FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas has hired its 34th head football coach with the announcement of former assistant Sam Pittman returning.
He will succeed Chad Morris who was fired on Nov. 10. Morris was 4-18 at Arkansas never winning an SEC game. Barry Lunney Jr. served as the interim head coach the final two games of the season.
Pittman is taking over a program that has fallen on hard times in recent years. Since Arkansas’ second half collapse against Missouri to end the regular season in 2016 Arkansas has gone 8-30. Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek was pleased to hire Pittman.
“Sam Pittman has been an integral part of successful teams that have competed at the highest levels, including for SEC and NCAA Championships,” Yurachek said. “As one of the nation’s premier offensive line coaches, he has built a remarkable body of work thanks to his tremendous passion for his student-athletes, including teaching the fundamentals and developing his players on and off the field. Sam instills in his players the motivation, grit and determination required to compete and win. Throughout this process, I heard from many of his former players about the tremendous influence he had on them as a player and as a man.
“Sam knows the Southeastern Conference inside and out and is one of the nation’s best recruiters. His connections throughout football will enable him to build a quality coaching staff. In his previous tenure, Sam and his wife Jamie fell in love with the state of Arkansas and with Razorback fans. They know what a special place this is and are excited for the opportunity to come back to the Home of the Razorbacks.“
He has been one of the catalysts for Georgia’s success from 2016 to currently. He was just the offensive line coach his first three years in Athens but then added associate head coach to his title prior to this season.
Pittman was at Arkansas with Bret Bielema the 2013-15 seasons. He was regarded as outstanding coach and recruiter. Once he left for Georgia the Arkansas offensive line hasn’t been the same since.
The only time Pittman has been a head coach in college was in 1992-93 at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. Hutchinson went 5-4-1 in 1992 and 6-5 in 1993. He was a head coach at both Princeton (Mo.) High School (1987-88) and Trenton (Mo.) High School (1989-90). The Arkansas job will be a challenge, but he’s got vast coaching experience and the ability to hire a top staff.
The last SEC win was on on Oct. 28, 2017, against Ole Miss in Oxford. Connor Limpert’s field goal on the last play of the game allowed the Hogs to escape with a 38-37 victory.
In addition to Arkansas and Georgia, Pittman has been an assistant at Tennessee, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, North Carolina, Northern Illinois, Cincinnati, Western Michigan and Hutchinson Community College.
Since 2013, eight players he has coached have been drafted, including two first-round picks, and three others have signed free agent contracts. In the past two seasons, four of his players have earned either All-America and/or All-SEC status: Isaiah Wynn, Solomon Kindley and Andrew Thomas in 2017, as well as Thomas and Lamont Gaillard in 2018.
Of Pittman’s eight drafted offensive linemen since 2013, Ja’Wuan James was selected 19th overall by the Miami Dolphins in 2014 and Travis Swanson became the highest Razorback center draft pick in school history when he was picked 76th overall by the Detroit Lions. In 2013, Jonathan Cooper, who was tutored by Pittman for four seasons at North Carolina, was the seventh overall pick to the Arizona Cardinals, the earliest an offensive guard had been taken since 1986.
In 2015, Pittman’s Arkansas team finished second in the SEC in total offense (456.8 ypg), second in scoring offense (40.2 ppg), and third in passing offense (264.2 ypg).
Among the offensive linemen signed at Arkansas with Pittman were Dan Skipper, Denver Kirkland, Frank Ragnow, Brian Wallace, Sebastian Tretola, Zach Rogers, Colton Jackson, Jalen Merrick, Cam Jefferson, Hjalte Froholdt (originally signed for defensive line) and had commitment from Jake Heinrich before leaving for the Bulldogs. The majority of that group was a four-star recruit with at least one service.
The Bulldogs currently have five offensive line commitments for the Class of 2020. One is a five-star recruit with the remainder all four-stars. Among those five are League City (Texas) Clear Creek’s Chad Lindberg, 6-7, 327, and New Orleans (La.) Warren Easton’s Sedrick Van Pran, 6-4, 305.
Pittman and Arkansas will open the 2020 season in Reynolds Razorback Stadium against Nevada on Saturday, Sept. 5. The first chance to get an SEC win will be on Sept. 19 when the Hogs travel to Starkville to take on Mississippi State.