Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Pittman home, but not often there
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman directs members of the offensive line Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, during practice at the university practice facility in Fayetteville.
Everything was a whirlwind for Sam and Jamie Pittman.
One day he was coaching Georgia in the SEC Championship Game; the next he was the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks; and the day after he was in Fayetteville for a few hours.
He needed to get through the news conference before he could start recruiting. They got the hog-calling part out of the way, and Pittman hit the road.
Before leaving, he had a message for his wife: Find your dream home, because this is our last home.
Their house in Athens, Ga., sold fast, and Jamie found her dream home in Arkansas. It was unoccupied, and another part of the seamless transition was in place.
The Pittmans were home after leaving for Georgia, which Jamie understood but didn’t like.
Pittman has said she was mad at him for two years.
Wives of football coaches have to be tough, mentally and emotionally.
They move a lot, especially when they are young. The job of a coach is now 365 days a year because recruiting is a never-ending process.
Then comes the season and the long days.
On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Pittman and his staff are at work at 6:30 a.m. About 12 hours later, they are shifting into high gear for the final four hours.
Because so many staff members have children, they get to skip those final four hours Wednesday and Thursday.
By the time Friday arrives, Pittman has spent 72 hours working and about 32 sleeping.
As far as he’s concerned, it’s not hard or an inconvenience. It just comes with the territory.
Every day Pittman is in every meeting. Every offensive meeting. Every defensive meeting. Every special-teams meeting. And any other meeting that happens.
Pittman did not get to be one of the most respected offensive line coaches and recruiters in the country by focusing on just his position players.
He knows the game on both sides of the ball.
In almost every meeting, he has a thought or suggestion to share.
“I might have three pages of notes, or it might be 13,” he said during a Zoom interview last week. “It all depends on how things went that day.’
While he is totally respectful of his staff members, they recognize his leadership as that of the head coach.
He believes a balanced offense is one of the keys to winning games.
“You can’t ever let a defense know what you are doing next,” he said. “If you run too much, they are going to stop you. If you pass too much, they are going to stop you.”
Pittman knows it starts up front.
“It is about box numbers,” he said. “If I have six in the box to block, the defense is going to try and have seven. That’s where a mobile quarterback can give you an edge over the course of a game. He becomes like your extra guy because he can do more than one thing.”
Friday was the Razorbacks’ first scrimmage, and the 125 plays left every coach knowing the players need to get in better game shape.
It also meant Pittman was getting closer to a two-deep roster.
“You get a better idea of who your ones and twos are after a scrimmage,” he said. “We’ll know even more after our second scrimmage. About 10 days out from the first game, you can give your depth chart.
“After the first scrimmage, you can’t be playing musical chairs, moving guys around trying them at different positions.”
It is still 27 days until that first game against Georgia, and that means a lot of long days and tons of meetings for Pittman and his staff.
At the end of the day, though, he knows he’s going home to his wife and best friend in the place they hated to leave nearly five years ago.
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