FAYETTEVILLE — Few things have gone as planned since Hunter Yurachek introduced Sam Pittman as the 34th head football coach at the University of Arkansas on Dec. 9.
But that is no reflection on the job performance of Yurachek or Pittman. Enter a pandemic that shut down the majority part of many countries around the world. The Razorbacks didn’t get to hold a spring practice and the players were sent home in the middle of March as schools went to online classes.
Eventually after the players were sent home some virtual meetings were allowed. That is about to change as the SEC will allow its athletes to return to campus on June 8. Even then what the coaches and student-athletes can do will be limited.
With the athletic facilities closed even the athletes who stayed in Fayetteville had to find other ways to trail and workout. Training facilities were closed around the country so that brings up the question what kind of shape will the players be in when they report on June 8?
Arkansas was able to send some equipment to athletes who didn’t have access to any, but couldn’t monitor any of the work. Pittman told Chuck Barrett that Arkansas was able to send different workout training methods.
“Well, you give them three different options,” Pittman said to Barrett. “You give them an option with weights, an option without weights and then we send them stretch bands, resistant bands. So, we’ve given them three different workouts as far as the strength part goes. One as far as the running part goes.”
When Pittman was hired to replace Chad Morris, he asked the players to trust him. Now, Pittman is returning some of that trust to his players.
“The key word here is trust,” Pittman said. “I mean, you have to trust that your players are doing what you’re asking them to do. And if they’re coming from an environment that they’re proud of, an environment they like, I think they’re going to work out, and you’re not going to have to micromanage them.
“We trust our players. We can’t get video back from them or anything like that. Are you working out? We can’t do that. So we choose to trust, and we think, you know, our big thing is, why can’t you come back in better shape than if you were here? If you’re really driven. If you’re a self-motivator, you’re going to come back in his quality of shape as you possibly can. We choose to trust that our players are going to do that.”
The good news is Arkansas’ coaches and players will have time to get everything lined up before the scheduled Sept. 5 opener at Reynolds Razorback Stadium against Nevada. The players will return on June 8, but there’s still a lot of questions to be answered before the ball is teed up for the season opener. At least the coaches and players are now being allowed to take the first step.