Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Pittman completes first UA staff with final hires
Derrick LeBlanc, who was hired to Sam Pittman's first staff at Arkansas, spent the last three seasons at Kentucky under Mark Stoops. He will coach the Razorbacks' defensive line.
FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas formally announced on Monday the final four on-field assistant coach hires for Coach Sam Pittman's first Razorbacks staff, with the salary pool for the 10-man group topping out just over $5 million.
The school officially announced the additions of defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc, special teams coach Scott Fountain, running backs coach Jimmy Smith and tight ends coach Jon Cooper to round out Pittman's staff. All four of the assistants had been previously reported as joining the Razorbacks.
UA football coaches salaries
Sam Pittman;Head coach;$3 million
Barry Odom;Defensive coordinator;$1.2 million
Kendall Briles;Offensive coordinator;$1 million
Brad Davis;Offensive line;$550,000
Derrick LeBlanc;Defensive line;$450,000
Scott Fountain;Special teams;$450,000
Justin Stepp;Wide receivers;$400,000
Jon Cooper;Tight ends;$300,000
Jimmy Smith;Running backs;$225,000
Staff total;;$8.025 million
Additionally, Pittman has hired Jamil Walker, formerly the associate strength and conditioning coach at Georgia, to serve as Arkansas' head strength and conditioning coach. Walker, a former running back at Wisconsin, had previously served on the strength staff with the Badgers from 2008-17, the first five of those years under Bret Bielema, the ex-Arkansas coach.
Ed Ellis, who began his college coaching career as a graduate assistant at Arkansas (1987-89), where he received his master's degree, will also join the strength staff with the Razorbacks after previously serving as strength coach at Georgia.
Fountain and LeBlanc will both be paid $450,000 per year, based on salary details provided by the UA on Monday. That would make the men tied for fourth in assistant pay on the staff.
Cooper will draw an annual salary of $300,000, while Smith will make $225,000, the same as cornerbacks coach Sam Carter and linebackers coach Rion Rhoades.
The total of the 10 assistants comes to $5.025 million, right in the ballpark of the suggested pool of $5 million established by UA Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek at Pittman's introductory news conference on Dec. 9.
That represents a rise of $110,000 from the assistant's pool of $4.915 million the Razorbacks operated with during the 2019 season.
Arkansas will be paying both its coordinators $1 million or more for the first time in school history. Former Missouri head Coach Barry Odom, the new defensive coordinator, will be the highest-paid assistant at $1.2 million per year, followed by offensive coordinator Kendall Briles ($1 million) and offensive line coach Brad Davis ($550,000). Those three, plus wide receivers coach Justin Stepp, Carter and Rhoades had all been previously announced by the Razorbacks.
LeBlanc was on staff at Kentucky the last three years during a 25-14 run by the Wildcats under Coach Mark Stoops, one of the best three-year runs at Kentucky. The Wildcats posted 33 sacks in 2019, 18 of them by defensive linemen, to rank fourth in the SEC.
A native of Breaux Bridge, La., LeBlanc has assistant coaching experience in Arkansas at Henderson State (2001-04) and Arkansas Tech (2005) and has also worked at LSU as a graduate assistant and on the strength and conditioning staff.
Fountain, a native of East Brewton, Ala., has been part of SEC championship teams at Auburn (2010, 2013) and Georgia (2017), and has coached in four national championship games.
Fountain was on staff at Georgia with Pittman for three seasons from 2017-19.
Cooper, a graduate of Oklahoma, has previous experience with Odom, as he spent two years as offensive analyst for then-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel at Missouri in 2016-17.
Cooper spent the past two years at Central Florida under Heupel. The Golden Knights set a school record for total offense this season with 536.6 yards per game to rank fourth in the country.
Smith, a high school coaching guru in metro Atlanta with state championships in 2016 and 2018, was part of Georgia State's historic upset at Tennessee in this year's season opener. The Panthers outrushed Tennessee 213-93 while posting a 38-30 victory at Neyland Stadium, Georgia State's first win over a Power 5 program in school history.
A native of Darlington, S.C., Smith played quarterback on back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championship teams at Tennessee State in 1998-99.
Sports on 01/07/2020
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