What a scene it will be in Athens on Saturday. Sam Pittman, who worked on Kirby Smart’s staff at Georgia but left to pursue his dream job at the University of Arkansas, returns to the land Between the Hedges as one of the breakout college football coaches of 2021.
By Matt Zemek
The progress and development of the Arkansas program which emerged last year – but didn’t have the win-loss record to show for it (3-7) – have become much more apparent this year, and now Arkansas DOES have the wins to reflect its rapid growth under Pittman.
The people who follow Arkansas football will tell you that the Pittman revival of the Hogs begins with accountability. Pittman holds his players accountable but is also relentlessly honest with them. No BS, no shortcuts, no empty promises. He plays it straight and doesn’t cut corners or treat players differently based on their situations. Everyone has bought into Pittman because there is complete trust and harmony in the locker room. Arkansas is winning with players Chad Morris recruited and went 2-10 with. Pittman is taking those players and transforming them into winners. Let’s see what these winners can do in Athens against the SEC East favorite.
1 – Ownership of the trenches
A Sam Pittman-Kirby Smart game is going to be all about line play. An offensive line coach and a defensive coach who emphasizes brute strength? What else would you expect? Arkansas was badly undersized under Chad Morris. The Razorbacks of Sam Pittman have gotten beefier – or should I say, more pork-filled? – and sturdier. There’s a lot more meat on the bones of UA linemen, and that muscle needs to show up against Georgia, especially when Arkansas has the ball. Georgia’s defensive line is world-class. Arkansas’ offensive line doesn’t necessarily need to dominate this game (nor should it be expected to), but it certainly needs to fight UGA’s defensive line to a draw in order to have a realistic shot here.
2 – Make J.T. Daniels feel the heat
Georgia did not score an offensive touchdown against Clemson. Arkansas can certainly look at what Clemson’s defense did and come up with a winning plan. First and foremost, making J.T. Daniels uncomfortable gives Arkansas a path to victory. Daniels is great against the South Carolinas of the SEC, but he hasn’t yet had a statement game against an elite SEC opponent. Make Daniels prove he’s big-league. Make him come up with difficult plays. Make him sweat. See if he’s up to the challenge.
3 – Special teams and special plays
If Arkansas can stay in this game into the late third quarter or early fourth quarter, and the offense is struggling to move the ball against Georgia, Pittman and his staff will need to pick a time to take a shot with a fake kick or a fourth-down play which changes the equation. Again, Arkansas needs to be in the hunt first in order for this to matter, but if the Hogs have a real chance to win, they will likely need a game-changing surprise.