FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman was on the SEC Teleconference on Wednesday and provided an update on his COVID issue as well as the status of his wife Jamie’s test.
Pittman has had two positive tests this week meaning he won’t coach at Florida this weekend.
“Well, I’m feeling fine,” Pittman said. “I was sore in the back starting a little bit Saturday night after the game but I just felt like that was from standing up. I’m not the picture of health, you know. So I thought my back was just hurting from the game and then [Sunday] it was a little worse and then I was told Monday I had tested positive.
“The great thing is nobody else in our building has (tested positive) over the last two tests. We’ve gotten that confirmed test from yesterday as well. Virtually, we’ve done it so much. I’m at every team meeting. I’m been able to speak to the team. Basically the difference is, and we have our staff meetings and all those things. Basically the difference is the personal interaction with the kids, and then I’m not at practice. Certainly watch it at night and review it with the coaching staff. I’m just not at practice is basically the difference. I’m fortunate that I have a little house out the back of mine and that’s where me and my dog are hanging out for certainly the next few days, or 10-11 days total.”
His wife obviously took the test as a precautionary measure too.
“Oh she’s great,” Pittman said. “You know I had her, obviously I wanted her to get tested and she tested negative. So she’s doing just fine. She’s staying in the main house and I’m staying out in the outback.”
Pittman will watch the game by himself on Saturday since he doesn’t want to expose Jamie to the COVID.
“No, I can’t go in the main house,” Pittman said. “I’ll be out here watching it by myself. I might get Lucy my bulldog to come out here with me. But you know, I’d be lying to you if I said I’m not somewhat depressed. That’s why you get into coaching, to go see your kids play, see their faces, see them play.
“I was looking forward to visiting with Coach (Dan) Mullen. I’ve never talked to him. I enjoy those times before the game, and obviously I wanted to see in person the Florida team that we’re playing. I think they’re really outstanding. We’re all competitors and I wanted to go be a part of the competition. I certainly am during the week, but Friday and Saturday with the team is priceless. I don’t want to make more out of it than what it is. Certainly Coach (Barry) Odom will be there and do a great job, but I won’t and I’m certainly going to miss that.”
Pittman said they have asked to add a coach for this game to help with the defense since Odom will be juggling head coaching duties as well.
“Yeah, we’ve asked the compliance department if we can add Coach [Michael] Scherer, who was a defensive control guy for us,” Pittman said. “We’ll do that and Barry will come down on the sideline and coach from that point. You know he has to.”
Odom spent the previous four years as head coach at the University of Missouri in the same division with the Gators. Pittman is obviously pleased to have Odom on his staff.
“Oh, it’s huge,” Pittman said. “Him and Coach (Kendal) Briles, as well, and of course Scott (Fountain). But Barry, it’s one of the reasons we hired him, but the main reason is just because he’s Barry Odom. It’s going to be such an easy transition for us because Barry’s been there. Obviously they played Florida, so him and Coach Mullen have a relationship. They played them four years in a row there that Barry was the head coach, so I’m not going to make a big deal about me not being there. I’m just going to be disappointed that I’m not, but Barry will handle it along with the staff and the kids will play well, I’m sure.”
Pittman and Mullen both talked about any advantage of Odom being familiar with Florida and then the Florida coach being familiar with Odom and Briles.
“Well, I don’t know, familiarity just makes you more comfortable,” Pittman said. “You’ve been there before and things of that nature. Obviously myself, I haven’t been to The Swamp in a while because we were playing the Georgia-Florida rivalry there in Jacksonville. But I think it helps. It’s more of a comfort of the staff. Again, I truly believe the kids react however the coaches react and I think there’ll be some type of comfort level there going in there just because Kendal and Barry have been there.”
Mullen echoed much of what Pittman said on if it’s an advantage to familiar with the opponent.
“Sure, you can look at both,” Mullen said. “We’re familiar with them so that’s an advantage to us and they are familiar with us so that’s an advantage to them. I don’t know that they plays a huge part if that makes sense. You know what I mean? Because you can draw it both ways. Obviously when you know the people you’re playing against where there’s a little familiarity you can say there’s an advantage, a familiarity with people, but that also goes both ways. So I don’t know if that advantage helps one side or the other, but there is an advantage to familiarity.”
Mullen did admit with former Gator Feleipe Franks now the quarterback at Arkansas that will present some changes with signals.
“Yeah, I’m sure he has probably shared some information with them on what we’re doing offensively,” Mullen said. “You know trying whatever way possible to gain an advantage in the game so we’re going to have to, we’ve discussed that, and have a plan for that.”
Just as Pittman does, Mullen has a lot of respect for Odom and the job he does.
“Yeah, I have a lot of respect for Barry,” Odom said. “I think he’s a great coach, did a good job as head coach as well. I also think for him though, when you’ve been a head coach, you have a certain experience. They know with the program, that you can start to see the identity that Sam’s trying to form within that team and the attitude of the team and what the identity of the program wants to be and their toughness and how they’re playing hard. So I think Barry is just going to continue that message. Having been a head coach before, having the experience to be able to do that, it’s not like this is his first time ever acting as a head coach on the sideline. The program, you can kind of see their identity and he’ll be experienced enough to handle the situation.”
For Pittman, Saturday will mark a first for him, but not in a way he wanted.
“No, this is the first time I’ve ever missed a game, and I’ve had some unfortunate situations in the family,” Pittman said. “You know, different things and maybe missed a practice here and there, but over the amount of years I bet I haven’t missed more than two, maybe three, practices over the years. And it wasn’t because of sickness, but death in the family and things of that nature.”
“It’s different. It’s weird, you know? Once I send them off to practice in my meeting, then I just wait. I wait until they post the practice on my laptop. It’s just different. I don’t want the kids to think any different of it. If they do, Florida will beat the heck out of us. So, we have to be locked in on everything but me. I can promise you that. I think we’ve done a good job with that.”
While he will miss the game Pittman admitted this week has been different for him as well.
“No, this is the first time I’ve ever missed a game, and I’ve had some unfortunate situations in the family. You know, different things and maybe missed a practice here and there, but over the amount of years I bet I haven’t missed more than two, maybe three, practices over the years. And it wasn’t because of sickness, but death in the family and things of that nature.”
“It’s different,” Pittman said. “It’s weird, you know? Once I send them off to practice in my meeting, then I just wait. I wait until they post the practice on my laptop. It’s just different. I don’t want the kids to think any different of it. If they do, Florida will beat the heck out of us. So, we have to be locked in on everything but me. I can promise you that. I think we’ve done a good job with that.”
Pittman could have contact with the team up to 90 minutes before the game, but does he plan to tape a pregame speech?
“I could and all those things, but I don’t know what good it would do,” Pittman said. “I’m going to talk to the team Friday night over Zoom, and then go let them play. We’ve got great guys and a great group of coaches. I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill. The kids are ready. I talk to them every day. Pre-game speech… Barry will do a hell of a job with it.”
Actually Pittman may not watch the game by himself. Lucy his bulldog may join him, but Pittman joked about one negative to that.
“Hahaha, yeah,” Pittman said. “She don’t say much though.”
Arkansas and Florida will kickoff at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday and televised on ESPN.