Aside from players returning to campus, which seldom draws more than a line or two, you know it’s headed towards football season when the preseason magazines start showing up.
Whether they are right or wrong.
“We get a lot right and a lot wrong every year,” Braden Gall of Athlon Sports on Tuesday afternoon told Derek Ruscin and Zach Arns (Ruscin & Zach) on ESPN Arkansas.
That also holds true for everybody else. You can always count on somebody at the top falling dramatically and another team will come from nowhere and be pretty good.
Arkansas fans are hoping they end up in that second category in Sam Pittman’s first year and Gall was right when he speculated that wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
“I don’t think this is the way they planned on it going,” he said. “I don’t think Missouri had it go the way they thought, either. Ole Miss and Mississippi State did that.”
Hunter Yurachek basically has stomped all around the fact he got talked into hiring Pittman, mainly by Pittman himself. The Rebels had Lane Kiffin in their sights all along and it was likely the same with Mike Leach in Starkville.
“Two guys (Ole Miss and State) targeted a guy they went and got,” Gall said. “Sam Pittman may be the best offensive line coach in the country and a great recruiter but how will he do as the CEO? That was the same thing they said about Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee. It looks like they are trending in the right direction but they still haven’t beaten anybody in the SEC with a winning record.”
He admitted it’s a wildcard type situation. Few head coaches are hired that have always been a position coach. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney may be the case that’s worked out best. Ed Orgeron’s first head coaching job at Ole Miss was about par for the course.
Remember, Orgeron was supposed to be the hottest move in the country when the Rebels hired him in December 2004 and he proceeded to go 3-21 in the SEC over the next three seasons and was sent packing.
A lot of folks in Baton Rouge expected Jimbo Fisher to be the Tigers’ next coach.
“That it didn’t go down the way it was planned doesn’t mean it won’t be successful,” Gall said. “If you’re hopeful about Sam Pittman that’s the model. Most LSU fans will tell you they didn’t like the move when it happened.”
There are similarities with Orgeron for Gall, too.
“(Pittman is) arguably the best offensive line coach in America and a great recruiter,” he said. “It’s almost the exact tag line I would have used for Coach O on the defensive side of the ball.”
The biggest difference, even Gall will admit, is the talent level between LSU and Arkansas is quite a bit different.
Pittman knows that. But nobody knows exactly what type offense Pittman will have developed with new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, although a lot of folks find it hard he will not figure out a way to run the ball.
Mainly because Gall believes sooner or later in the SEC you have to be able to win down in the trenches. That’s why he wonders what’s going to happen at Mississippi State.
“I don’t know if Mike Leach’s system is going to work in the SEC,” Gall said. “Sooner or later you’ve got to realize it’s a line of scrimmage league.”
Which is why he has questions like a lot of us in the media in Arkansas. Not negative questions, but just wondering how things will work with Pittman on the offensive side that has undergone a complete change of pace every few years for the last dozen or so.
Bobby Petrino had his pro style offense (that did run the ball effectively at times), then Bret Bielema took it the other direction and, finally, whatever that was Chad Morris tried for a couple of years.
“What is the identity going to be like under an offensive line coach?” Gall said. “There’s not a lot of precedence for offensive line coach to be head coaches. If you’re looking at an offensive line coach going back to his roots you’re starting back at zero again and you’re not sure how that’s going to take place.”
Which is the same question a lot of the Hogs’ fan base has.
We may — or may not — start getting some answers Wednesday. We have a Zoom meeting with Pittman early in the afternoon.
You can bet the offense is going to be one of the subject of questions because that might be the biggest one on the table.
And nobody except Briles and Pittman probably know the answer.
But in six weeks we may start to get an idea.