Notes from the 2020 kickoff luncheon

Barry Odom, Kendal Briles and Sam Pittman are speaking on a kickoff luncheon Zoom. Some notes so far. Pittman is up next:

Barry Odom

• Proud to be here and part of Coach Pittman’s staff. I’m honored to be a Razorback. More than anything as a coach you’re a teacher. Every day you have to find ways to motivate and lead your team. I think I became a much better coach this offseason, teaching through Zoom and in virtual meetings. The kids were eager and hungry and wanted as much information as they could take. Now, the reality of what we’ve been able to do on the field, they’ve retained the information and been hungry. We’re excited about our group.

• Identity of defense: Playing good football in the SEC you have to be a great tackling team, stop the run and limit explosive plays. You have to play fast, physical and together. We have to be known for the factors we carry with us every week. If we find ways to get the ball back for our offense, we’ll be successful.

• Potential on defense: The years I’ve been a coordinator or head coach, you build your defense from the front line back. We have to be good up front. We need to stop the run and win at the point of attack, and have enough guys to rotate in to stay fresh. Isaiah Nichols and Jonathan Marshall, Xavier Kelly are good players. Eric Gregory has stepped in and played a number of spots. Guys have improved. We feel we can rotate some guys in. Greg Brooks has really stood up and stood out production-wise. Buster Brown is a leader. We’ve done a lot of cross-training in our defense. You might be at a different position from one snap to the other. The kids wanted to be coached. What we put on them, they have embraced.

• Importance of depth in these times: Coach Pittman, one of the first things he said when we started this was “It’s going to take every single person in this room,” and that was before any of this hit. You never know how Plan A is going to go, so you have to have B and C ready. If you’re a second-team guy, you’re a play away from being a starter. You have to prep like you’re a starter. A lot of the credit — all of it — goes back to the foundation Pittman put in place.

Kendal Briles

• What it’s been like last several weeks: It’s been different for not only our program but every one across the country. Coach Pittman has been great with his leadership. Now the last couple of weeks have felt a little like fall camp. I think we’ve been able to find a common balance of getting things done and keeping guys healthy. Hopefully, we can keep pressing on for Game 1.

• It’s going to be an Arkansas Razorback offense first and foremost. We want production over everything, and we don’t really care how it looks. That starts with protecting the football. We’re harping on that and emphasizing it. It can determine if you’re on the right or wrong side of the scoreboard. We want to be on the same page and have great communication. In this league you have to stay ahead of the sticks. We’ve got to be able to put our guys in space and allow them to play fast before and after the snap. I like to be versatile and productive.

• Quarterbacks: We have a great group, a strong group and a bunch of good guys. They love being here and what they get to represent. All those guys want to be great, and you like that. They take it hard on themselves when they don’t do right on the field. We have some leaders there on and off the field. You want the QB to be productive. The QB has to be an extension of the coaches on the field. You have to “protect that sucker” as well.

• We’re going to need every player on this team. Literally, since January, Pittman has been saying we need everyone. It rings true today. The thing I know we do have is we have a lot of players from this region, from the area, and they love Arkansas football. We want to rep this state in a fine fashion. I think we have a lot of guys that are hungry and will be ready when their name is called.

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Sam Pittman:

• We’ve been doing it for a long time now, and this year you get 40 days to get 25 practices in. We’ve had extra time, which has been beneficial to us.

• Response from kids to everything going on: I think they’re doing well. This gives a young man who is a third-team guy, he might be first team. You’re maintaining the attention of the fellas at all levels of the depth chart. It’s worked in different ways, but every day is a new day and a new situation. We’ve enjoyed it.

• Learned about this group since hitting the field: I think it’s a hungry team, and wants to get some respect. We know we have to earn that. They’re knowledgable about what’s gone on in the past and the only way to get past it is to work. They’re a hungry team and want to erase what has happened in the past.

• I thought we were a small team when I got here. This is a big man’s league, and the most physical league in America. We needed to get bigger. The strength staff has done a great job. You can build confidence in the weight room. Those are things we were lacking, and we’ve done a good job making up a little ground in those areas.

• I was searching for an offensive coordinator and had 3-4 guys in mind and interviewed 3. One night my phone rang and it was from a Texas number. Thought it might be a coach wanting to talk about a recruit. It was Kendal Briles. To me, he was a no-brainer because of what kind of man he is and football coach he is.

Barry Odom, we go back 20 years. I asked if he would want to come on board if everything didn’t go well at Missouri. Immediately after I called him, he thought it would be better to come here and work with me. He knew Kendal and was influential in hiring Kendal. He had interviewed Kendal as well. Barry is wonderful and a hard-nosed man, and a wonderful coach. He fits right in with me.

• The intriguing part of Kendal’s offense is having a QB who can run the ball and also the threat of throwing the ball down the field.

• In all areas, you have to be a physical, can’t-wait-to-go-seek-contact kind of person. That’s Barry Odom and who he is in a nutshell. He’s going to give you multiple fronts and his kids will play really hard. Statistics say they will be better than when he took over.

• Special teams: The decision to hire Scott Fountain was I thought he was the best guy available. I walked across the street and talked to him about coming here. I love him and his family. I’m sure it was hard after winning the Sugar Bowl to decide to come to Arkansas, but he came. It’s his special teams. Just like all the coordinators, I’ll have say-so in what we do, but he can coach. He’s been a great asset to our program.

• Next several days for the team: We’re going to have a mock game on Saturday. That’s more for special teams, how we do things, how we come out of the locker room and all the pregame. It’ll be about a 66-play scrimmage/walkthrough. Monday-Wednesday will be work days. Friday of next week will be prep for Georgia.

• I desperately want to have success for the state of Arkansas — not myself. That will come as long as we have success for our fans. Our fans deserve to go to Walmart, the coffee shop and talk about how well the Razorbacks are doing. We’re going to do all we can do to make the state proud.

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Scottie, I don’t say this enough. What you bring to this board, and the timeliness with which you bring it, is amazing. The amount of info you bring, virtually as it is happening, is remarkable.

Thank you, thank you. I know it’s not easy, but it is really appreciated!

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That’s very kind of you to say. I certainly appreciate you guys as well.

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Agree. Scottie is the best at posting updates.

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You could learn a lesson, lol. J/k, we know you’re sworn to secrecy on your inside info, and we appreciate the vague hints that you can give.

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I really enjoyed reading those updates. You are good at this.

Agreed.

Plus you help us old dudes by editing our work.

Exceptional professional. The pride Scottie takes in everything shines through.

not to mention his podcast work! all top notch. Now, if Clay could just teach Tye that “forbodden” is not a word, all would be right in the world, lol.

GHG

I’ll get Tye soon enough!

As for Scottie, dude can write, too.

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