FAYETTEVILLE — Barry Odom is in charge of getting Arkansas’ defense back to the standard it needs to be in the SEC.
After being a head coach at Missouri for four years, Odom was hired by Sam Pittman to help at Arkansas. Odom remembered the day he was officially hired at Arkansas.
“We jumped in the car and drove to campus,” Odom said. “We knew there was an official visit weekend and I wanted to get around those guys and Coach Pittman. From that moment until I sit in here today it feels like it has been on fast forward. Going and getting adjusted and trying to build relationships with your team. That’s the most important thing and now that we can’t be on the road in February that’s going to be such a huge part of what we’re trying to get done.
“But also this staff working together and the direct approach Coach Pittman gave us and the way he charged us with going out and let’s hit these numbers in these spots. He did such a great job going out on whatever weekend (Dec. 13-15) that was until [Feb. 5]. I would feel pretty strongly saying if you just looked at recruiting rankings I don’t know of anyone who has ever started at 118 and finished No. 29. Basically in a month’s time. Coach Pittman needs a lot of credit for that on how he assembled the staff and how with the direct approach he went and got it done.”
Odom talked about what his defensive philosophy will be at Arkansas.
“The thing I want to really take a hard look at is what we have on our current roster,” Odom said. “And then the coaches that have success over long periods of time are able to adjust to the personnel that they have. I could go draw up a blitz from the field and the boundary, but if our kids can’t do it then it’s no value. We’ve got to be great teachers, but we also have to give them a skill-set, tool belt on what they can go do. Put them in position to use the skills that they’ve got where they can go play fast. And they can play confident, they can play free but doing it in the structure of how we’re gonna play.
“But if you look at toughness and grit and playing together and playing hard, doing it for four quarters and finding ways to get off the field. Either turnovers or takeaways, third down percentage, all those things go into core beliefs, values and foundational approach on building the defense. But man if you get the guys playing together, playing hard and finding ways they care about the guy lined up next to them a lot more than anything else now you’re starting to make some ground up. Schematically we’ll have a number of different looks that we have, but there will be things and standards on how the principles of playing defense the things we want to hit on each snap.”
Odom talked about the long-standing relationship he and Pittman have had through the years. While he wasn’t successful at trying to hire Pittman, Odom talked about how it worked out at Arkansas this time with him working for the new head coach of the Razorbacks.
“I’ve tried for a long time to get Coach Pittman hired where we could work together,” Odom said. “It’s hard to do in this business. It’s hard to get aligned with those things and this was an opportunity that when it came open really of all the options I had out there I zeroed in on this one. Because of a number of things, but I wanted to work for Coach Pittman. The trust that I have in him the way he’s gonna run the program. Those stood out at the top for me. The passion and energy of this fan base, this state, of this university I wanted to be a part of it.”
Odom talked about the differences in recruiting to SEC as opposed to any other Power 5 conference.
“I think you look at the brand of ball that’s played in this conference,” Odom said. “You look at the success this conference has had since we started. You look at the draft picks this conference has compared to the next conference it’s not close. It’s not ever gonna be close. That starts with recruiting and then the development of those players. Obviously a huge emphasis in the energy and passion no matter where you go in the conference. No matter where you go in the conference, where you’re playing, you better be ready to play your best or you’re gonna get exposed.”
When it comes to recruiting, Odom was asked what one thing he looks for over all else in a prospect?
“There’s so many intangible qualities,” Odom said. “There’s measurables and those things, but I want guys who want to be Razorbacks. I want guys who want to be here. I want guys who are gonna play the game the right way. There’s a number of qualities that go into it, but those that have toughness, character and the want to be here are always gonna standout. Guys that is important to. I don’t ever give promises in recruiting. I want to treat them exactly like they are my son. I’m gonna love them up, I’m gonna teach them, gonna provide for them and promise they will walk away from the University of Arkansas with a college degree. That’s important. I’m gonna treat them just like they are my son.”
Odom also talked about what he plans to dive into between now and spring football.
“The most important thing we’ve got right now is building relationships with our current team,” Odom said. “They don’t know me and I don’t know them. We know names, but really the substance of building relationships takes time. I’m gonna pour into them and provide them the opportunities to get ready for spring practice. If we can do that we’ll have started the foundational approach of moving this program forward.”
There’s been confusion of whether Odom prefers a 3-4 or 4-3 base defense. He was asked which will be his base defense this season?
“Yes,” Odom said laughing. “It’s gonna depend on the skills that we have. I would say we will be very multiple, especially this first year, until we get a good feeling for what our kids can do and how well we can teach them. They will play as well as we can get them taught.”
(Editor’s Note: This was Part 7 of a 10-part series taking a closer look at Arkansas’ assistant coaches.)
Click here for Part 1 (Jon Cooper, TE)
Click here for Part 2 (Sam Carter, CB)
Click here for Part 3 (Jimmy Smith, RB)
Click here for Part 4 (Rion Rhoades, LB)
Click here for Part 5 (Kendal Briles, QB-OC)
Click here for Part 6 (Brad Davis, OL)