FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman saw both his offensive and defensive coordinators leave in the offseason as well as three position coaches.
Pittman also made a change with his strength and conditioning coach as well. Two of the three position coaches who left became coordinators elsewhere. Barry Odom left to become head coach at UNLV. Pittman hired Travis Williams to replace Odom and likes the new ideas he brings to the Hogs.
“I think the biggest thing is we’re going to have four bigs on the field on the D-line,” Pittman said. “I think that’s the biggest thing I wanted. Sometimes we weren’t able to do that because of just the personnel. But I think we’re set up better for that now. Right now he has installed through our walks, field and boundary blitzes, things of that nature. We haven’t gotten too extreme, but we are running multiple fronts and things of that nature with movement. I think what he does will fit our personnel very, very well.”
In addition to Williams, Pittman hired Morgan Turner from Stanford to coach tight ends, Dan Enos from Maryland as offensive coordinator and coached the quarterbacks, Marcus Woodson as co-defensive coordinator and secondary as well as Deron Wilson from Florida to coach cornerbacks. Woodson came from Florida State. Williams was with Gus Malzahn at UCF.
As a whole, Pittman talked about the fit as a group.
“Very, very loyal,” Pittman said. “Hard workers. Basically once we make a decision in there that’s exactly what — to the T – that’s exactly what we’re gonna do. And that’s been on both sides of the ball. That’s all of our new coaches, including our strength coaches. So I feel like at this point, and I don’t see it going any other direction, I feel like we’ve really hit a home run with our hires.”
Pittman hired Ben Sowders from Louisville to replace Jamil Walker as strength and conditioning coach. Pittman praised Sowders on Tuesday.
“He’s brought a lot of enthusiasm, along with his assistants,” Pittman said. “A lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm. It’s been hard now. We’ve got to get better, obviously every year, but we needed this spring, this winter conditioning. It’s been tough. The kids have worked extremely hard. Ben and his group are so positive, energetic, along with the other new guys I’ve hired.
“I think it’s went real well. We’ve had a few injuries, but nothing too severe. But they’ve worked extremely hard.”
Pittman is also pleased with the connection that Enos and quarterback KJ Jefferson seemed to have developed in the time they’ve been together.
” I think KJ – you’ll ask him, and he’ll have a better answer – but I think KJ and Dan have a really good relationship,” Pittman said. “I think KJ believes Dan coach him to be not only a better quarterback at Arkansas, but a lot better opportunity to be in the National Football League by understanding pro-type schemes and checks and things of that nature. I think certainly KJ is bought into that. I think they’ve got a really nice relationship. I knew they would, but you’ve got to work on those things.”
Jefferson has led Arkansas to a pair of bowl victories and 16 wins the past two seasons. Jefferson was the MVP of both bowl games. In 2022 despite missing two games with injury, Jefferson completed 204 of 300 passes for 2,648 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He also was second on the team in rushing with 158 carries for 640 yards and nine touchdowns. Pittman went into more detail on what is making the Enos and Jefferson pairing seemingly a success thus far.
“As you well know, I’ve had so many jobs,” Pittman said. “The terminology of calls, line calls and things of that nature, the ones that the kids make, those would be not a whole lot of change there. That was one of the things Dan asked me when I spoke with him. He said, ‘Hey, what do you think? Do I need to marry my stuff to the last three years?’ I said, ‘Oh hell no. It won’t roll off your tongue if you’re having to remember what to call it versus this is my offense. I know what it is.’
“Nowadays, it’s so different. And it’s both sides of the ball, defense as well. Nowadays, you have so many walks, so much more meeting time than you had before that I believe that, certainly for spring ball, and then I believe you can bring in these eight guys and any transfer, like Jaheim (Singletary) is coming in in June. I believe you can get a kid ready a lot easier now (with) the rules that they’re giving us than you ever could. They’re going to keep what their terminology is as far as that goes and our kids will have to learn it, which they’ve not seemed to have a problem with it on either side of the ball.”
Arkansas will hit the practice fields on Thursday for the first of 15 practices.