Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He appears weekly on The Red Zone w/ JB on 92.1 FM Fayetteville, The Morning Rush w/ Tye & Tommy on 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home, 99.5 FM in Fayetteville and The Zone w/ Justin & Wess on 103.7 FM in Little Rock.
The Recruiting Guy:
Transfer portal creates challenges for Pittman, staff
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman is shown during a game against Liberty on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Fayetteville.
Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman discussed the challenges of simultaneously recruiting the transfer portal and high school prospects during today’s Liberty Bowl press conference in Memphis.
The Razorbacks have lost several players, most notably wide receiver Ketron Jackson, to the portal, which officially opened to players entering their names on Monday.
“When covid was around we had to find a way to embrace that situation,” Pittman said. “I know it was a terrible situation, but you had to find a way to fight through it. The same thing with the portal. We can sit around and gripe about it until the NCAA changes it or doesn’t change it.
“We’ve got to do the best possible thing for our program and we have to basically embrace the portal.”
Pittman and his staff have made numerous in-home visits to Arkansas' 23 commitments since the contact period started Dec. 2, and they have several others to visit while attempting to find transfers to replace outgoing transfers.
Pittman is also trying to hire a new defensive coordinator with Barry Odom going to UNLV as head coach, and planning to host official visitors this weekend and next week before the dead period begins Dec. 19.
Throw in Arkansas starting practice Saturday for the Dec. 28 game against Kansas, he and his staff have a lot on their plate.
“Fighting against it doesn’t help us, doesn’t help the kids, doesn’t help the university,” Pittman said of dealing with the portal. “We’re trying to embrace that part of it. Some parts of it we may not like, myself may not like. You can’t sit around. You’re going to lose if you do.
“We’re trying to accept what’s going on and do right by our kids on campus, trying to do right for the guys we’re trying to replace them with.”
Pittman and offensive line coach Cody Kennedy visited with Bentonville offensive lineman Joey Su'a on Thursday morning prior to making it to Memphis for the news conference.
They later visited offensive lineman commitment Luke Brown in Paris, Tenn., and joined up with linebackers coach Michael Scherer in Mississippi to do an in-home visit with linebacker pledge Alex Sanford.
Before the advent of the portal in 2018, college coaches could concentrate on seeing commitments and underclassmen in December and January while preparing for a bowl game. The portal adds another layer of responsibility.
“Certainly a lot of moving parts,” Pittman said. “It will (impact) high school recruiting simply because next week instead of having every one of our coaches out on the road recruiting, going in and seeing on 2024s and things of that nature, half the staff will be in having official visits, so it certainly has changed.
“And we’re embracing it, so we’re going to embrace the rule.”
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