FAYETTEVILLE — On Monday, football players can return to Fayetteville to begin voluntary workouts.
University of Arkansas head football coach Sam Pittman participated in a Zoom call with beat writers and talked about getting the players back on campus this Monday. The campus was shut down on March 5, four days before spring practices were set to begin. Pittman is pleased to get the majority of his team back on Monday.
“It’s going to be awful good to get them back,” Pittman said. “That’s the biggest thing, that they can get back here. I’d be lying to you if [I said] I knew how much interaction we’re going to get to have with them. You still have issues of getting in the building, and there’s one entrance to the building. The bottom line is that entrance is not over here by my door, and we’re not able to go into the weight room. So we’re going to have to have a lot of feedback from our strength coaches and all that, but the greatest thing is to know exactly where they are, that they’re here and that they’re able to get in conditioning. Obviously, we’ll continue our Zoom Meetings with them, but it’s sure going to be feel more like a football team and things of that nature and getting them back here on campus. I’m excited to get them back.”
Pittman talked about what the workouts next week will look like.
“We’re going to start slow with our kids,” Pittman said. “The biggest thing you don’t want to do is get them in here and go so rapid that you’re injury prone. We’re going to find a base, we’re going to find where they’re at. Obviously we can’t test them. I wanted to, but the NCAA said we can’t test our kids when they get back in here to see where they’re at. But we’ll find out.
“We’re going to start slow with them. We have plenty of time to get them in shape and we’re going to use an extra day than we normally would. Therefore that’s part of the reason for the extra day, because we’re going to go a little slower with them.”
Pittman went into a little more detail on exactly what the workouts will be like.
“It’s strength and conditioning, so the weight room will be able to handle those, and those will be some agilities and those will be long stride depending on what day we elect to do those,” Pittman said. “As far as ball drills and individual drills and all that, that’s strictly has to be up to the individual player on how they participate in those drills, and those would be on their own – non-coach supervised at some facility.”
Pittman is hoping for some OTA situations to be allowed by the NCAA and SEC at some point in the coming weeks.
““When all of this started happening, I got on the phone with the NFL folks because my feeling was, because of spring ball and all of those things, I felt like we needed an OTA situation where we could at least go out,” Pittman said. “You talk about injuries, a big part of injuries is not knowing what you’re doing, going the wrong direction, not fitting the right gap — there’s conditioning, there’s strength, then there’s knowing what you’re doing. So, I did reach out to several NFL teams and expressed that to the SEC office, what my feelings were. As I understood, there were some other coaches who felt the same way.
“I don’t know exactly, I’m hearing there might be a possibility mid-July, somewhere in there, we may get some type of action, OTA-wise and all of that. We’re prepared for it. We’re also prepared if we don’t get it, but I think it would really help us. It would be a non-physical type of situation and all of those things, but we need terminology on the field, we need technique on the field, we need all of those things that we didn’t have the opportunity to get in spring ball. We need to be able to do it, and it doesn’t have to be a tackle situation or anything like that. We’re just trying to learn. So, yeah, we’ve talked about it and we’re prepared for it. It just depends on what the hours situation is, to be honest with you, how much they’re going to give us, 8 or 10 hours, if they go to 12, if they go to 20, whatever the hours are. But we need on-the-field movement. We need walk-throughs, things of that nature that we didn’t get a chance to get to.”
Pittman and nine of his 10 on-field assistants are new with only Justin Stepp returning from the previous staff. Pittman feels getting the players back will allow them to continue building a relationship.
“It’s Incredible,” Pittman said. “I mean that’s my whole life. I mean that’s who I am. You know, I’m a coach. It’s hard to coach when there is nobody to coach. So I mean we’re all excited about them. We love our team, We love the guys on our team. We want them back and we can’t wait for that to happen, and we’re adamant about it. That’s our whole life and we need these kids back and hopefully they need us, but we are certainly excited to get them back. Very.”
Four of the players are from the New Orleans area and that is considered one of the COVID-19 hot spots. Did safety Joe Foucha, linebacker Kelin Burrle, cornerback Devin Bush and linebacker Andrew Parker have to quarantine?
“They did,” Pittman said. “They have to quarantine. To answer your question on June 8 we should have our entire team minus about five to seven that won’t be here. A couple of them have transcripts and things of that nature but almost our entire team will be here June 8. Of course it’s voluntary but we think we are going to have almost 100 percent of our team here.”
If any of the players do test positive for the COVID-19 what will be the procedure and how many would have to quarantine?
“Well, it’s anybody who’s come in contact with them,” Pittman said. “Right now, that’s a 10-day isolation, basically. It just depends. That’s why right now we’re 10-12 feet (apart) in the weight room, so the contact won’t be made with them. Obviously we’re not doing anything combative or anything of that nature, so if someone had it and they’ve been together or close to somebody else on our team, then they’re going to have to be quarantined as well, and that’s a 10-day process as of right now.”
The freshmen newcomers will join the team on June 29. Despite not reporting for three more weeks they are still getting coached.
“We still are able to meet 8 hours a week with our kids,” Pittman said. “We’re not using all of that. We’re using a majority of it with our freshmen. We’re having separate meetings, basically with our young guys. We’re starting from the beginning with them, trying to teach them the playbook and basically trying to get to know those guys a little bit on Zoom. They are also involved in some virtual workouts as they’re not here yet.
“Then with our older guys or the guys that have been here, they’re meeting an hour a week individually with their coaches, a half hour on Monday-Wednesday. And then they’re involved in all the team meetings which we have four days a week with them, and then five with the freshmen. And then special teams meetings, they’re involved with those as well.
“Then weight room wise, we’re going five days a week in the weight room. There is unlimited hours involved there right now, simply because it’s voluntary. So they’re staying pretty busy. I don’t have a whole lot of our guys in summer school at this point. I think we’re at 22 right now. They have a lot of time on their hands, so we’re trying to take up some of that void here.”
Some aspects of the program will be open and some not yet.
“The nutrition part of it our Jones Center is open,” Pittman said. “That part of it is handled with no problem at all. Our fields, we are still working through that a little bit with the SEC and with our own availability here. Obviously we would like to have the field available for them so they can go throw on their own.
“As of right now we’re not allowed to watch them do anything. Not only throwing and catching but in the weightroom as a coach. The strength coaches, obviously, they need to be there for safety reasons to teach them how to lift correctly. But right now we’re having no access with them whatsoever for the month of June as it is now. And to answer the field question we’re still working on that. In just a little bit I think we’ll get that answer within the next two or three days. Obviously we start up Monday.”
Arkansas is scheduled to open the season on Saturday, Sept. 5, when they host Nevada at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.