Sam Pittman has been in this position at Arkansas before with a group of under-sized offensive linemen … and he changed it.
“When I first got here seven years ago we weren’t a very big offensive line then, either,” Pittman said in a teleconference Friday. “We changed that fairly fast.”
Now he’s having to do it again, this time as head coach.
“That’s a huge deal,” he said. “Most people know I love big, athletic guys and I really don’t know who wouldn’t. We’ve put a heavy emphasis on strength, on gaining weight and gaining the right type of weight.”
Starting with bringing in the right players.
“We’re trying to do that in recruiting,” Pittman said.
The previous staff WANTED a good offensive line but apparently couldn’t get the right players in and struggled to develop them quickly enough. Granted, they started low on numbers and it got worse, but the result is Pittman was left with some guys with ability, but kinda small.
At least for the SEC.
“You know how it is in this league,” he said. “You just can’t survive without big people in the offensive and defensive lines. This is a big person league. It starts up front with both sides of the ball.”
Take Myron Cunningham, who may define the problem Pittman is facing as much as anyone. The redshirt senior is 6-foot-7, but a little light, even after gaining over 20 pounds.
“If Cunningham can get up to 310, 315, he’d be … he’s got a lot of talent but it’s going to be hard to sit on a bull at 285 pounds, especially when a d-end weighs 275 pounds,” he said.
That means, simply, he’s going up every play against big guys and you better be bigger or you’re going to be in trouble by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.
In the limited drills Pittman did get to see before things got suspended, some leaders were starting to emerge.
“The guys probably in that group that have stood out with their work ethic is Shane Clenin and Ricky Stromberg,” he said. “Ricky’s gained 25, maybe 28 pounds … he’s right at 300 right now. Clenin looks really good and, of course, Myron Cunningham is getting up around that 300 mark, too. Those guys have gained a lot of strength.”
And it starts with a new position coach as Brad Davis joined Pittman’s staff, coming from Missouri. He gets rave reviews from Pittman, who has been considered one of a small group of top offensive line coaches in college football the last several years.
“A, I trust him,” Pittman said. “He’s a great person. He’s as good of an offensive line coach as there is in the country.”
That’s also an opinion that apparently some others share, too.
“If you go by jobs he’s been offered, he’s as good as anybody in the country,” Pittman said. “He’s been offered a bunch and he’s been offered some since he’s been here.”
It does kinda go hand-in-hand that they are good recruiters because you don’t usually see a lot of good coaches that don’t have some pretty good players.
“They are good communicators,” Pittman said. “A guy who’s a good recruiter usually becomes a good football coach because he’s got better talent than everybody else.
“That’s the one thing about Brad, he’s a people-pleaser. He wants to please whoever he’s working with and he wants these kids to be as good as they possibly can be. It’s kind of in the makeup of who he is.
“He’s as good of a coach as there is.”