----------------------------------------- in SEC Football? A lot further along than I expected in the beginning of Pittman’s first full year in the program. The truncated Covid season, no spring ball, limited off-season, etc. last year does not really count as a full first year. Maybe a half year or so.
The most impressive thing to me is that, across the board, at almost every position where the players have bought in to the Pittman program, his inherited players are much better. Stronger, bigger, more disciplined, and they play and practice extremely hard, now. We got former walk-ons at linebacker, offensive guard, in the secondary, tight end, etc. playing at a high level of excellence. Morgan at linebacker, Kerr at starting tight end, Hayden Henry at linebacker, etc. are gettting the attention but you can see the same “rise to excellence” all through the roster.
Sam’s staff is outstanding. He corrected a couple of mistakes in the initial hires and now has an amazing (approaching Frank Broyles era quality) staff, both as recruiters and developers of players. Odom is doing outstanding work with limited material and has used recruiting and the transfer portal to create depth, particularly in the defensive line, that has not been seen at Arkansas in decades.
Briles is managing our young QB’s and our lack of elite speed & depth well so far. His system, with the right players will work well in time and he is blending Sam’s beloved power running game into his system which can be a very powerful combination. That is a work in progress but you can see real progress taking place.
So, we just gave our collective ego and our recruiting power a huge boost on national TV with an equally impressive performanence on the field and in the stands against a hated former and soon future rival. That should help us top out this class with a few more good recruits and set us up for the next class to be even more special, particularly recruiting in Texas.
Have we “arrived?” Far from it, but we are headed there. We are showing good depth at several key positions like defensive line, running back, linebacker, and receivers. There are positions where we are one injury away from having to scramble like tight end but not as many of those as in the past.
If we can have good luck with injuries, we will be competitive in the rest of the schedule. A huge step for us is to generate an upset against the upper echelon of the SEC. A&M would be a very good place for that to happen. I don’t expect us to go to Georgia, Bama, LSU, or OleMiss and come out with a win. I do expect this team to beat most of the teams that it should beat. It would be nice if that was true for the non-conf, MissState, Mizzou, and a home win against Auburn.
So, I am guessing we might go 8-4 with an upset coming against A&M, OleMiss, or LSU. 7-5 if no upset. That requires us to beat Mizzou for the first time in ages and hold serve against the toss-up competition. That is huge improvement in year 1.5 of the Sam Pittman era and better is on the immediate horizon. Did you notice, at least for this old Hog, that beating Texas was just very nice but will not be the cherry on top of this season? My how times have changed in a very nice way. Go Hogs!