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:
Wait worth it for Pittman
Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman speaks to the crowd during a basketball game between Arkansas and Tulsa on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
There was a reason Sam Pittman took 29 days to fill his staff.
He knew what he wanted in and from every person who was going to work side-by-side with him to fix the University of Arkansas football program.
Some of them were home runs. All of them appear to be solid hires.
Barry Odom as defensive coordinator was a grand slam.
Odom, former head coach at Missouri, has 16 years of college coaching experience, was the defensive part of the reason Memphis football turned around.
His only losing season for the Tigers was his first.
Odom has strong recruiting contacts in Missouri, Texas and the Memphis area.
Kendal Briles appears to be home run hire as well.
Just 37, Briles was the offensive coordinator at Florida State and brings with him 11 years of experience and deep roots in recruiting the state of Texas. He’s a native of the Lone Star State.
Brad Davis was highly recommended by Odom and was hired the day after Pittman took the job.
Let’s just say Pittman knows what an offensive line coach looks like. At Georgia, he coached against Davis and liked what he saw.
Last season, the Tigers allowed the fewest tackles and sacks in the SEC.
Davis has coached 13 All-Conference players and five of his players went on to play in the NFL.
He has ties in Oklahoma, where he played, and Louisiana, where he was born.
Odom didn’t have to look far to find his defensive line coach, another guy with SEC experience, Derrick LeBlanc, who was part of the rebuilding at Kentucky.
Last season, the Wildcats allowed only 321 yards per game and was third in scoring defense giving up only 18 points per game. LeBlanc was born in Louisiana and played for Northwestern State on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Scott Fountain worked two years with Pittman at Georgia and was targeted for the Arkansas staff early to coordinate special teams play.
He was the recruiting coordinator for Gene Chizik at Auburn when he won the national championship.
Justin Stepp was retained probably because wide receivers were a bright spot for the Razorbacks. He and Pittman started recruiting from day one and Stepp is known as a great recruiter with strong ties in Texas.
Jon Cooper come from the University of Central Florida (also known as Under Construction Forever because of its growth) to coach the tight ends. He played in the NFL for four years before returning to Oklahoma, where he played, as a graduate assistant to start his career.
Sam Carter worked for Odom in an analyst role the last four years, and will coach cornerbacks. He was a standout defensive back for TCU for four years.
He has good connections in Texas.
Rion Rhoades played linebacker for Pittman at Hutchison Community College, where Rhoades has been the head coach for 13 years and placed 239 players into four-year programs.
Many of the coaches in the Jayhawk Conference are friends of Rhoades.
Jimmy Smith is an intriguing hire for coach running backs. He has only one year of college experience and that was at Georgia State.
Prior to that he spent six years as head football coach and athletic director at Cedar Grove High Sch0ol in Georgia where he won two state championships and was Georgia High School Coach of the Year twice.
Saying he has a few contacts in Georgia, a state that produces 50-60 Division I players every year, would be an understatement.
Pittman topped off his staff with two strength and conditioning coaches from Georgia.
Pittman has put together a top-shelf staff.
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