Razorbacks see advantage in younger football staff

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Thursday, February 4, 2021

FAYETTEVILLE — When Sam Pittman set out to fill the open assistant coach positions on his coaching staff, he said he searched for good men who would represent the state and the Razorback program the right way.

A strong recruiter was also a high priority for Arkansas’ second-year head coach. On Thursday the Razorbacks introduced their four new position coaches — Kenny Guiton (receivers), Cody Kennedy (tight ends), Jermial Ashley (defensive line) and Michael Scherer (linebackers) — and the group will infuse youth into Arkansas’ staff.

The average age of Pittman’s additions is 31 years old, and each new assistant is at least three years younger than his predecessor. The Razorbacks will enter the spring with seven assistant coaches who are 40 or younger.

Arkansas' 2021 football staff

Title, Coach, Age

Defensive coordinator, Barry Odom, 44

Offensive coordinator, Kendal Briles, 38

Special teams coordinator, Scott Fountain, 54

Offensive line, Brad Davis, 40

Defensive line, Jermial Ashley, 38

Tight ends, Cody Kennedy, 31

Wide receivers, Kenny Guiton, 29

Running backs, Jimmy Smith, 41

Cornerbacks, Sam Carter, 30

Linebackers, Michael Scherer, 27

“I didn't consciously go out to hire age, to be honest with you,” Pittman said Thursday during a Zoom conference with reporters. “I'm not sure if age was a dictator of being a good coach, or hell, everybody would be my age. We'd have a whole staff of 60-year olds.

“I want a guy that can coach, a guy that can recruit, and I don't really care how old he is.”

Asked what makes for a quality young coach, Pittman pointed to someone who is mature beyond his age and eager to learn and work.

“He's got to be an old whatever his age is,” he added. “That's really how it played out. I was trying to bring in recruiters. Most of the time if you're a good recruiter, you're a good coach, because recruiting is work, and coaching is work.

“To get Arkansas where we all believe that it should be and where it's going to be, we have to continue to improve our recruiting. That was a big part of all these hires, along with their coaching ability.”

The 29-year-old Guiton, who previously worked with Razorbacks offensive coordinator Kendal Briles at Houston, was Arkansas’ youngest assistant until Scherer, 27, was promoted from defensive quality control analyst to linebackers coach.

Scherer was the choice to lead the second level of the defense because of his familiarity with coordinator Barry Odom’s scheme. The former Missouri player stepped into an on-field role for the Razorbacks’ game at Florida last season and Pittman noted the players raved about Scherer’s ability to teach the game.

“I’m definitely ready for this no matter what age I am,” Scherer said. “I’m ready to push these guys to be the best they possibly can be, and that's the only way I know. The age thing, I get, but I only know one way to do this thing.”

Ashley, 38, and Guiton agree that Arkansas’ staff trending younger could have an advantage on the recruiting trail. They are confident in their ability to make connections with prospects given they are not far removed from their playing days.

The college playing careers for Guiton, Scherer and cornerbacks coach Sam Carter all came to a close in the last eight years. Scherer played for Missouri as recently as 2016.

“I think we just have a certain energy about ourselves,” Guiton said. “I think that a young group of guys are going to bring a different type of energy to the table. With that kind of energy, I just truly believe energy bleeds off of people. If you come in, you’re a dullard, you’re down, somebody around you is probably going to go get down, as well.”

The average age of Pittman’s assistants in 2020 was 41 years old. This year it is 37.

“In recruiting nowadays you’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do,” Scherer said. “There’s times that you hop on video games with kids. All different kinds of things that being a little younger … I’m not great at video games, but I’ve got a little bit of experience. 

“I still remember very much so what it was like, so I think being younger you have the ability to recall that and be closer to it.”

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