Sam Pittman met with the media on Monday to discuss the recent scrimmage. Linebacker has been a major area of concern this offseason after losing All-American and Burlsworth Trophy winner Grant Morgan, who exhausted his eligibility after the 2021 football season. The Razorbacks also lost hard-hitting legacy player in Hayden Henry to graduation.
With plenty of shoes to fill, Sam Pittman’s staff hit the recruiting trail hard in the past couple of classes to find suitable replacements for the “super seniors” at linebacker. Two of those happen to be redshirt freshmen, Chris “Pooh” Paul (6’1 240 pounds) out of Cordele, Georgia and Jordan Crook (6’0 225 pounds) from football powerhouse Duncanville, Texas.
Coach Pittman was highly complementary of both young players on Monday and have clear roles this spring practice season.
“[Paul] is one of the top three linebackers on the team,” said Pittman.
However, Paul is just coming back from concussion protocol and was practicing with the ones before having to sit-out. Paul returned to practice on Monday but was wearing a green jersey. Three terms were used while Pittman described the way Paul plays and it sounds like something you would hear about a seasoned linebacker: physical, smart and can run. With Morgan and Henry gone, there will be plenty of snaps to go around. The way it sounds is that Pittman and company are big fans of guys that play like the linebackers that just graduated.
Duncanville, Texas is a football factory in the east part of the state. “Bigger, better, faster, stronger...” is used in a song by Kanye West in the early 2000’s and that also is a great description of most Texas football players. Crook is exactly that but a good player that wants to be coached.
“[Crook] can run and plays really hard. He is exactly what we want in a linebacker. He wants to be good and has the athletic ability to be a good player,” said Pittman.
What you want out of the early enrollees are guys that want to work as hard as they can to prove that they deserve to be there. That is definitely something defensive coordinator, Barry Odom likes. He made a funny comment in the press conference on Saturday about how Crook and fellow true freshmen, Kaden Henley should still be in high school biology right now but are here practicing this spring. Obviously, Crook is built different but can he carve out a role on this team for playing time at least with special teams this season?