FAYETTEVILLE — If anyone knows the inside scoop about Georgia it’s Sam Pittman.
Pittman spent four seasons there after leaving Arkansas to coach the offensive line for Kirby Smart. Pittman now is the head coach at Arkansas and has the No. 8 Razorbacks headed to face No. 2 Georgia on Saturday.
In just his second year at Arkansas, Pittman has his team off to a 4-0 start. Along the way the Hogs have beaten two nationally-ranked teams in Texas and Texas A&M. Pittman lost to Georgia 37-10 in his first game at Arkansas in 2020. The Hogs went on to finish 3-7 against an All-SEC schedule. He respects Georgia and Smart.
“We’re certainly looking forward to going back to Georgia,” Pittman said. “The people in Georgia were so kind to Jamie and I. We were there for four years. Kirby, I obviously had a lot of good memories about him and the way he treated me and the staff. They’ve got an outstanding football team. I think everybody knows that. Very physical. They play extremely hard. Obviously, well coached. We’re looking forward to going over there and seeing where our team is this week. We’re excited about it.”
Georgia is 4-0 on the season and 2-0 in the SEC. They defeated Clemson 10-3, UAB 56-7, South Carolina 40-13 and Vanderbilt 62-0. They are also apparently getting some good news on the injury front.
While the Bulldogs were hit hard by graduation on defense they don’t seem to be missing a beat this season.
“Well, their D-line,” Pittman said. “They have so much talent on the D-line. Certainly, big and physical. It starts with (Jordan) Davis and (Jalen) Carter. Nolan Smith, (Travon) Walker. They’re very, very talented. They rotate guys as well, so they keep them fresh. You go back to linebacker, and they have Quay Walker and (Nakobe) Dean, and they can run. They’ve recruited really well there, so they’re going to have depth. That’s just Georgia, and hopefully Arkansas will get that way here soon in the near future where somebody leaves and the next guy steps in and he may be as good or he may be better than the guy that left. But that’s where Georgia is, and that’s a credit to their staff and Kirby for recruiting.”
Since attendance was limited at all stadiums in 2020 this will be the first road trip where the Hogs will face a packed stadium under Pittman.
“Number one, I think us traveling last week to Dallas helped us because we’ve gone through the process,” Pittman said. “(Freshman RB) AJ Green had never flown before. So, we went through the process of how we travel. That’s one thing you can’t do. I think we went almost a week where we practiced in the morning so we could be ready for an 11 o’clock game, 12 o’clock obviously over there in Georgia. Those things I think we’re prepared for. The crowd is going to be incredible there. I mean, it’s College GameDay. So, I think last week helped us a little bit because half the crowd was against us. We know we’ll get 93,000 folks there at Georgia. They support the program there big time. So, we know it’s going to be extremely loud, but I think last week prepared us a little bit for that. Of course, it’s going to be louder than what it was last week, but we did a pretty good job with that besides down on the goal line last week there on that third-and-one.”
It’s obvious that Pittman has taken a lot of things he learned under Smart and applied them to his situation as head coach at Arkansas. Pittman talked about that on Monday.
“I learned a lot from coach,” Pittman said. “I mean, a lot about practice organization, a lot about assistants – I don’t know if pressure is the word – but putting demands on assistant coaches to be the best they can be. Obviously recruiting. You know, coach, all he wants to do is win. I mean .. he’s going to treat people right and all that. I certainly don’t mean that (he doesn’t). But he’s at his alma mater and he wants to win for the state of Georgia, the University of Georgia. I mean, you’ve got to respect all that. His kids, they play extremely hard. You don’t find many teams that are playing extremely hard that don’t have high respect for the head coach. And they do and I was very fortunate to be there four years and learn from him.”
With the way the schedule fell for Arkansas this is the second of three consecutive games away from Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Is it different preparing for three games in a row away from home as opposed to maybe just one?
“That’s a great question, by the way,” Pittman said. “I’m more concerned about the heat. Because right now we can’t get away from the heat. Our indoor’s not air conditioned – I’m sure it will be, that’s my plug, by the way – and heat. So we can’t get away from the heat. That’s the most concerning thing, more than even the travel. We caught a break with this game being at 11, knowing we have to go on the road again next week. I thought that was a break for us. It could have been a night game and back at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. So I thought that was a break.
“You still have to play Georgia when you get there. Ours was the heat, so we’re going to go inside. We know it’s hot on the inside, but at least the sun’s not beating down on you in there and we’ve got our fans fixed and all that, so it should be a lot better there. Our deal is we’re going to be conscious about it as a staff and rep wise and heat wise. Our players won’t think about it because, again, I don’t believe we play the schedule. We just play somebody this weekend and this weekend just happens to be Georgia.”
Next week the Hogs will have a road game at Ole Miss. It will start at either 11 a.m. or 2:30 p.m. depending on the network. CBS will choose between showing the Hogs and Ole Miss or Georgia against Auburn.
Last year, former USC quarterback JT Daniels wasn’t cleared to play against the Hogs. This year, Daniels has completed 54 of 71 passes for 597 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Pittman is very aware of him.
“Well, you know, Stetson Bennett led them to a lot of wins last year, too,” Pittman said. “And Stetson’s a really good player and brings something else because he can run the football. So can JT, but they’ll design a little bit different play when Stetson’s in there. If you give JT time, he’ll pick you apart. He can throw any level of football great. In other words, he can throw the long ball, the intermediate, he can throw on the run. They run a lot of nakeds with him, so he’s really good. (Brock) Bowers, they use the tight end as good as anybody in the country. He’s a really good player. Young, too. But I just think the team is confident in JT, and I think they play that way. They’ve been protecting him really well, and he’s been lighting the scoreboard up.”
This season, Bennett has completed 22 of 30 passes for 443 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Hogs and Bulldogs will kickoff at 11 a.m. CT and televised on ESPN.