FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman introduced his four new assistant coaches to the media today and a theme from the head coach was the need to improve recruiting.
Pittman has hired Kenny Guiton to coach wide receivers, Cody Kennedy for tight ends and Jermial Ashley on the defensive line. In addition, Pittman promoted Michael Scherer from defensive quality control to coach linebackers.
Though he hired four young coaches that wasn’t by design according to Pittman.
“That’s really how it played out,” Pittman said. “I was trying to bring in recruiters. Most of the time if you’re a good recruiter, you’re a good coach. Because recruiting is work, and coaching is work. To get Arkansas where we all believe that it should be and where it’s going to be, we have to continue to improve our recruiting. So that was a big part of all these hires, along with their coaching ability. If you want to change your room, you’ve got to go get the players to do that. We can’t just go, ‘Jamil Walker, you get these guys bigger and nastier and stronger and all those things.’ We’ve got to help him, as well, and I think these guys will.”
As far as what makes a quality young coach, Pittman feels he knows the keys to that.
“He probably has to have maturity above his age,” Pittman said. “He’s got to be an old whatever his age is. Certainly a guy that has a work ethic to him. A hungry person to learn. It does help, like with Mike, that he’s been in Barry’s system for several years. But I’m not sure if age was a dictator of being a good coach, or hell, everybody would be my age. We’d have a whole staff of 60 year-olds. Well, I’m 59, but I want a guy that can coach, a guy that can recruit, and I don’t really care how old he is. Sam Carter is one of the best recruiters we have, and coaches, on our staff, and he’s not very old. I didn’t consciously go out to hire age, to be honest with you. I went out to hire good men who can represent our state and our program the right way.”
Kennedy was the first coach that Pittman talked about. He replaces Jon Cooper on the staff.
“I want to talk to you briefly about the new additions to our football staff,” Pittman said. “First one I want to talk to you about is Cody Kennedy, who comes to us from Southern Miss via Tulane. Cody and I coached together at Georgia, coached for a good friend of mine in Willie Fritz at Tulane. They set school records in rushing. I had coached tight ends in my career one time in 1996 at Cincinnati. I thought it was a great learning experience for me, to learn more about the game other than just the front and the box on defense. I talked Cody, basically, into coming here and doing that for us. Outstanding person, outstanding recruiter. We’re awfully happy to have him as our new tight ends coach.”
Pittman was able to get Ashley away from Tulsa to take Derrick LeBlanc’s place.
“Jermial Ashley will be coaching our d-line,” Pittman said. “He’s from Tulsa. Obviously you saw what Tulsa did as a team, and a lot of that correlates to the defensive line, the way they played. Basically, I did not know Jermial, but I watched tape after tape after tape, trying to find our new d-line coach. I love the way his kids played. Heard some outstanding things about him when I called and asked different folks about him. So, I’m very, very pleased to have him. Obviously he’ll have Oklahoma connections and Dallas connections for us in recruiting.”
Scherer takes Rion Rhoades’ place with the linebackers.
“Michael Scherer was the next guy, he’ll be our linebackers coach,” Pittman said. “Michael knows Barry’s (Odom) system, knows it inside and out. He also came off the — he went to the field at the Florida game — the kids that we have on our team raved about him and his coaching ability. And again, he knows the system. He has many ties in Missouri, and so we’re going to put him in that area as well as spots in Texas.”
Kenny Guition came from Colorado State to replace Justin Stepp who went home to South Carolina.
“And then the last guy here is Kenny Guiton, wide receivers coach,” Pittman said. “Kenny and Kendal Briles coached together at Houston. Obviously Briles thought a lot of him, heard a lot of nice things about him again whenever I talked to some of my colleagues about him. Really excited to have him here. He also obviously has Texas connections in recruiting. And I’ll say this, recruiting has to get better for us, and I believe that these guys that we hired are going to help us in that area, along with coaching on the football field.”
Pittman with his mind constantly on recruiting also talked about that playing into the decision to face Arkansas State in Little Rock in 2025.
“Obviously I want to play as many SEC games here,” Pittman said. “A big part of that is for recruiting, so we can get recruits in here. We play Missouri the last game of the year, we certainly wanted the opportunity to see the kids before we go out on the road recruiting. Certainly you can get kids here that you can recruit in classes that are not the immediate classes you’re recruiting, that you can talk to, where as you go out on the road, you cannot. You can obviously if they’re in the current class you’re recruiting, but you can’t the other way.
“I felt like we would lose a huge opportunity, and that’s basically it. Arkansas State, we’re excited to have them scheduled. I want to be the coach at Arkansas when we go down there. I don’t want to answer a whole lot of questions if I’m not the coach, we’ll let the next guy do it, but I want to be the coach and that’s the plan. We’re excited to continue our relationship with Little Rock. I think that’s a wonderful thing down there, and we’re looking forward to playing Pine Bluff down there this year. That’s kind of how it went down. I visited with Hunter about it, and I know there was a lot to get the Arkansas State game, but we’re excited about it.”
The one spot that Pittman still has open is executive director of recruiting. Joshua Thompson left for Auburn.
“We’re going to go to work on that,” Pittman said. “I’ve got about six guys, probably, right now, five to six, that I’m going to start Zooming with starting Monday. Recruiting, it always goes on, but if I was going to lose somebody as a recruiting director, this would probably be about the time to do it. We didn’t sign anybody yesterday. So I’m not as concerned about that because we do have folks still in that department that are working. But I do need to get… And I don’t really know what I’m going to do with it yet. I need to talk to some different guys about how they’re running their recruiting department for me to make sure I have a couple of guys that I can hire – or ladies or what have you – and I’m going to make sure I do it right. This one may be by the end of next week, maybe even 10 days before I really decide who we’re going to go with in that position.”