The SEC has currently suspended team activities for the league’s various football programs until May 30th but Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman thinks modifications to normal summer programs would allow coaches to head into August Camp well prepared.
“I think we’d be ready to go if we came in by July 1,” Pittman said Thursday ESPN 92.9 sports talk radio in Memphis. “Obviously anything earlier than that would help us. I like the format we’ve been able to use over the past few years once we got to June 1st. I do think that format could help.”
But the summer period has always come on the heels of 15 spring football practices which, in Arkansas’ case, (and many other schools) never happened due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Previously coaches have been limited to a few face-to-face sessions in June with restrictions on the type of activities involved. Beyond that players have worked with strength and conditioning coaches in a continuation of the off season program in place heading into spring football practices. Pittman thinks those guidelines need to be modified in order for coaches to get their players ready for the start of full scale preseason practices, given the current circumstances.
“I think we’re going to have to amp our hours up over what we’ve been able to use in the past summers,” Pittman stressed. “I do think we need to have some hands on individual-type drills if we come in July 1st or later because if we don’t you’re really hurting the freshmen who are newcomers coming in. Obviously we don’t know our team as well as some because we didn’t have a day of spring ball. I think the answer is four to six weeks.” (of a modified summer program)
And if that’s not possible?
“I’m an older coach,” Pittman answered. “Back in the old days they used to bring kids in on August 1. The guys who stayed were kids that needed help over the summer or guys that needed to get some weight off. The rest of the team went home. So I do believe if we started August 1st we still could get it done and still be able to roll by September 5 but I sure hope we’ll be able to get together by July 1, obviously dictating safety first.”
For now the reality the Hogs’ first year head coach faces is an empty football complex and meetings with coaches and players via Internet services like Instagram and Zoom.
So how is that going?
“We certainly wish we would have been able to have spring ball,” Pittman noted. “More importantly we were building relationships with our kids and building trust with each other. Probably the most difficult thing right now, is they are gone. We are staying in daily contact with our team but the biggest thing is (not) getting to see our kids work. Seeing if they’re in the right position and things of that nature. Also we’ve got to be where we can run through a brick wall together and you need to be around each other to get that strong trust/bond.”
For the fans recruiting has been about the only news consistently coming out of the program right now and Pittman says even with restrictions he and his staff are, “as busy as we can possibly be from seven o’clock the morning to five in the afternoon and then at night you’re texting back a forth with kids.”
“We’re busy with (writing) notes, with calls to high school coaches, with getting kids to call us on Facetime,” Pittman continued. “You have to use all technology to be able to recruit. When I was in school we didn’t have electric typewriters. No computers. So the technology part of it is a lot easier for the younger generation than mine. “
Still Pittman believes he’s up-to-date with most of the tools coaches use in recruiting–minus one.
“I’m not too good of a Tik Tok guy yet,” the head Hog said with a laugh, “but I guess I’m going to have to learn to use it too.”
Pittman expected some difficulties in his first major college head coaching job especially since he is charged with trying to rebuild a once proud football program that has fallen to the bottom of the SEC West the past two seasons. A suspension of team activities with no spring football is not one of them.
“We would have been in practice eight today had we not been in this terrible situation that we’re in throughout the country,” Pittman lamented. “But as long as we’re getting this thing handled and being safe that’s our main concern right now.”