FAYETTEVILLE — On Friday, the University of Arkansas started preparation for its season opener one week from today against Georgia.
The Razorbacks will make their debut under new head coach Sam Pittman in that game. Following Friday’s practice, Pittman talked about how he felt the preparation for the Bulldogs went.
“I thought it went well,” Pittman said. “I was pleased with the practice we had today. It was just base (stuff), first- and second-down starting situations that we have in today, the base run game, base protections, the base defense against what we think they’re going to do on first and second down, but it went really well.”
The Razorbacks didn’t have spring practice, but have had an extended preparation time for the season between virtual meetings and then practices. Pittman was asked if he’s comfortable with what Arkansas has gotten installed in this time?
“I think we have plenty of offense, plenty of defense in,” Pittman said. “We’re trying to fine tune what we’re going to do against the University of Georgia. The virus is obviously real and you have to adjust. We test three times a week, so there have been some adjustments made. You’re right. You have to be able to play different guys at different positions to make sure by game time you have your best 11 out there at one time.”
While doing his show from the Catfish Hole on Wednesday night, Pittman called that day’s practice the best of the preseason.
“I was proud of the assignment football that occurred in practice and the physicality of it,” Pittman said. “I thought it was a physical practice on both sides of the ball. Not a lot of mistakes. No balls on the ground. We were not throwing interceptions. I thought it was a nice, crisp practice.
“Going into the game confident-wise, we obviously haven’t been out there yet, but I feel like we’re going to be able to do some things in the passing game. And I’m confident that we’ll have enough defense to try to figure out a way to adjust on what Georgia’s doing. I think knowledge-wise the guys can run multiple fronts and be in the right positions.”
Considering all the obstacles he has had to overcome in his first camp as head coach with the Hogs, what is Pittman most proud of that got accomplished?
“Well, the number one goal is to win the football team,” Pittman said. “To win the trust of the team. And how do you see it? You see it in effort. You see it in how they talk to you. How they react to things, whether it be positive or negative. I think we’ve accomplished that. You’d have to ask the players. But I think we’ve accomplished that. If we’re not all in this together you can’t win. I mean you can’t. The first thing you have to do is get your team, and all of us be able to run through that brick wall together. We’ll have to wait and see, but I certainly believe our team feels that way. I know sure as heck we feel that way about them.”
Pittman pointed out that earning the trust of the team should lead to what he wants more than anything else out of this team.
“I want them to play hard,” Pittman said. “I want them to be physical. I want you to feel, if you’re in the stands, that we have a team out there that is excited to be out there, no matter the situation. I want you to see a team that is together, one that cares about each other, one that plays for each other. That’s not Fantasy Island now. That’s what happens on good football teams. We want, when you leave the game, we you to be proud of us, and most people are proud of if the effort’s there, the execution’s there, then they know that you’re well prepared and that you go out there and you play hard. That’s what the expectations of our team is and that’s what I believe that you’ll see.”
When the Hogs take the field on Saturday they will have equality patches on their uniforms and that’s something that Pittman completely endorses.
“We’ll all be wearing equality patches on our jersey,” Pittman said. “To me a uniform is a uniform and we’ve all decided that’s what we want to do and so we’re certainly excited about that situation that the guys can have a voice and wear the patch. We’re excited to do it.”
One of the four captains for Arkansas this season will be senior grad transfer Feleipe Franks from Florida. Franks didn’t get to Arkansas until midterm, yet earned being named a captain in that short time.
“And then with Feleipe, I think he was emotional,” Pittman said. “And when we talked about him being elected by his teammates as a captain. He took a major chance leaving Florida, coming to Arkansas – or leaving Florida to begin with and then choosing Arkansas. And then to go from, ‘I want to play, I want to try to start, I want to do all these things,’ to the team electing him as captain without spring ball, that’s pretty reflective of him and his character. He was very thankful to the football team. I’m not going to tell you what he said, but it was an emotional moment. It was really neat. It kind of explains why you get into coaching.”
Arkansas and Georgia will kickoff at 3 p.m. next Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.