FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman made some impressive hires when filling out his staff at the University of Arkansas, but hiring Barry Odom may have been the best of them all.
Odom can prove invaluable to Pittman and the Razorbacks. Not only is a very good defensive coordinator, but he also has four years of head coaching experience in the SEC. He was 25-25 in four years at Missouri including 4-0 against Arkansas. His Missouri teams were 13-19 in the SEC from 2016-19. In that same four-year period, the Hogs have won four SEC games.
Missouri defeated Arkansas 24-14 Nov. 29 in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium. That allowed the Tigers to finish 6-6. They were 4-8 in 2016, 7-6 in 2017 and 8-5 in 2018. He was fired the morning after the win over the Hogs.
Odom had options, but opted to stay in the SEC and join Pittman’s staff.
“Well, you look around the league, and I think it’s undeniable it’s the best football conference in America,” Odom said. “You’re a competitor, you want to be a part of that. It’s something with the fanbase, the geographic area of the country, the ability to recruit, the support you receive from the administration, and then this was such a great fit for me because of my trust and belief in Sam Pittman, and so there was a number of factors that went into me having the opportunity to be here. I’m fortunate and honored to be here and represent the University of Arkansas and look forward to building this thing and excited a lot more now than I was the day I took the job. And we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m excited to do it every day.”
Some of the players on the current team faced Odom’s squad multiple times. Are they buying into Odom’s coaching now that he is at Arkansas?
“Well I think so,” Odom said. “You look at the things that we put out in front of them and the way that they’ve attacked it. Now, also everything hasn’t been sunshine and rainbows. It never is. But also Coach Pittman has done such an amazing job on laying out the plan and just being honest and transparent and showing them that this is the way we’re going to do things. This is our program, giving them the roadmap of what it looks like.”
Odom and the Razorbacks will face a tough 2020 schedule that opens with Georgia on Sept. 26. Odom knows that adversity will hit this fall, but he likes Arkansas’ situation and ability to handle it.
“How do we respond?,” Odom said. “How close can we get before this first game happens? Because there’s going to be adversity in that first game. How are we going to respond from it? What are we going to do when things don’t go your way? All those things. It’s never a, ‘Put a checkmark by it. We’ve arrived. We’ve done that.’ It’s an ongoing process, but I know this; the way that practices are structured, the way that Coach Pittman has brought this plan into reality, if you go out there and you’re not really in and two feet in, you’re going to get exposed really quickly.
“And I’m proud of what our guys have done up to this point. We’ve got no room for error, but our guys have done a great job, and I think they’re hungry, I really do. I think they’re hungry to be a good football team. They understand that we’ve got to keep our head down, we’ve got to go to work, and we’ve got to be as close as we can as a team to withstand from schedule one to 10 what we’ve got coming.”
Pittman is set to begin his first year as a head coach at a Power 5 school. Having Odom on his staff allows him access to a coach who has four years of experience being the head coach in the SEC. A case could be made that Odom had more success as a head coach than anyone at Arkansas since Bobby Petrino. That will prove to be a very valuable tool for Pittman.
Arkansas will schedule this afternoon.