Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Yurachek: Odom an important piece to Hogs’ puzzle
Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom watches a July 2020 workout in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek understood that Razorbacks defensive coordinator Barry Odom was something of a hot commodity following the 2020 season.
Under his guidance, Arkansas’ defense found success at various points during the team’s 10-game all-SEC schedule. That led to reported opportunities for Odom — a former head coach at Missouri — to leave for high-profile defensive coordinator jobs at Texas and LSU.
After plenty of speculation about what was next for Odom, Yurachek, in a post to his Twitter account on Jan. 5, informed interested parties there would not be significant movement in Arkansas’ coaching staff.
On Thursday, Yurachek spoke to the importance of Odom’s return for a second season with the Razorbacks in regards to the direction of the program under Sam Pittman. He referenced Odom's creative schemes that put Arkansas in positions to have success in Pittman's inaugural 3-7 season that followed consecutive winless campaigns in SEC play.
“Barry has that experience sitting in the head coaching chair in the Southeastern Conference and it’s been invaluable to Coach Pittman this year and it will be invaluable going forward,” he said. “Our student-athletes on the defensive side of the ball love him.
“He’s an important piece of our puzzle. … It was important for Coach Pittman that we retain Coach Odom, and we did that.”
It is believed Odom will receive another raise in pay, but a contract adjustment has not been finalized. Odom is in the first year of a three-year contract with the Razorbacks that runs through the 2022 season.
He received a $100,000 pay raise to an annual salary of $1.3 million last year after he turned down interest from an unspecified SEC program, Pittman said in March.
Overall, the Razorbacks' defense showed modest statistical improvement in his first year. Arkansas allowed 34.9 points in 2020, down from 36.8 points allowed during a 12-game schedule that included four nonconference opponents the year before.
Arkansas' 18 takeaways — 13 interceptions — were two more than in 2019, but the Razorbacks' total defense was slightly worse, allowing 451.7 yards. In the team’s three SEC wins, it allowed 16 points per game and totaled 11 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries.
“Just continuity in general among your coaching staff is very important,” Yurachek said. “Being able to retain all three of our coordinators, how Pittman has that set up with (offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, special teams coordinator Scott Fountain) and Odom was very, very important."
Yurachek said Pittman adequately managed other programs’ attempts to lure away members of his staff. Wide receivers coach Justin Stepp accepted the same position at South Carolina on Jan. 3. Kenny Guiton, who has experience working with Briles at Houston, was named Stepp's successor days later.
Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Jamil Walker is also returning for a second season. He was among a pool of candidates for the same position with the Gamecocks.
“That was really for (Stepp) to have an opportunity to return home,” Yurachek said. “Kenny Guiton will fill that role really, really well for us.”
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.