FAYETTEVILLE — When the University of Arkansas hired Sam Pittman he knew who his target to coordinate the special teams would be.
Pittman wanted Scott Fountain, who was on the staff at Georgia with Pittman. On Friday, Pittman talked about hiring Fountain and was asked how the conversation went with Kirby Smart, Georgia’s head coach?
“I’m not going to tell you what the conversation with Kirby was, but Scott, he’s a different guy,” Pittman said. “Once he decides what he wants to do something, then that’s what he’s going to do. He is assistant head coach here, so, we did bump his title up. I think Scott has aspirations of being a head coach or something to that nature down the road, and he’d be a good one. But, no, we’re neighbors, we’re friends, that certainly, I hope, played a part in him deciding to come to Arkansas.”
Fountain had a very comfortable situation at Georgia, but talked about why he opted to come with Pittman to Fayetteville.
“I did,” Fountain said. “Pittman did a good job of recruiting me – one – and I think a lot of him and you know, each week it seemed like somewhere around game 7 or 8 he kept showing up in my office – me and him worked together a little bit on field goal, right? He’s an O-line coach – protection. He’d come in and every time we’d talk about it he’d start talking about Arkansas. ‘If I go are you going to come with me?’ So as we got to the Sugar Bowl or what not we were talking during that time. Anyway, I decided during that time ‘hey I’m gonna come.’ He said ‘Ok, I’m gonna let Kirby know.’ I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you just wait until we get back until the plane lands in Athens? Because I’m going to be eating breakfast with him, riding on a plane with him and it’s going to be uncomfortable.’ He said, ‘No, I’ve got to go ahead and do this and get this started.
“I just thought working for a guy like Sam Pittman was a great opportunity, and I really liked the names I was hearing he was hiring as the OC and DC as well.”
Fountain was asked if he lived closer to Pittman in Athens or Fayetteville?
“Definitely not here,” Fountain said. “I did in Athens. We were actually neighbors, so if he was out by his pool or something I could always here him playing his music on a Sunday afternoon in the off-season.”
Pittman discussed what he feels makes a good special team’s coach.
“Passion for what he does, knowledge for what he does,” Pittman said. “Scott is one of the most … he is a thorough football coach. He’s a meticulous football coach. Very knowledgeable and a proud man. He wants that product that he puts out there to be a reflection of him and his work. He’s been a lot of places – a lot of good places. We were just really fortunate that he decided that he chose us. Again, I’m putting the friendship totally separate. If I said I didn’t like him at all, I’d still think he was a good special teams coach.”
While Fountain is the coordinator, he noted he has five other assistant coaches working with him as well.
“So, typically in how it works here, as well, is our Coach (Justin) Stepp receiver coach, our Coach Sam Carter the DB coach, the running back coach Coach Jimmy Smith, our linebacker coach Coach (Rion) Rhoades,” Fountain said. “We’ve got Coach (Jon) Cooper, the tight end coach. So, their role is essentially; every day we’re going to have a staff meeting like the O and D does.
“Now, they’re going to spend more time together, but we typically get a 20-30 minute meeting every day to get organized or practice. They have specific assignments they coach from point and time from punt. I may have a guy that coaches a gunner, another guy that coaches a gunner, and then a guy that may coach this side, that side. So, just switching up duties. Their assignments never change, I just want them to be an expert at that area they’re focusing on. If they do that, we can be a great football team. Because like they say now, 12 eyes are better than two.”
Fountain said he has worked at schools that didn’t have a designated special team’s coordinator as well as situations like Arkansas and Georgia that do.
“I’ve worked for schools that have split (special teams duties) up and what you find out is the linebackers coach cares about coaching the kickoff coverage, but linebackers are a lot more important,” Fountain said. “Like, I was at Florida State and we did that there. The guy that was in charge of the kicker, punter, long snapper would coach the running backs and he just had, ‘Hey, y’all go to the stadium. Y’all do your thing and come back.’ You flip that over, you go, ‘Hey, I want to hire a guy that does teams and we’re going to be good on teams.’
“I get to coach the specialists and the special teams meeting, but I also get to leave and go to specialists meeting and coach them on kicking, punting and long snapping – those techniques. I’m not worried about a tight end. When I was at Auburn I did special teams and tight ends, but I was over all the teams. At Georgia, he gave me an opportunity to just do teams, so I think you can really help your organization buy in. You can hold your coaches that help you on teams – just like O and D I’ve got coaches that come in and help me on the practice field – more accountable as well and make sure they’re doing a great job. Hopefully it’ll pay dividends for us here.”
Since he was at Georgia with Pittman and that is who the Hogs open with one week from today is that any advantage as far as preparation?
“We certainly know the personnel,” Fountain said. “I have a great feel for the personnel. I worked with all those guys on special teams. That part helps. And it can also worry you, because they’re a really loaded football team and have a lot of guys back. But it certainly helps. I think Sam being the O-line coach there, going against the defense every day, that certainly brings value as well.
“But for me, it’s tough in the respect that they’ve hired a new special teams coordinator that’s never done team. And so what he brings, where he’s going to pull from I guess would be the areas he’s been, Alabama, LSU, kind of a with a lot the same staff. That part for me is different. But I think personnel-wise I’ll be very familiar with them. Scheme-wise it’ll be more different for me than, like, Coach (Kendal) Briles with the offense because Kirby’s back, right? So they going to run the same type defensive scheme.”
Fountain noted that he plans to use some starters and key players on special teams this season.
“Yeah, so, what I’ve always looked at is if a kid starts on offense or defense, lets’ get him on two units. OK?,” Fountain said. “If he’s a guy who doesn’t, he just plays a role on offense or defense, let’s get him on four units if he’s good enough.
“Then, there’s guys in my career, like when I was at Auburn, Rudy Ford, who is now in his fifth or sixth year in the NFL, he would always play three units. He’d play DB. But when we played the Iron Bowl he played four units because he’s such a good punt return cover guy for us, the hold up guy.
“So you’ve got to kind of play the roles, see how much they’re playing with the O and D and work from there. But I try and put those numbers on it. Two if they’re a starter, [three], if they have a role, and then all four of course. If you can find three or four guys that, boy, they just play teams, that’s really an awesome deal. They may be a backup of whatnot. But sometimes those guys are your best special teams players.”
Arkansas and Georgia will kickoff at 3 p.m. on Saturday and televised on the SEC Network.