For a media starving to see football players wearing just helmets there wasn’t any pad-popping, drive blocking defenders or tackling going on the practice field Wednesday.
There was Sam Pittman (finally!) in charge of coaching a Razorbacks football team on a practice field doing more than jumping up and down.
Even from watching a single practice and how Pittman moved from one position group to another you get the idea what we’ve been hearing from players privately and in public interviews the last several months.
One player after another has told us “we’ve got his back,” referring to Pittman.
The difference was stark. Pittman walked with a quiet confidence and you would never know the man hadn’t even coached a real practice until this week, much less never even coached a game as a head coach.
The last coach looked like he couldn’t figure out what direction to go. Before that it was hard to tell with all the waddling around the field.
“Whenever he sees guys not upholding to the standard, he’s the first one to call someone out, kind of get that juice flowing,”junior linebacker Bumper Pool said Monday, “and I think that’s big.”
Players tend to listen and respond. That’s what we’ve heard about Pittman for years, saw for a few years when he was offensive line coach from 2013-15 and witnessed on the highest stage of college football at Georgia the last few years.
“They push us to limits this team didn’t know it could go to,” senior running back Rakeem Boyd said Monday. “That’s what I love about Pittman because if you’re jogging and not moving he doesn’t care who you are. It’s ‘Let’s go!'”
It’s a different energy level. At least in the only viewing we’ve had it seemed to be consistent and not the type that comes and goes quickly doing more harm than good.
Frank Broyles used to preach about that a lot.
“Pittman keeps everybody’s energy amped up around here,” Boyd said. “It’s a positive environment. We’ve been working really hard for the man. He’s doing his job.”
That’s what we’ve heard since Pittman first got the job. He spends more time talking about making the players here better than treading water until he could find enough players to figure out how to win a league game.
Pittman is working to win an SEC game his first season, in no small part because he hasn’t really got a choice with only league teams on the schedule.
The players aren’t making bold claims.
Just what appears to be a quiet confidence.
“Whatever he puts up ahead of us we go kill it and knock it out no matter if we’re dead tired and don’t want to do it,” Boyd said of Pittman. “We still get it done. It doesn’t matter how hard the task is.”
For fans desperate for any kind of success that could be a positive tone.
At least they’re hoping so.