Pettway responds to pep talk
FAYETTEVILLE — Apparently, Arkansas Razorbacks football Coach Bret Bielema’s comments on Monday about how some of the freshman receivers were threatening to surpass the veterans hit home with La’Michael Pettway.
Pettway, a redshirt sophomore, responded with inspired play the next two days and added two touchdown receptions in Thursday’s practice.
“La’Michael Pettway, I’m telling you, the last three practices he looks like a different guy,” quarterback Austin Allen said. “He’s going out there making contested catches, running great routes, getting open.
“His whole attitude has just been phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things about how he’s playing. He just needs to keep coming along where he can be that guy. I have all the trust in the world in him.”
Fellow sophomore Deon Stewart, who has been taking the leadership reins in the receivers room with senior Jared Cornelius off the 105man roster while resting his back, has seen the change.
“He’s been stepping up the past few days,” Stewart said. “He’s been like our go-to guy in the red zone. Austin’s been throwing it up to him and he’s been using his size and his hands to come down with it.”
Stewart said Bielema’s remarks weren’t exactly a
topic of conversation in the receivers’ meetings, but he heard about them.
“My coach from high school, he sent me that. My mom sent me that,” he said.
Tailback Devwah Whaley and receiver Deon Stewart struck upbeat notes about receiver T.J. Hammonds’ prospects for recovery from a second surgery to repair the meniscus in his knee. Hammonds had a similar injury last August and was ready for the season opener.
“It hurts and it’s kind of sad at the same time, but T.J. is going to get well pretty soon,” Whaley said. “He’s going to have a speedy recovery, and he’ll be back before you know it.”
Stewart said the team has missed his playmaking ability the past couple of days.
“But this is just a chance for all the younger guys to step up and try to get in there and get some playing time,” he said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not going to be able to get in.
Cornerback Ryan Pulley seemed skeptical when he was asked about freshman receiver Jordan Jones catching four touchdown passes in the first three practices, as offensive coordinator Dan Enos said last Saturday.
“Nah. That was probably against the 2s. I don’t recall that on the first defense,” Pulley said, drawing laughs from reporters. “I don’t recall that.”
Sophomore receiver Deon Stewart, freshman cornerback Chevin Calloway and freshman receiver Jarrod Barnes have been taking the most reps as the deep men on kickoff returns. Sophomore T.J. Hammonds was also a deep man before suffering a knee injury earlier this week.
Senior cornerback Henre Toliver has emerged as the top return man with Jared Cornelius out resting a tight back. Stewart is running on second team.
Quarterback Austin Allen said he expects juniorcollege transfer Brandon Martin, slowed by what he said are “lingering injuries” that have kept him out of team periods, to come back strong, and soon.
“Once those injuries go away and he gets in the playbook and knows what to do every play, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Allen said. “He’s 6-4, 230, can run, jump. Once everything clicks, he’s going to help us out this year.
“It might not be right now where we’re installing things because he’s new and trying to learn the playbook, but once things click, he’s going to be a really good player for us.”
Graduate transfer David Williams, a running back who was at South Carolina, has drawn raves for the attitude he brought in to the locker room.
“I didn’t come with a cocky attitude, I came in wanting to learn and was open to getting to know people and just building relationships,” Williams said. “It’s paid off a lot.”
Williams visited Wisconsin during Bret Bielema’s final season with the Badgers before signing with the Gamecocks.
“We had a good relationship,” he said. “I think the only reason I didn’t go to Wisconsin was they were taking one running back. They were recruiting me hard and Corey Clement real hard. Corey just happened to commit before I did.”
Williams was on the brink of signing with Connecticut before Bielema reached out to him.
“I just sat down with my family and I thought I would challenge myself,” he said. “I knew if I went to UConn I would start right away with no competition. I thought I would come out here and see where I stand with the best of the best.”
Left guard Hjalte Froholdt said he’s been impressed with how all of the running backs have picked up pass protections.
“We get in the offensive line room and explain it together,” Froholdt said. “So we all get a full understanding of where we’re going with it, who everybody’s got.”