FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will close out spring drills this week with one practice today and then another on Saturday before finishing up on Saturday.
The practices and scrimmage on Saturday with the younger players will all be closed to the media and public. Sam Pittman did describe what the final three practices will look like.
“Tuesday will be a regular Tuesday,” Pittman said. “It’ll be situational thud. It’ll be about an hour and 50 minutes. Thursday will be a spider practice again. A lot like yesterday. Few more situational type things. Next Saturday, I’m not 100 percent on what we’re going to do, but I’m pretty close. We’ll take the vets and do indy. Probably some type of team run. Not physically running, I’m saying team run O versus D. We might have a one-on-one session with wide receivers, DB’s, O-line, D-line. And we’ll scrimmage the threes. That’s it for the older guys. that would be the plan right now. It’ll be on Saturday morning. We’re going to go out here next week because they are setting up the stadium for Garth.”
Garth Brooks will hold a concert in Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday night. Pittman has done an outstanding job since returning to become head coach at Arkansas and getting ready to be rewarded with a new contract.
“Well, I’ve agreed to what they’ve offered,” Pittman said. “They agreed when I agreed. So, I don’t know what all that means. I agree. They agree. So, that means I guess we agree.”
Pittman was one of the lowest paid head coaches previously in the SEC so how does he feel about this new contract?
“Awesome, awesome, I will tell you this, it’s going to have a non-compete clause in it,” Pittman said. “That’s about all I’ll say about it. I’m glad it does. It allows us to recruit. There’s a lot of different things in recruiting, but one of them happens to be stability. They can fire me whenever they get good and ready to, but I can’t leave if that makes sense. Don’t want to anyway. You have 130 schools. Eight of them have their head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators still there in the last three years is what I read somewhere. Eight schools that have the head coach, OC and DC of 130 going into their third season. So, we’re trying to sell this contract as stability.”
Count quarterback KJ Jefferson among those pleased Pittman is the head coach of the Razorbacks.
“Him bringing that grit and just bringing that great atmosphere that Arkansas has been missing in the past,” Jefferson said. “With him just coming in and instilling that hope in all the fans here, it’s giving the fans a show each and every time we go out on the field. We’re just playing hard for him and not only just him but for each other and for the state.”
Not only has Pittman been able to keep Kendal Briles (offense) and Barry Odom (defense), but also Scott Fountain (special teams) for each of the three years he has been with the Hogs. Pittman had a simple, one-word answer when asked what excites him most about the 2022 team.
“Toughness,” Pittman said. “And because it’s the only way we can win. We all believe that. I’m not saying you don’t have to have great players, because you do, but if you don’t have toughness, you can’t win. You’ve got no chance. I like where we’re at with the team there.”
The team has only had two scrimmages the entire spring and they didn’t tackle the first two units to the ground this past Saturday. But Pittman feels the toughness is there.
“I think if you ask the kids they’ll tell you we’ve thudded harder than we ever have here,” Pittman said. “So toughness is about, to me about what we ask them do to. So you’re O-line, your D-ljne, your linebackers, it doesn’t matter to them except for the tackling part of it. It’s live in there every day no matter the tempo you call. The secondary guys, that’s where Barry and them have to tackle them, and in individual you’ve got to block them as wide receivers, you have to block in individual and all those things. I think if you ask our kids they would tell you this is the most physical spring that we’ve had to be honest with you. Now we had half of a scrimmage basically with the ones and the twos the first time. I’m talking about a live scrimmage. And then none this week. So in a normal spring we would’ve had another tackle to the ground, another 75-80 plays of live tackle than what we did this spring. But I do believe we’re thudding a lot better than we ever have. Our practices seem to be more physical that way.”
Jefferson talked about his goal for the final three spring practices.
“Just coming out healthy,” Jefferson said. “Everybody coming out healthy and just making sure everybody is still in their playbook. When we come back, we don’t want to have any setbacks. We want to hit the ground running and just attacking, we’re executing and chasing perfection, basically. The main thing out of these three practices, we want to come and just remain healthy.”
Arkansas opens the season on Saturday, Sept. 3, at home against Cincinnati.