FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman was the second head coach to take the podium at the SEC Media Days on Thursday.
Pittman continue to express how happy he is doing his dream job at Arkansas. Pittman has an experienced team this fall.
“11 super seniors, 12 what I’m going to call regular seniors coming back, which would be a total of 23,” Pittman said. “I’m proud of our coaching staff. I think a lot of those guys coming back, as I’ve said before, it’s because of our coaching staff. When I hired our coaches it was about communication, about the most powerful thing coming from your body is your mouth, and we wanted people who understood how to teach. We wanted people who understood how to talk to kids when they had times of need.”
Pittman was asked if returning 23 seniors equates to a big jump and if not what does it take to do that in SEC?
“I wish I knew that,” Pittman said. “We’d jump all over the place. Here’s what I do know: It will be hard work. The weight room, the process of the program, the belief in the program. I mean, you can’t beat anybody if you don’t start out thinking you’re going to or believing you’re going to. I think that has changed over the last year.
“But I think it’s just building on what we have done and getting better and getting a few additions to help our football team. We’ve got enough players on our team to have a good football team as long as we buy in and we work hard and we execute.”
The Razorbacks return 19 starters from last season. Despite that, Pittman expects several battles for starting spots and playing time this fall. Pittman mentioned the guard spots where Luke Jones, Ty Clary, Beaux Limmer and Brady Latham are battling it out among other positions.
“I think there’s going to be battles all the way up to the first game,” Pittman said. “Beaux right now currently is behind Tyler Clary, and on the other side, Brady Latham is behind Luke Jones. That’s on paper depth chart. To me, they’re 1, 1A, whatever it may be. Competition will make you better obviously, but I’m excited about that battle.
“I think we’ve got to find out who No. 2 is at running back. I think that’s a big spot there. KJ Jefferson is our quarterback. Now, does he have competition? You’re dang right he’s got competition, but he has proven that he can play well in the Southeastern Conference in a game. He started one game, but he played well during that game.
“In the secondary you have some battles at safety. Certainly some good battles there, and then there’s battles everywhere on the D-line. I think we’re pretty much figured out the linebacker spot with I think we’ll play at least three of those guys on the regular with Henry, Bumper Pool and, of course, Grant Morgan.
“We’ve got battles all over the place in punter, kickoff man, and field goal kicker. A lot of times you have battles that you might not be very good at that position. I think we’re good there, I think we’ve just got to figure out who the starter is.”
Safety Jalen Catalon and cornerback Montaric Brown have a lot of starting experience in the secondary. Who are some of the others in the mix there?
“(Greg) Brooks and (Myles) Slusher, they’re in there,” Pittman said. “Slusher is battling with other areas as well. (Malik) Chavis is definitely in a battle with Joe (Foucha). Simeon Blair has got a battle going on as well with him. The two corners, you know, (Hudson) Clark and Day Day (Ladarrius Bishop), they certainly are in a battle. And of course, Khari (Johnson) and Mo Brown. If you go one or two deep, that’s probably the most talented position we have is the secondary. They’re also very, very aggressive. In other words, they’re great leaders. You don’t have to worry about that group and their work ethic. Trent Gordon would also be a guy that certainly battling Blair and/or Foucha and/or Brooks. He’s another guy that came in. So a lot of battles right there between those guys.”
The Hogs have road games at Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Georgia in addition to playing Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas. Pittman talked about facing that type schedule.
“Well, you’ve just got to take them one week at a time,” Pittman said. “We have eight in a row, eight games in a row, very conscious about that. Then we have a bye, and then of course we finish with the Final Four.
“For us to have a successful season we’re going to have to stay healthy. Our depth is much better than it was a year ago, but it’s certainly not where we want it to be. We’ve got to be very conscious of that eight-game stretch. Of course, you’re right, we have three games right there in a row where we’re on the road.
“Certainly, we will tweak possibly what we do at practice depending on who we have available, and certainly the vibe, the feel of our football team physically.”