FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ junior linebacker Bumper Pool is one of the leaders on the defense.
Pool and his teammates are now getting eight hours a week for virtual meetings up from first two hours then four. He likes how it’s going.
“Yeah, it’s been great,” Pool said. “The good thing about it is we can do the original four like we’ve been doing. Then if the coaches want to reach out we can connect and talk about something, more questions that maybe someone didn’t get to right away during the hour meeting. There’s extra time to follow up with guys if you have those questions. So that’s what I kind of think it’s the biggest help for. But then again, not having a time frame if we go a little bit over, having that rebound to be able to answer those questions.”
Over the weekend, Pool saw defensive tackle McTelvin Agim, safety Kamren Curl, linebacker De’Jon Harris and defensive lineman T.J. Smith head to the NFL. That’s a lot of production gone off last year’s defense.
“Yeah, when you lose that kind of talent it’s obviously tough,” Pool said. “But we were so young last year even with those guys. So the rotation was a lot of guys getting first-time experience last year. With that being said, this defense has got some experience. We don’t have those playmakers but we’ve got guys that got through the rotation and I’m excited about it. The defense we got and Coach (Barry) Odom is preparing us for fits us perfectly, I think. It gives a lot of guys the opportunities to excel.”
Sam Pittman, Arkansas’ new head coach, celebrated his former players at Georgia getting drafted including offensive tackle Andrew Thomas to the New York Giants at the No. 4 pick.
“I actually just saw that like right before this call,” Pool said. “I just watched it. The passion and the love he had on the phone with his wife was so real. That wasn’t staged at all. When you see something like that, you can tell that he loves his guys. How could you not want to play for somebody that loves you like you’re their son? That was an awesome video. I’m really glad they put it out there.”
Pool enjoyed watching the NFL Draft which is one of the few live sporting events in recent weeks due to the restrictions with COVID-19.
“I thought it was pretty sweet,” Pool said. “It was kind of nice to not know what was going on and just kind of be able to expected the unexpected, I guess. You’re not used to that with this whole deal. Int was fun. A lot of guys in the SEC got picked up, so it was cool to watch that, too.”
Odom is the new defensive coordinator replacing John Chavis who held that position the past two years. Pool talked about the change.
“Yeah, I mean I love Chief and I love Coach Odom,” Pool said. “These guys are obviously at the top of their professions. You can just see Coach Odom has a fire in his eyes. He’s determined to be the best and it shows in everything he does. He’s strict and he’s so fired up about it. You can see his passion. And that passion spreads out to the whole defense.”
Pool also talked about his health since he had a back procedure done earlier.
“My back’s feeling great,” Pool said. “I’m 100 percent ready to go. Just a little procedure and I’m excited to get back on campus and get rolling with the guys.”
While Odom is the defensive coordinator, the linebacker coach will be Rion Rhoades. Pool is enjoyed his time with Rhoades as well.
“Coach Rhoades is awesome,” Pool said. “He connects with everybody very well. I think when he first got hired he called every single one of us probably every day. He was just checking in. It’s great to have that connection with a brand new coach. This is going to be my third year, so you know, getting a new coach is tough, but he’s made the transition so easy. Then, in meetings, he’s a great teacher. He goes over things and makes sure that not just the guys in the front of the room know it but that everyone is on the same page. He genuinely wants everyone to be successful and to know it. I’ve got excited getting to know him and looking forward to the season.”
Pool feels the new system will be good for the team.
“I like the new system,” Pool said. “We’re very multiple and we’re doing some things that I really like. I kind of think that with any scheme it’s just kind of about how hard you play. It doesn’t matter what front it is if you go out there and just bust it you’re going to be successful in it. I think we’ve got a lot of good parts around the linebackers and even inside the linebacker group that will make us a real dominant unit. So, I’m excited to see what’s in store.”
While the meetings are good for teaching and moving at a slower pace. The players didn’t get spring ball. Pool talked about learning the playbook just from the virtual sessions and not getting to work on the field.
“For the defense, I think it’s honestly been even more helpful for guys learning the playbook,” Pool said. “We got to slow it down a little bit, really go through every single play, the ins and outs and knowing what the d-line is doing, what the coverages are doing, what the safeties are doing. So we’re getting a complete understanding of the entire defense. Defense is a lot of fundamentals, so I know Coach Pittman, he’s expecting us to be working on those and I know – we’ve seen videos and guys just talking to the coaches – everyone’s been putting in that work individually, so it’s not like we’re just going away and not working on these things. It’s almost like we’re doing more. We’re working on exactly what our weaknesses are and trying to get those up as a whole defensive unit so when we get back out on the field, we’re only smarter, but we’re more fundamentally sound.”
Pool talked about how he has managed to stay in shape during this time when facilities at Arkansas are closed as are fitness centers and many more businesses.
“My little brother has actually been helping me out (back in Texas),” Pool said. “He’s kind of been like my little personal trainer in the yard. So I’ve been able to do all of our individual drills. He’s kind of been putting me through conditioning workouts, so I’ve got to give him some credit with all that. His name’s Harper. He’s actually going to be up here next year.”
Pool was second on the team in tackles in 2019. He finished with 94, including 38 solo, 6.5 for loss, one sack, two pass breakups, pair of quarterback hurries, two recovered fumbles and a couple forced.