FAYETTEVILLE — It’s January and in a time when coaches are normally spread all over the country recruiting or hosting official visitors they are instead still grounded due to COVID.
Coaches are working from their offices and while some things have changed one hasn’t. With the NFL season winding down coaching staffs everywhere are being raided for assistants. Both the NFL and colleges are seeing changes in staffs which happens each year thus the one thing that COVID hasn’t changed.
Sam Pittman has already seen at least two changes in his staff. Justin Stepp left to coach the wide receivers at South Carolina. Stepp is from South Carolina and it was simply a chance for him to go home. He stated it was the only job he would have left Arkansas to take. Kenny Guiton was hired from Colorado State to coach the wide receivers at Arkansas.
In addition, sources indicated a few week’s ago Pittman was going to replace Rion Rhoades coaching the linebackers with Michael Scherer. That happened this week though no official announcement has been made by the University of Arkansas. Scherer came with Barry Odom from Missouri, where he was a linebacker from 2012-16. He was quality control assistant for defense prior to taking over with the linebackers. Rhoades, who was previously the head coach at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, could stay on at Arkansas in some off-field capacity.
But the coaching carousel at Arkansas may not stop there. At least one report on Friday had Jon Cooper not returning to coach the tight ends. Rumors had Ole Miss making a run at Cooper, but that didn’t happen. Lane Kiffin hired John David Baker from USC to coach his tight ends.
At Arkansas, Cooper has landed a tight end in each class. He signed Flower Mound (Texas) Marcus’ Collin Sutherland in 2020 and Little Rock Parkview’s Erin Outley in 2021. Arkansas has a commitment from DeWitt’s Dax Courtney for 2022 and an offer out to Ashdown’s Shamar Easter in 2023. The Hogs return Blake Kern, Hudson Henry and Sutherland in 2021 with Outley joining the mix this summer.
Texas and LSU made a run at Odom, but Arkansas was able to step up and keep him in Fayetteville. USC was linked to Brad Davis on the offensive line and the NFL rumors have been linked to Derrick LeBlanc who coaches the defensive linemen.
Pittman’s staff is full of some young, hungry coaches and recruiters. That is something Frank Broyles used to pride himself in getting assistant coaches who were young and hungry for success. Guiton, Scherer, Jimmy Smith (running backs) and Sam Carter (cornerbacks) certainly fit that description.
In Odom, Kendal Briles and Scott Fountain, it appears that Pittman will be able to retain his trio of coordinators. Davis and LeBlanc were very solid with the two lines.