FAYETTEVILLE — The normal thing when a previous coach is gone is to put them down and recite all the bad things they did.
However, I want to take a different approach on this first thought concerning the University of Arkansas Football team. Here’s three random thoughts.
Props To Dustin Fry
It would be easy to say the offensive line wasn’t very good in recent years and maybe it wasn’t but it’s certainly worth noting that Dustin Fry left the position much better than he inherited it. Part of that credit obviously goes to Chad Morris too, but Fry was the position coach who inherited a thin room by numbers when he took over. In the last class signed there by Fry, many of the names Sam Pittman is now projecting as a possible starter were from the Class of 2019. Pittman has said Myron Cunningham (left tackle), Brady Latham (left guard), Ricky Stromberg (center) and Beaux Limmer (right guard) are all in a position to start this fall. Those four were all part of Fry’s last offensive line class. Others coming in that class were Luke Jones (transfer from Notre Dame and drawn praise from Pittman), Chibueze Nwanna (has opted out) and Dylan Rathcke (redshirt freshman who can still work way into mix). That doesn’t even include such notable preferred walk-on players such as Drew Vest and Austin Nix who certainly are helping with scout team. Fry deserves credit for that class. It appears the majority of his evaluations in that group was very good. Pittman and Brad Davis came in and realized they needed to get the linemen much bigger, but they did inherit some talented players.
Andrew Parker About to Get His Chance?
It appears that redshirt sophomore linebacker Andrew Parker, 6-2, 235, is finally going to get his shot at playing. Parker was highly recruited out of high school once he committed to the Hogs. Texas, Texas A&M, Auburn and many others came in on him, but in the end Parker stuck with the Hogs. He redshirted in 2018 and then in 2019 got into seven games though much of that was special teams or mop-up duty. He had five tackles. Pittman continues to praise him some this preseason.
Unusual Happenings About to Take Place in 2020 Season
Players have been missing from not just Arkansas’ practices but from ones all over the nation where they are still playing football this fall. Due to COVID-19 and contact tracing players are missing in big numbers from practice. Don’t expect that to change this season. That is what is going to make an already strange 2020 even stranger. A team may be about to play someone much better than them, but then 5-10 players from that superior team may be out due to COVID-19. That can prove to be an equalizer in many of these games. Expect the unexpected this fall.
Barry Odom feels this is a season when a younger player maybe third on the depth chart will have to step up in a very important situation.
“Coach Pittman’s done a great job in leading this organization,” Odom said. “One of the first things he said to our team once we started, is it’s going to take everybody to get this done. It’s going to take every single person in this room, and that’s before any of this even hit.
“So the message was already said. Coach already set the foundation of the importance of everyone in our program doing the things that we need to do to have a chance to be successful. And then you never know how Plan A is going to be, so get Plan B and Plan C ready. That’s been so true as we’ve been through the virus and how that’s adjusted our practice schedules and the number of guys throughout whether … You always have a plan. If you’re a second-team guy, you’re a play away from being a starter. And now the same thing with the third-team guy. Whatever you are on the depth chart, you’ve got to prepare like you’re the starter. And if you do that, then when your name and your opportunity is called, you’re ready. You’re prepared, and we won’t miss a beat.
“A lot of the credit, all of it, goes back to the foundation that Sam set in place when we started on the importance of it doesn’t matter if you’re the starting quarterback or the fifth-team defensive tackle. Your value to this organization is so, so important.”