Welcome home, Coach Sam Pittman.
Pittman is the Arkansas Razorbacks’ 34th head coach. He is going to be asked to right a ship that’s nearly capsized over the last few years. It’ll be a tall order, especially for someone who’s never been a head coach at a level higher than junior college.
The El Reno, OK native began coaching at his alma mater, Pittsburg State, just up the road. After stints of head coaching the Missouri high school level and the Jayhawk junior college level, Pittman made the leap to FBS with Northern Illinois. From there, he spent time at Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Western Michigan, Mizzou, and Kansas. After a longer spell as assistant head coach at Northern Illinois, Butch Davis picked him up and took him to North Carolina from 2007-11. Pittman then took a year at Tennessee, in Derek Dooley’s final, flaming season.
In 2013, newly-hired Head Hog Bret Bielema brought Pittman and Jim Chaney over from the Vols. Although Chaney’s offensive play-calling was a disappointment, the offensive line was notoriously bullying and powerful. And enormous.
Denver Kirkland. Frank Ragnow. Dan Skipper. Travis Swanson. Sebastian Tretola.
Pittman coached up all of these guys, turning them into all-conference players and future NFL draft selections.
Famously, when Pittman chose to leave Arkansas to follow Chaney to Georgia after the 2015 season, his players came to his house in an all-out effort to keep him in Fayetteville. I can’t imagine a better example of a coach who can get his players to buy in.
Before Sam Pittman left, Bielema’s arc with the Razorbacks was heading steadily upward. It’s no coincidence that the crash happened when he left. Much as Bielema wanted to pretend otherwise (“The thing Sam was great in, we’ve been trying to continue those forward. The areas he might have been a little weak in...I wanted an NFL coach,” Bielema claimed at the 2016 SEC Media Days. [::sucks teeth::]), he lost his Jiminy Cricket that day. Pittman could not be replaced. And Hog fans have been living that truth ever since.
With Georgia, Pittman has won an SEC title, three division titles, and nearly a national championship. Two of the last three years, Pittman has been a top-five recruiter, nationally, according to 247 Sports.
Now he’s back at the University of Arkansas, and he’s got the keys to the whole thing. With his long-time and varied coaching history, he has the contacts to get first-rate assistant coaches. He knows what it takes to win in the SEC, and he knows how to get SEC-caliber players.
But we’ll never know until we see him in action. We’ve seen the basement. Hopefully, he’s brought a ladder.
Thanks for reading. Go ahead and subscribe to Wooo Pod Sooie on your podcast platform of choice, and follow @ArkansasFight on Twitter. For Hog reactions and paeans to the new coach, follow @lukecdavis.