The Razorbacks will be missing an important part of their defense in the first half against the Texas Longhorns on Saturday.
Senior linebacker Bumper Pool will sit out during the first half of action against Texas after being ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter of the Razorbacks’ win against Rice last Saturday.
Arkansas has been no stranger to targeting calls in the past year, with redshirt sophomore safety Jalen Catalon missing the first half against Missouri and the second half against Texas A&M in 2020. The Razorbacks lost both games.
Arkansas struggled to keep linebackers on the field during the game against Rice because of targeting fouls. Senior Hayden Henry missed the first half because of a targeting suspension stemming from last season’s finale. Senior Grant Morgan missed most of the game because of an early targeting penalty in the first quarter, and then Pool was ejected late in the game.
Pool is an integral part of the Razorback defense. He racked up 195 total tackles, including 13 tackles for losses over the previous two seasons. He also led the team with 14 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss against the Owls.
Pool was the top Razorback tackler in six of the nine games he played last season. The game he missed was against Ole Miss, in which the Razorbacks ceded 242 rushing yards to the Rebels, the third-highest total of the season.
The Hogs’ defense was much better than that this past weekend, however. The team’s run defense had a Pro Football Focus score of 82.7, which was the team’s highest grade since the second game of 2018.
The defense held Rice under 100 rushing yards and to just 2.1 yards per attempt. The defense was especially solid on third down, limiting Rice’s conversion rate to 25%.
The ejection of Morgan from the game gave junior Andrew Parker more time to play, and with Pool missing the first half Saturday, Parker will have another opportunity to play more minutes.
“Obviously, we want Grant (Morgan) in there,” head coach Sam Pittman said after the win. “I think the biggest thing that’s happened with us is we have Andrew Parker. Parker now is playing some good ball for us. Hayden Henry is a good player, he just wasn’t able to play in the first half. We’re getting better depth there.”
Arkansas will have to use Henry and Parker in extended roles to play alongside Morgan for the first half against Texas. The pair combined for nine total tackles against Rice, and Henry had a tackle for loss while Parker had two quarterback hurries.
Henry is an experienced player, having played in 45 career games and registering 20 or more tackles in each of the previous three seasons.
Parker is less experienced, having played in 18 games and accumulating 21 tackles over his career. He played well enough last weekend to stay on the field for a career-high 42 snaps against Rice.
The Hogs will face a tough test trying to contain Texas sophomore running back Bijan Robinson, who rushed for 103 of Texas’ 170 rushing yards last week.
Parker will be a big factor in shutting down the run game while Pool is sidelined. It is important for the Hogs to contain Texas early, especially if the offense gets off to a slow start again.
“I’ve always told (Parker) that your number is coming,” Catalon said after the game against Rice. “When it comes, make sure you’re ready. You never know what is going to happen."
The Hogs will look to contain the run against Texas at 6 p.m. Saturday in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.