FAYETTEVILLE — Both players and coordinators at the University of Arkansas are impressed with how Sam Pittman motivates everyone associated with the football team.
Pittman was hired Dec. 8 to become the next head coach of the Razorbacks. Arkansas wide receiver Mike Woods caught 33 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns in 2019. He loves the way Pittman is running the Hogs.
“He doesn’t babysit us,” Woods said. “He just says this is our team and he let’s us self start. Obviously he’s gonna get on us if we’re not self-starting. But as far as all that motivating ‘let’s go to work’ and this is y’all’s team so y’all are going to run your team like you want to run it and how you want to look in the fall. So he lets us pretty much handle and self-start ourselves.”
Cornerback Montaric Brown finished 2019 with 39 tackles, including 25 solo, one for loss, an interception, three pass breakups and one recovered fumble. He too is impressed with how Pittman motivates the squad.
“He really relies on us,” Brown said. “We are a player-led team. We don’t really rely on the coaches. We rely on the players. At the end of the day we’ve got to play. We rely on us the leaders step up and lead the younger guys and everybody else.”
Linebacker Bumper Pool was second on the squad in 2019 with 94 tackles, including 38 unassisted, 6.5 for loss, 0.5 sack, five pass breakups and one quarterback hurry. Pool is a big fan of Pittman’s coaching methods.
“It doesn’t seem like this is Coach Pittman’s first year,” Pool said. “He’s handled everything perfectly. He has this mindset of who cares what happens, who cares what’s thrown in front of us. Let’s keep that same mindset of work on today and when tomorrow comes we’ll attack it. Never get to down about what you think is going to happen. Always stay positive. I think his leadership style is ‘ya’ll see me as who I am’, he’s never going to give you any b/s. It’s just straight who he is. You can read him. So we are all calm because of the way he’s attacked it.”
Barry Odom was a successful coach at Missouri. He owned a 4-0 record against the Razorbacks. He is the defensive coordinator for Pittman and is impressed with his new boss.
“I can’t really put into words how impressed I’ve been with it,” Odom said of the job Pittman has done. “He has created belief in our program, and it’s just the way he is as a person. There’s not anybody that’s going to outwork him. The decisions he’s making for the entire organization is for us to continue to move forward. I felt similar ways on some of these things when I became a head coach.
“They don’t give you a manual that says ‘turn to page seven, this is how you handle the COVID’, and he’s done a heck of a job. He’s got a lot of good people around him. Leave no question, when we walk into the staff room he’s got a clear plan on what he wants, how he wants it, and he’s been able to put it into play. Above everything else, the things I’ve known about Sam for 20 years you see come out in him being a head coach. He’s passionate, he’s got great energy, he cares about the kids and he’s so deeply caring and energetic and passionate about the Arkansas Razorbacks.”
Kendal Briles has been a very successful offensive coordinator at various stops. He is now in that role at Arkansas. He heaped praise on Pittman as well.
“Well you can look at some of the things we’ve been able to do from a recruiting standpoint and that’s all coach Pittman, it really is,” Briles said. “The leadership he has given our staff and I feel like we have one of the best staffs in the country. The people, the men in this building and obviously he hand-selected all those guys. He has done a tremendous job. There’s not a formula or a book you can turn to when this type of thing happens. You have to go commonsense and instincts and doing what you feel like is best to help you win. That’s really all we’ve done is we’ve tried to figure out what’s best for the team. The players first and the staff and then make decisions on whether or not that’s gonna help us win a game.
“I think he has kept it pretty simple. The thing about him is you know what you are getting. That’s what I love about him is the consistency on a daily basis. You know exactly what you’re gonna get every single day. You are come to work, have fun, but get a lot accomplished because he is gonna be there in the staff meetings directing us to do what we need to get accomplished on a daily basis. The thing I appreciate obviously coach Odom has head coaching experience and he’s allowed the coordinators, including coach Fountain, our special team’s coordinator, to be very involved in all scheduling. He’s not just telling everybody exactly what to do. He wants to communicate and make sure we’re all doing it right. I think everybody appreciates that.”
On July 16 even Pittman’s boss, Hunter Yurachek, chimed in what kind of job the new head coach is doing.
“Sam Pittman has been unbelievable,” Yurachek said. “For someone who’s never been a head coach other than at the junior college level early in his tenure, he has handled everything that has been thrown at him and his staff like he is a seasoned veteran head coach. I’ve been incredibly impressed.
“Walking out Tuesday when we had our first opportunity for our coaches to truly be involved with our players on the field for about an hour Tuesday afternoon and how that was organized and to see him walking around and the excitement that he was walking around, I hope we get to play football just for him because I know he’s been waiting a lot time for this opportunity and he’s handled it like a champ.”
Arkansas and Pittman will open the season on Saturday, Sept. 26, by hosting Georgia at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.