FAYETTEVILLE — Barry Odom is set to begin his second year as defensive coordinator for the University of Arkansas and he likes how the preseason has gone to this point.
Odom met with the media following Thursday morning’s practice. He talked about Thursday’s practice and how physical it became as promised by Sam Pittman.
“It was a solid day, and he’s exactly right,” Odom said. “To me, it was our most physical day of camp so far, and our guys responded. It was a competitive battle. I’m excited to go dig into the video to see. I think I know what I saw on the field but really want to back that up. And I thought that there was great competition. You go offense versus defense, and then you know the competition battles that we’ve got going on at each position. The great thing right now about… one of the great things, Coach Pittman puts the plan together, he presents it, and then our guys have just gone and done it. And they have done absolutely everything that we’ve asked from them, and that’s a lot of fun, and it’s a good group to be a part of.”
The majority of the players who saw meaningful snaps for the defense last season are back with the exception being Jonathan Marshall. Odom likes having this much experience back to work with.
“I think anybody that’s been able to have a chance to watch us or listen to our team talk has gotten, hopefully within our organization they’ve talked about the experience we have coming back” Odom said. “I look at the program that coach Pittman is building and put in place. The super seniors that came back. I was talking specifically on the defensive side how valuable that is for us because they’re a year older, another year in the system, everyone is speaking the same language. Our room got older, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
“Not to confuse last year with having great success, I’m not saying that. But those guys are able to go out and when we make a call, they remember the checks within that call. It wasn’t Day 1 teaching as if they’d never heard it before. So valuable, and we’ve been able to through the course of, I think today was practice 12, we’ve got real competition in a lot of spots. We have to get that narrowed down in the next few days so we can begin our preparation for Rice. I’m excited for the leadership that we have, not only in the senior class, but the guys that have now been in the program for over a year.”
On Thursday morning it appeared the defense got the best of the offense as they got off to a fast start.
“Kendal (Briles) and the offensive staff, they’ve got our number plenty of times, as well, throughout practice,” Odom said. “There’s a lot of talented guys on that side of the ball we’re having to defend. The urgency with how you start practice can really set the tone with how you’re going to carry out throughout the day. That’s something we realized as a staff. We have to get off to a fast start. There were times last year that we didn’t. You always work on things you need to get better on, and that is one for our entire program is getting started fast. There are times offensively we’re going to see throughout the year with a different pace of play whether it’s extra tempo or the different things that go along with that. I think it’s been great for us. We’ll continue to work that, and hopefully once we see it in the real arena it won’t be a surprise for us.”
Odom and the Razorbacks got off to a fast start defensively last season, but struggled in some of the games later in the season. COVID played a role in that obviously, but Odom felt they could have played better in some of those games. How is the defense better this year than last year?
“We’re better because we have a wonderful head coach who lays out a plan for us to go execute,” Odom said. “There’s not any grey area on what it should look like, what it should be. He’s a tremendous leader. He cares so much for our student athletes. We’re able to grow and be ourselves in this program. Our kids understand the openness, the honesty and the transparency he has and ultimately what is important to our team and program in how to go play. Our guys have bought into that. They’re hungry to be good, and they’re hungry to have success. We’re excited about 16 days out on having an opportunity to go kick it off.”
Odom had chances to leave following last season, but is still at Arkansas. On Thursday, he addressed that.
“Well, number one, I’m so thankful to be here and blessed to be here,” Odom said. “This is a wonderful place. I couldn’t think of a better person to work for than Sam Pittman and Hunter Yurachek. And I understand how special Arkansas is, and I understand what the Razorback brand means. And it means something to me and my family. And we’ve started building something that in my opinion is very, very special, and I’m thankful that I’ve got another chance to be around this team and these young men and represent this great state.”
Arkansas will practice again on Friday morning prior to Saturday morning’s scrimmage.