FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ Sam Pittman had a large amount of success as the offensive line coach at Arkansas from 2013-15.
He’s back in Fayetteville as the head coach. The first hire he made at Arkansas was getting Brad Davis from Missouri to coach the offensive line. On Friday, Pittman heaped a lot of praise on Davis and explained why he hired him.
“I trust him and I know he is a great person,” Pittman said. “He is as good an offensive line coach as there is in the country. If you go by jobs that he has been offered, he is as good an O-line coach as there is in the country because he has been offered a bunch. He has been offered some since he has been here.
“Most of the time that good O-line coaches are good coaches, most of the time they are good recruiters because they are good communicators. A guy that is a good recruiter usually becomes a good recruiter because he has got better talent than everybody else.
“That’s the one thing about Brad. He is one of those guys that it means a lot, too. He is a people pleaser. He wants to please whoever he is working with. He wants these kids to be as good as they can possibly be. It is kind of a thing inside, kind of in the make up of who he is. I really think he is as good a coach as there is.”
Since spring practice is on hold (at best) who stood out on the offensive lineman during the offseason conditioning?
“The O-line group has been, right now with (Ty) Clary and (Noah) Gatlin and (Dalton) Wagner, they’re all on a pretty limited basis,” Pittman said. “The guy in that group that has stood out work ethic, they all work hard, but Shane Clenin and Ricky Stromberg have really done some things. Ricky’s gained, I don’t know maybe 25 or 28 pounds. He’s right at 300 right now. Clenin looks really good right now. Of course, Myron Cunningham is getting up around that 300 mark. Those guys are gaining a lot of strength.”
One of the first things Pittman did as far as the offensive line is concerned is have them add some weight.
“That’s a huge deal as you know,” Pittman said. “And most of you know I like big, athletic guys. I don’t know who wouldn’t. But we put a heavy emphasis on strength, on gaining weight. Obviously gaining the right type of weight. And we’re trying to do that in recruiting. When I first got here, maybe seven years ago now, whatever it was, we weren’t a very big offensive line then either. And we changed that fairly fast.
So we’re trying to change it on our team. But like Cunningham, if he can get up to 310, 315, he’d be … I think he’s got a lot of talent. But it’s going to be hard to set on a bull at 285 pounds. Especially when the D-end weighs 275 pounds. You know it is in this league. I just don’t think you can survive without big people on the offensive line or the defensive line. This is a big-person league, basically. It starts up front with both sides of the ball.”
As with any unit on the team it will need leaders. Pittman identified the leaders on Arkansas’ offensive line at this time.
“You have several on the offensive line,” Pittman said. “Right off the top you have Stromberg, Clenin and Cunningham.”
Sophomore Noah Gatlin is considered one of Arkansas’ best offensive linemen. He suffered a season-ending knee injury the first day of preseason drills last fall. How is he progressing?
“Well, he’s moving a lot better than what he did obviously,” Pittman said. “We think the surgery was a success. He has done a lot with the team. All the running basically. The lifting obviously he’s got alternative workouts, but he’s doing a nice job. He’s a tough kid. I think he will be ready to go by time fall camp starts.”
The only scholarship underclassmen offensive lineman not on the updated roster released by the University of Arkansas is junior Kirby Adcock from Nashville.