Andy Hodges

Playing fast is something Odom hopes comes from all the ‘virtual’ stuff

Barry Odom is still walking with Sam Pittman but he’s hoping the virtual instruction with his players is going to let them play faster than the coaches walk.

Barry Odom now has the unique experience of coaching against Arkansas, then becoming the defense coordinator — all in less than a month’s time.

“That was straight … or it seemed like it at the time,” Odom said last week to Tye Richardson and Tommy Craft (The Morning Rush) on ESPN Arkansas.

With all going on in the world these days that’s pretty far down the list of weirdness for a lot of people. Like nearly everybody these days, Odom is having to figure things out on the fly with no handbook that’s ever covered everything going on.

He’s really only had the chance to watch the players he’s counting on from afar while they lifted weights and jump up and down. That was, effectively, only two and a half months.

“There were some things we were able to do in our morning workout program and see guys in a change of direction, playing with leverage throughout the drills that we had set up in the weight room in some of those sessions,” Odom said. “It gives us a little feel for what guys do with their speed, their explosion and some of those things.”

But he’s seen a change in the players. If nothing else his scouting of the Razorbacks started before Thanksgiving last year and he at least had a little different perspective coming in.

“Jamele Walker, our head strength coach, and coach (Ed) Ellis put together a plan that physically transformed our team from the time we started in January until we cut loose in March as drastic and dramatic as I’ve ever seen,” Odom said. “Those guys are really, really good.”

Since then it’s all been looking at a computer screen and talking to the players that way. At least the players have convinced him they’ve stayed interested.

“One of the things I respect about our team is they’re hungry,” he said. “They’re hungry for knowledge. They are excited about the opportunity we have in front of us.”

It’s given the coaches an idea of which players are ready to step into a leadership role.

“Everything we’ve rolled out for them and asked them to do they’ve done it,” Odom said. “We’ve had guys that have stepped up their leadership, mostly through example, and some vocal.”

All of the coaches have talked about needing to play faster, which comes from knowing what they are supposed to be doing.

“I’m excited to get them on the field to see the amount of information they’ve retained … when the ball is snapped how fast they go apply it,” Odom said.

He “thinks” the speed of the defense is going to be better than it has been … and that has been a glaring issue the last couple of seasons.

“I want to caution that only means we’ve got the ability to run fast in areas,” Odom said. “But if you don’t know what you’re doing defensively through what your scheme is then your speed is null and void.”

The virtual instruction has maybe given the coaches more time to instruct and free them to focus on implementing that when they finally start working out with coaches and doing walk-throughs. That is tentatively set for the middle of July.

“We’ve got to be good teachers,” Odom said.

All of that is why Pittman’s first staff may be the most important put together. Not only is it their first year working together but the covid-19 pandemic and everything else going on makes this all new territory for everybody.

“He went out and got the guys he wanted,” Odom said about Pittman putting together a staff. “He decided how he wanted to build the staff. He knew the type of teachers, leaders and mentors he wanted to get here and he went out and got ’em. That says a lot about him.”

And probably no other coach talks to Pittman as much as Odom does on their walks. But apparently they are still timing them although whether it’s at the speed Odom said is probably open for a second opinion.

“The pace is so fast it’s hard to keep good conversation,” he said. “We passed people here in the last couple of days because our pace is so fast. People that have trained, they’re on a mission training for some great marathon coming up I’m sure and we’re just blowing by ’em. It’s hard to have great long conversations when you’re so focused on the pace of the walk.”

Then, of course, you get the idea he’s got one game circled … whether Odom will admit it or not. The Missouri game after Thanksgiving in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City will be big for him.

“Everybody uses motivation in different ways,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of motivation to lead this team for them to have success.”

That’s his coachspeak way of stomping around answering a question in June about a game in November.

But it will be big for him.

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