Recruiting Scholarship Specialists, Developing Depth Key to Improving Special Teams

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FAYETTEVILLE — When Sam Pittman came to Arkansas he did something most of the head coaches before him didn’t do and that is hire a special team’s coordinator.

Prior to Pittman the majority of the head coaches divided the special teams up among some or all of the assistants. But Pittman opted to bring Scott Fountain from Georgia with him as the special team’s coordinator, which was his title with the Bulldogs as well.

Fountain talked about what the situation was like at Arkansas when he arrived.

“When I got here we had I think one kid on scholarship, Jordan Silver, at the time,” Fountain said. “At Auburn we had four. At Georgia we had three. So when we got here we wanted to, with COVID coming on,we said we’ve got to get some kind of fix for our teams because we really didn’t have a kicker coming back. The kid, I can’t remember his name (Connor Limpert) he graduated and Matthew Phillips, didn’t know a lot about him and there was another kid (Jared Sackett) here who left and went to South Florida really before I met him.

“So we reached out and AJ Reed, he had kind of had an up and down career but on the tail end he had gotten better. So we decided to go with him at that time and scholarship him, right. Punter was kind of the same thing. Couldn’t go out and evaluate anybody and we brought George Caratan into the program. So Coach Pittman was really trying to do it right but it was really tough. You can see film but you don’t know what’s getting cut out or whatever.”

Fountain signed kicker Cam Little in the Class of 2021. In the Class of 2022, he has a commitment from Cambridge (Wis.) long snapper Eli Stein.

“So those guys, they were good for our program and now we’ve got Cam in here,” Fountain said. “And Cam, what you want to do with that scholarship, guys, is you want to go out and get the best guy in the country. What you’ll find out in the kicking and punting world is this: If you’re a 1 or 2, you’re really good. There’s all kind of rankings and all that, but I won’t divulge my information. Where I go to look that 1 or 2 is an elite guy. And then after that, there’s a lot of good players.

“If you don’t use that scholarship, a lot of times you’re going to get really good players that may develop into great players. Rodrigo Blankenship was a good player that developed into a great player. So that’s why I think that scholarship’s so important you know. But in a lot of cases where I’ve been as well there may be a kid comes in and he develops and you ain’t got to go out and get a guy because you’ve got him right there in front of you. So with Coach Pittman we’re trying to have a punter, a kicker and a long snapper on scholarship and have the best players we can behind them. For me, when they get here it’s never about who’s on scholarship, it’s about who the best guy is. But having that scholarship does give you an opportunity to go out and get some really good players.”

The non-scholarship kickers are redshirt junior Matthew Phillips and sophomore Vito Calvaruso. The punters currently on the roster are redshirt junior Reid Bauer, redshirt senior Sam Loy and true freshman Patrick Foley. Phillips and Little are also listed as punters in addition to kicker. Silver is the scholarship long snapper with Stein coming in the next class. The non-scholarship long snappers are redshirt sophomore John Oehrlein and true freshman Francisco Castro.

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