Andy Hodges

Softness of past couple of seasons will change quick for Hogs, Swanson says

Travis Swanson watched the news in 2019, read the headlines and when an opening happened he led a group of former players to send a letter that played a big role in landing Sam Pittman.

One of the biggest accusations against Arkansas the past couple of season by media and fans or anyone else paying attention was just an overall softness that seemed to filter down from the top.

Former Razorback All-American center Travis Swanson noticed it, too. It was a process that started when Sam Pittman left Bret Bielema’s staff to join Kirby Smart with Georgia.

That led to two seasons with the equivalent of an NFL grad assistant followed by a good guy who didn’t have a clue how to coach SEC-caliber linemen.

That will all change with Pittman, Swanson feels … and already has started. The Hogs may not win the West, but they probably won’t be called soft.

“That’s not going to be tolerated,” he told Tye Richardson and Tommy Craft (The Morning Rush) on ESPN Arkansas Monday morning. “A couple of guys on the team, talking to them, that message has been received.”

Swanson only had one season with Pittman (2013), but “I wish he’d been around for all my time.”

With his academics at the point he only had to take one class his final season, he spent a lot of time at the football center working out and just talking with Pittman about life, football and throwing out ideas.

“I remember being at the facility three to four hours before I needed to,” Swanson said. “Going up to his office and talking about life, things not related to football, things he picked up, ideas I had picked up. Gee, honestly, it feels like last week.”

It’s all part of getting players, which is not exactly the biggest thing, either.

“When they come out of high school just a shell of what you’re going to be,” Swanson said. “It’s up to the coaches. There’s really two sides to this whole thing. Recruiting is only half of the battle. It means nothing if you can’t develop them.

“It goes back to what I’ve said — it’s development, the personal side with you. He knows how to recruit. He knows what he’s doing and how to tie it all together. You can sense how genuine coaches are. You’re going to do anything to not let him down. It’s one of the biggest factors with him.”

At least through an unprecedented amount of chaos since taking the job last December, Pittman appears to be making strides in the recruiting area.

When Swanson watched the Hogs stumble through another disastrous season last year and Chad Morris was finally kicked to the curb in November, he had an idea. He got some other former players on board and a letter was sent supporting Pittman.

“When I saw the news, read headlines, I sat back in my chair and thought about what does Arkansas need?” he said. “You need somebody to recruit … all the other resources are here. It made a bunch of sense to me and others guys I knew. Initially it was something we believed he deserved and got fans talking about something and believe in it.”

It made a difference as athletics director Hunter Yurachek actually read the letter and was smart enough to be impressed with it.

At that point, Arkansas had reportedly been rebuffed by some names that would produce bigger headlines, but maybe not bring what is actually needed with the program.

“I know what this guy can do and excited to see how they do,” Swanson said. “Whenever this storm does pass excited for the Hogs to get back out there.”

Which really should be a shot of good news to start the week for Razorback fans.

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