Pittman making time to visit with in-state coaches

Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman watches his players as they warmup prior to their NCAA college football game against Mississippi, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Oxford, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

It is a big deal when an Arkansas assistant football coach stops by an in-state school, but it’s clear there is nothing like the head coach dropping in.

Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman has been doing that with several schools in Arkansas this fall.

“The coaches in the state have been so kind and so inviting on us coming to their schools,” Pittman said. “We haven’t had quite the opportunity to get out like we will here in a few weeks.

“But it is very important, very important to get around, especially now when we are doing better and want to be seen. Sometimes you don’t want to be seen, but this is one of the times that you want to get into a school and show that brand because the Hogs are pretty strong right now, especially in the state of Arkansas.”

Shiloh Christian coach Jeff Conaway, whose linebacker Kaden Henley is a 2022 Razorbacks pledge, is one of those who Pittman has visited this fall.

“It is great that the head coach would take time out of his extremely hectic day and I am sure extremely busy schedule to build those relationships with high school coaches and become more acquainted with different campuses across the state,” Conaway said.

“It sends a whole lot of positive messages to not only our athletes, but also our communities.”

Conaway notes that hasn’t always been the case with previous coaches at Arkansas.

“It is a strategic move on his part, but there has been several of those in the same position that have not done that extremely well,” he said. “To carve out that time I think is a huge advantage for him.”

Pittman has also stopped by Fayetteville High, where former Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick is the head coach. Fayetteville has two 2022 pledges in linebacker Mani Powell and wideout Isaiah Sategna.

“I think it is very important for him to be out and about,” Dick said. “I know he has a jam-packed schedule, but he has been on our campus four or five times, which is more than any head coach has been over during the time that I have been here.

“Whether he is just coming in to talk a little bit or hang out and visit with kids, it is just a different atmosphere than before. He just wants to come by and check how you are doing, and it is just special when he comes by your campus.”

Pittman has visited Hot Springs Lakeside, too, where former Arkansas quarterback Jared McBride is the head coach and has the newest Razorbacks commit in sophomore tailback Braylen Russell (6-2, 225). Pittman stopped in to see McBride last month and it was greatly appreciated.

Russell is Pittman’s first 2024 commit. He has 20 in his 2022 class and a trio of pledges for 2023.

“He was here, stopped in and visited for about an hour,” McBride said. “We were so glad to have him and we are looking forward to him coming through again. It is definitely a special day when the head hog shows up on campus, so we were excited about that.”

McBride threw for a then-state record 4,049 yards and 53 touchdowns as a senior at Nashville before signing with Arkansas and playing for the Razorbacks from 1997-2000 in an injury-plagued career.

He is pleased with how Pittman has turned around the Razorbacks, who are 6-3 heading into Saturday’s game at 4-5 LSU.

“I think he has done an outstanding job,” McBride said. “From everything that I hear, see and know and just the way he goes about his day it just speaks to the kind of man he is. He is the kind of guy that can come into your office and sit down and talk to you for an hour.

“He is not trying to prove anything. He is just being himself and that’s what means a lot to us as football coaches and the kids. He is just genuine and he will tell you the truth.”

McBride believes that has translated into success on the field.

“You can see those results,” McBride said. “Those players are playing really, really hard for him. He puts them in a good position and just goes about his day. The kids can see they have a good leader in Coach Pitt.”