FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will begin preseason drills early Friday morning as Sam Pittman is set to enter his fourth season as head coach of the Hogs.

Arkansas is coming off a 7-6 season and enters the 2023 season with renewed energy with 40 new players and five new on-field assistant coaches. Pittman and the Hogs will open the season Saturday, Sept. 2, in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium against Western Carolina.

“We’re excited to get the year started,” Pittman said Wednesday afternoon. “The guys will be here to eat between 3 and 4:30 and then obviously there’s some teams going now. We’re granted 31 days to go 25 practices. We just felt like camp’s long enough as it is. With less full pads than we’ve ever had before, we decided to just go ahead and bring them in the 29th day before to get our 25 in. They’ll have the first Wednesday off and then Saturday’s after that. We’ll scrimmage in two weeks and then we’ll start prep about 10 days out for Western Carolina.”

Friday’s first practice starts at 6:30 a.m. The early start will allow the Hogs to miss much of the triple-digit heat hitting the area recently.

“But we’re excited about getting it going,” Pittman said. “It’s going to be hot, we understand that. We have adjusted our times. We’re going to go in the a.m. With it being over 100 degrees over the next three days, we’re going to have practice in the a.m. We know we’re in condition, we’ve been conditioning in the heat all summer. We’re trying to have some really good practices, so we have plenty of time to get them acclimated to the heat, but right now we’ve decided to change our first few practices to the a.m.”

Arkansas went 3-7 against an all-SEC schedule in 2020 and then 9-4 in 2021. The Hogs have won both bowl games under Pittman. They beat Penn State in the Outback Bowl following 2021 season and then Kansas in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl last year. Entering the fourth year, has Pittman changed anything from the past?

“Well, we’ve changed different periods,” Pittman said. “Certainly the emphasis that we’ve had from last year — whether it be third down, whether it be short-yardage, whether it be getting off the field on defense, our goal-line package, our third-play-fourth versus two-play-three — those things are in our practice schedule. We have also done a little bit different with our ball security period. We’re doing more bubble stuff. We’re doing more half-line pass. We’re doing some things in that part of it, along with fastball starts, trying to get our team a little more physical and try to start that a little earlier in practice.”

Last year the Hogs hosted Cincinnati to open the year. This year they host an FCS team. Pittman was asked if that changes how he prepares for the opening.

“I don’t think so,” Pittman said. “I hope not. We’re trying to approach camp on us and us getting better. We still have a lot of new faces, and that’s not only on the kids but the coaching staff. Most of our guys were with us through spring ball with our new staff but we still have quite a few that we have to figure out if they’re going to help us or not this year too.

“Honestly, we didn’t play well against the teams that we were favored to beat. So, we lost that chip at times. So, we have to coach that way and feel that way and all those things. So, we just have to get back to old Arkansas football. We started that in January, but I really like where we are at. I like the hunger of the team and things of that nature. We’ll have to see, but I don’t think it will affect us much because we have a lot of work to do on ourselves.”

Arkansas will practice Friday through Tuesday then break on Wednesday. The first scrimmage is Saturday, Aug. 12.