attributes that a coaching staff needs to keep young men fired up and on their toes.

I know it’s just been a little over three months since we last saw the Hogs play, but I am fired up to get a chance to watch the scrimmage on Saturday.

Like everyone else I’m eager to watch quarterbacks K.J Jefferson, Malik Hornsby, and true freshman Lucas Coley sling the ball, but I’m particularly interested in watching the running back group. We know what Trelon Smith can do, but what about his understudies.

Offensive line play remains an issue, too. Can the Hogs put a solid starting five together, something we haven’t seen since Pittman exited Bret Bielema’s staff to take a similar position at Georgia following the 2015 season.

Likewise on defense, the Razorbacks have starters returning across the board at linebacker and defensive back, but what are their understudies like.

Quality depth was a concern last year at linebacker and even at times in the secondary. However, the big question on defense is what type of a pass rush can the Hogs muster this season, particularly without the services of Jonathan Marshall at nose guard?

The answers to those questions won’t be evident following Saturday’s scrimmage, but hopefully we will see some positive signs and a good bit of hitting.