FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman met with University of Arkansas beat reporters on Thursday during a Zoom call and talked about various aspects of the program.
Among the topics was practice being pushed back from tomorrow to Aug. 17.
“Looking forward on this, you basically have 40 days to get 25 practices in,” Pittman said. “You’re not going to have near the time, obviously, for the walks, for the off day meetings. We’re going to two days off instead of one now. On one of the off days we can still have a two-hour meeting with them. But instead of just looking forward only, you have to look back. What the SEC has allowed us to do here recently is gain hours, times, walk-throughs, that we basically are going to lose in the future.
“So I’ll guess whenever it all evens out that the time will be approximately the same. It’s just going to be spread over a larger number of days. I mean, it is what it is. They give us all the same rules. We do have a schedule ready. I think we found out maybe yesterday, the day before, what the SEC decided to do, and we’re ready to go on our schedule. On paper we like it.”
Pittman addressed how the players have reacted to the news of the schedule changing yet again.
“I’ll be honest with you, I think the kids, they just want to play, you know?,” Pittman said. “And we just want to coach. Obviously, we want to do it in the safest environment we possibly can. They want to play, and when we told them that as of this point there’s going to be a season, they were ecstatic.
“It’s like anything. If you work towards something, you want to reap the benefits of 10 Saturdays or 12 or 13, or depending on how far you go, 15, 16 games. Whatever it is. You want to be able to go play. So they were really excited about that. And I was excited for them, and our coaching staff was very excited.”
The time they have spent doing walk-throughs have been productive. Kendal Briles is installing an offense.
“This time has been invaluable,” Pittman said. “I mean, I don’t know what day this is today. Maybe isn’t it four, nine, maybe 11, I don’t know the number for sure, but these things have been outstanding. The coaching going on, the kids are learning, the ability to have 20 hours a week obviously until tomorrow. Twenty hours a week of teaching, it’s been awesome. It hasn’t been spring ball because obviously you can’t hit and things of that nature, but the mental part of it has been probably better than even what spring ball would have been about learning the offense for Kendal. I’m having to learn it too, so I’m pretty much caught up to speed, so I imagine the players will be, too.”
He also addressed some of the structure for the fall camp that is upcoming leading up to the season opener on Saturday, Sept. 26.
“There’s six weeks, I guess, so I’m looking at three, three, five, four, five, five in different weeks,” Pittman said. “We’re trying to keep Sunday as the day off. Saturday for the most part, early Saturday, as your two-day meeting. As we start scrimmaging and doing things on Saturday, then Thursday would be our day off, along with Sunday. Sunday will always be our day off during camp.”
While nothing about 2020 has been normal, Pittman did say it would be good to get back to practicing and coaching football with it about as close to normalcy as one can have right now.
“It’s going to be unbelievable,” Pittman said. “You may or may not understand, but when you work a 12-14 hour day and you do it again and you’re sweaty and with a group of guys all toward the same vision you have, the players, and you see them getting better, and you go in the locker room, your coach’s locker room, the camaraderie you have in there, we’ve missed that. I’m looking forward to it. And yes, I’m looking forward to a 14-hour day, and it is what it is. It’s what we do. I’ve done it for a long time, and I miss it, and so do our coaches. We’re looking forward to it.”
Pittman also addressed the face shields that may help prevent the spread of COVID-19 particularly when the team has contact drills. He also talked about the number of scrimmages leading up to the season.
“We have face shields in our walks now,” Pittman said. “I think sometimes you have different people that have different beliefs about tackling. Any time you don’t scrimmage live your main concern, because if you an O or D-lineman and in shells you’re full speed. You are concerned about who can hang onto the football. And you are concerned about who can tackle. We have a defensive staff that believes they can teach tackling in their individual drills. So we have to decide how many times we’re gonna scrimmage. Our depth may not be quite what we like right now so you have to take that into consideration how many times you are gonna tackle live to the ground.
“I think we’re going to do a lot of individual tackling, a lot of individual tackling on our running backs. A lot of times what causes injury is a guy leg-whips another guy, a guy falls on the ground and falls on a knee, this, than and the other. So we’re going to try to get our tackling and ball handling as much as we can done without having to do it full team, full live. We will have at least one, probably two scrimmages. I don’t know that we’ll get to three. To be honest with you, I’m just concerned about our depth.”
As is necessary in this time of COVID-19, Pittman said he does have a plan in place if some of the coaching staff gets the virus.
“You have to have that,” Pittman said. “It’s just like on offense. Depending on if Kendal is going to be on the field or up in the box. If he’s on the field, you better have somebody else that knows the offense as well as he does and able to signal it. Our quarterbacks are certainly responsible for that as well. What the NCAA has done is if somebody has the virus then somebody else can step in. It’s kind of like an emergency situation and all that.
“You have Barry Odom if something happens to me. You have Barry that would step into that role. That’s why we’re ‘two-spotting’. That’s why everybody is getting the same amount of reps in these walk throughs, because if COVID happens on our football team the next guy has to be available, and he has to know what he’s doing. That’s with the staff, the players, and everybody.”
Pittman and the Hogs will face a 10-game all-SEC schedule with five home games.