FAYETTEVILLE — The first week of preseason camp has Sam Pittman liking where the University of Arkansas is at heading into today’s second practice.
The team practiced Monday and will practice today and then Friday.
“Well, we purposely went three days the first week,” Pittman said. “Again, it’s not necessarily what’s going on in front of us, but what’s happened behind us. We’ve had almost 20 practices, 20 walk-throughs, before we started camp. So we thought that we would be much further along. We probably have, I don’t know, 75 percent of our offense and defense in and special teams for that matter.
“So we thought we’d do a much better job of getting our kids out there and having a full day off for us to get together as a coaching staff – because we’re new too – and make sure we’re doing the things exactly like we want them done and then be able to relay it to our kids on the off day. We felt like we could press them a little bit harder because we had a day in between and we still wanted to be able to give our kids the weekend off because we’re sitting in a 40-day period to get 25 practices. We want to be ready, physically and emotionally ready, to play the first game, so we start out a little bit slower than some of the teams across the country.”
Pittman liked Monday’s practice, but also used it as a learning tool even for himself.
“It was awesome,” Pittman said. “I’ll get better every day. I have to learn as a head coach of how to run a practice exactly how I want. I thought it went well today, but there’s some things that I wrote down that I’d like to change. Not necessarily change, but we had a six-play rack of inside run and that’s too many, so we’re going to change it to four on Wednesday. Just some things that I thought might be the best for our football team that I don’t now.
“As far as being the head coach at Arkansas and going out there to a practice, it was everything I thought it would be. Who made that happen is our assistant coaches, our team. I mean, they worked, and we just keep preaching we’re a blue-collar team, we’re the Arkansas Razorbacks, let’s go work hard and play smart. They did that today. I was proud of them and I was really honored to be out there with them.”
Pittman was asked if he was tempted to go work some with the offensive line as he has done since 1994 at Northern Illinois with many other schools before returning as head coach of the Razorbacks this past December?
“Well, if I didn’t have Brad Davis it’d probably be hard, but since I have him, I know what a fine coach he is,” Pittman said. “It’s not so hard. It was fun, to be honest with you. I made it to every individual drill and wrote down some notes about what I’d like to change about different drills and things of that nature. The practice goes a lot longer than it does as an assistant because you’re watching so many different things you’re so ingrained in what you’re doing that the practice seems to go a lot faster than it did today. It was only two-and-a-half hours from start to finish. It shouldn’t have been that long, but it seemed like it was a long time.”
Linebacker Bumper Pool liked how Pittman conducted Monday’s practice.
“Today was a good first day,” Pool said. “I think Coach Pittman does a great job of making sure that our tempo is correct. Whenever he sees guys not upholding to the standard, he’s the first one to call someone out, kind of get that juice flowing, and I think that’s big. But everyone was locked in today. Day 1s are big, kind of start your program off on a good note. I thought we did that today.”
Pool felt Pittman seemed very comfortable in his role as head coach.
“Absolutely,” Pool said. “We can’t tell he’s never been a head coach. He’s running around there, and it looks amazing. I’m so proud we get to play underneath him.
“It doesn’t seem like this is Coach Pittman’s first year. He’s handled everything perfectly. He has this mindset of who cares what happens, who cares what’s thrown in front of us. Let’s keep that same mindset of work on today and when tomorrow comes we’ll attack it. Never get to down about what you think is going to happen. Always stay positive. I think his leadership style is ‘ya’ll see me as who I am’, he’s never going to give you any b/s. It’s just straight who he is. You can read him. So we are all calm because of the way he’s attacked it.”
While the Razorbacks didn’t get to hold spring drills due to the COVID-19 shutdown, they did hold virtual meetings and Pool feels that definitely paid off.
“We went through a summer and had all these meetings online, and I think that was huge,” Pool said. “It’s usually our coaches leave and we don’t have as much meetings in the summer as we do this year. It’s been huge. We go over those installs over and over again. When you’re on the field, you feel like you’re not even missing a step. It’s translating well. I think the guys are picking it up good. Our DBs and those guys, they’re on point. They know all the calls and making checks. It’s exciting.”
Running back Rakeem Boyd also gave Monday’s practice some high marks and is looking forward to today.
“I mean honestly going out there it was awesome because a lot of people didn’t think this season was not going to happen,” Boyd said. “So it was great being out there with all my teammates and getting to take snaps from (Feleipe) Franks, you know what I mean and just being around the guys. The team is coming along really good. We’ve been practicing more than any other team in the SEC, I think. We really haven’t taken any time off so it’s been a constant pace of just working, working, working and I see progress. We’re a step ahead of last year already you know what I mean so. So a lot of guys are getting into the offense. It’s fun. It’s a good reason to be at practice when you’ve got (Kendal) Briles and Pittman and Jimmy Smith out there with you.”
Monday was a practice that Pittman said left the players tired afterward. Boyd talked about what made the practice a tough, but good one.
“We’re out there running,” Boyd said. “You know what I mean. It’s a fast pace tempo. They push us to limits this team didn’t know it could go to. That’s what I love about Pittman. Because if you’re jogging and not moving he doesn’t care who you are. It’s ‘Let’s go.’ You know what I mean?
“Pittman keeps everybody’s energy amped up around here. It’s a positive environment. We’ve been working really hard for the man. He’s doing his job. Whatever he puts up ahead of us we go kill it and knock it out no matter if we’re dead tired and don’t want to do it. We still get it done. It doesn’t matter how hard the task is.”