Sam Pittman hadn’t been around Arkansas for a few years, but he knew what needed fixing and his first complete recruiting class fills some needs that you didn’t need to be an expert to see.
The Razorbacks’ first group of 23 signees has 15 on the defensive side of the ball and eight on offense that includes three offensive linemen.
The previous staff inherited a roster short in those areas and promptly devoted more time to getting wide receivers. That’s a bad combination and partly to blame for the lack of an SEC win in two seasons (which you almost have to try and accomplish, by the way).
“I’m talking about numbers,” Pittman said, making it clear there is some talent in those spots … just not a lot of it.
It’s interesting to note previous coach Chad Morris graduated from Texas A&M with a math degree and either couldn’t add the numbers or simply didn’t have a clue how to do anything about it.
As a career offensive line coach, Pittman’s focus on that position group is not surprising. As folks remember the line he put together in three seasons with Bret Bielema, it’s going to be different there.
“Offensive line is a big deal for us here,” Pittman said Wednesday. “Big offensive linemen is what we’re looking for with quick feet.”
He got that in a couple of guys from Memphis in Ray Curry (6-6, 315) and Marcus Henderson (6-5, 300) plus a St. Louis player in Jalen St. John (6-5, 310).
“Defenses have big people over there,” Pittman said. “We wanted to go size to begin with. They all fit the criteria we’re looking for.”
Massive was an apt description Pittman used about one of them that really could apply to all three of this group.
But it was the emphasis on defense that got the attention of a lot of folks. Pittman signed five linebackers, including a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, who wasn’t a starter for the Sooners but HAS played in two playoff games.
How bad has the Hogs’ defense been? I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the blocking dummies hung 28 points on them in a skeleton drill one day.
As we’ve suspected, the talent level the last few years hasn’t been as wretched as the record. It is the new standard of how far down bad coaching can really take a team.
The best thing the previous staff did was redshirt so many players. At least those guys know how to get to class because they sure didn’t get much quality coaching.
Ignore the stats from the past two years. I’m not sure the staff gave the players much of a chance through development or game planning. It will be interesting to see how they play with this staff.
Speed and size were ares that needed fixing and Pittman addressed that.
Quarterback Malik Hornsby, though, may be the biggest indicator of what this coaching staff can do in recruiting. He was offered by Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Oregon, Texas and had committed to North Carolina before Jacolby Criswell of Morrilton decided to go there.
That’s a big-time recruit.
“There’s a guy that can throw it and run it,” Pittman said. “Certainly ideal for the type offense Kendal is planning on running.”
In the SEC, you can’t win with a quarterback that can only do one of those. To compete for championships in this league you better be able to pass the ball these days and that opens up the running game.
The quarterback does have to be able to run when the defense forgets that’s an option.
Hornsby will push the quarterbacks on the team already. That’s probably what Pittman wants.
“He was a guy we wanted,” Pittman said. “He’s a guy we went after.”
They got him because offensive coordinator Kendal Briles had been on his trail for four years, all the way back to when Briles was at Houston.
The fact they got him is one thing.
Now they’ve got to develop ’em.
And it’s probably a good guess Pittman knows that, too.