Little goes a long way: Freshman kicker excites special teams room

Freshman kicker Cam Little signed with Arkansas, enrolled in school early and took part in spring practice, making both of his field goal attempts in the Red-White Game. But he never played football until he was a freshman in high school.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)
Freshman kicker Cam Little signed with Arkansas, enrolled in school early and took part in spring practice, making both of his field goal attempts in the Red-White Game. But he never played football until he was a freshman in high school. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Freshman Cam Little is showing a big leg for the Arkansas Razorbacks in preseason camp.

Little was perfect on three field goal attempts in Saturday's scrimmage, hitting from 52, 46 and 37 yards.

University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said that in a hurry-up situation in another practice last week, Little hit a 57-yarder through the middle of the uprights that would have been good from 65.

"It's very impressive seeing those kinds of kicks," Arkansas senior deep snapper Jordan Silver said. "Seeing anybody hit kicks from above 50 is really a 50-50 ball.

"So when people can consistently do that, it brings a lot of confidence into the special teams room. And a lot of confidence in the coaches, I think, to take those kinds of shots right before halftime or just on an opening drive to get points on the board.

"It's very empowering to see those kinds of kicks and that kind of leg strength."

Little is the first kicker Arkansas signed to a scholarship since Cole Hedlund in 2015, so he's expected to have an immediate impact.

Last year as a senior at Southmoore High School in Moore, Okla., Little was rated the No. 1 kicker nationally by ESPN and 247Sports, and named to the Under Armour All-America Game roster.

The Razorbacks were looking for an upgrade at kicker after AJ Reed, a senior transfer from Duke, last season hit 7 of 11 attempts, but was 1 of 4 from 40 yards and beyond, and 27 of 29 on extra points.

"He's making his field goals, more than anything," Arkansas special teams coordinator Scott Fountain said of what Little is doing well. "He's getting great height on the ball. He's got good operation."

Silver is going into his fourth season as the Razorbacks' top deep snapper with a total of 334 snaps on field goals, extra points and punts.

"The three big things about snapping are being consistent, having great accuracy and having a fast snap time," Silver said. "I pride myself on my accuracy and my consistency as one of the top in the country.

"But I only got there through people over here at the football center pushing me to be my best version of myself through battling with other snappers."

Junior Reid Bauer and senior Sam Loy are competing for the No. 1 punting job -- which Bauer held last season when he averaged 43.5 yards on 39 attempts, with 10 downed inside the opponents' 20 -- as well as to see who will be the holder. Quarterbacks Kade Renfro and John Stephens Jones also have been working as holders.

Sophomore Vito Calvaruso is back to handle kickoffs after he had 33 touchbacks on 48 attempts last season. Matthew Phillips, a junior, also is working on field goals, extra points and kickoffs.

Several players are getting work in the return game, including Greg Brooks, Nathan Parodi, Bryce Stephens and Chase Lowery on punts, and LaDarrius Bishop, Raheim "Rocket" Sanders, Myles Slusher, Josh Oglesby and T.J. Hammonds on kickoff returns.

Little, an early enrollee in January, began spring practice by working on placekicks, punts and kickoffs, but he didn't do well with the heavy workload.

"In the spring, he really struggled ... trying to figure out what all he could do for us," Fountain said. "We really tried to back [off that] the back part of spring and just have him focus on field goals and kickoffs."

Little went 1 of 3 in field goal attempts in the first scrimmage last spring when he hit from 47 yards and missed from 44 and 29.

In the Red-White Game, Little was 2 of 2, hitting from 38 and 20 yards. That accuracy has carried over to camp.

Fountain said Little is showing the ability to hit kicks from all over the field.

"We're moving it around on him," Fountain said. "He's doing a really good job with that. He's working hard and has a positive attitude. We're pleased with that."

Silver said Little is kicking with confidence.

"He's gotten into the flow of things and gotten more comfortable with everybody," Silver said.

Little, 6-2, is listed at 185 pounds after gaining 17 since arriving on campus and working with strength and conditioning coach Jamil Walker and his staff.

Fountain said Little was the last kicker he saw in person in March 2020 -- at Southmoore High School -- before the coronavirus pandemic forced all recruiting to be done virtually.

"He comes out of the weight room that morning and his arms are about that big around," said Fountain, holding his thumb and index finger together in a small circle. "I walked out of there, and I'm turned off. I said, 'This guy has never lifted weights in his life.' I think when he got here his bench max was about 135 pounds, which is pretty bad, right?

"Now, he's put on weight, and he's gotten stronger. That's what he'll tell you, 'The body weight I've put on and strength has made me a stronger kicker.' "

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Sixth in a series previewing position groups for the University of Arkansas football team.

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