Maybe one of the hires that caught Arkansas football fans’ attention when Sam Pittman took over was bringing in Scott Fountain as special teams coordinator.
For over a decade, having a special teams coordinator was something that was cut when the NCAA rules reduced the sizes of coaching staffs.
But some previous staffs couldn’t even evaluate talent very well. It was John L. Smith who told a Russellville football coach in 2009 that Zach Hocker wasn’t good enough to kick for the Razorbacks. This was right after one of Hocker’s long-range field goals won a game for the Cyclones.
One of Pittman’s first hires was Fountain.
“Scott is as good at what he does as anybody in the country,” Pittman said near the end of his first weekly radio show at The Catfish Hole in Fayetteville on Wednesday night.
As a coordinator, he’s got five position coaches also coaching groups on special teams and Pittman made it clear what he wanted.
“I told them to coach special teams as hard as your position group and they’ve done it.” he said.
In special teams practices, Fountain has six groups working at the same time.
According to what we’ve been told (we don’t get to see much this year), the special teams has made progress in terms of kicking and in the return game.
“We’ve been really pleased with those guys,” Pittman said. “They had a really, really good scrimmage Friday night.”
Pittman will have three of the radio shows before the season opener with Georgia on Sept. 26 at Razorback Stadium. The crowd is thinner due to safety precautions, Pittman and host Chuck Barrett are basically in a plexiglass cage.
“It’s kind of like a shield for a bad band or something,” Pittman said, chuckling.
If you’ve never been to a bar where they have chicken wire around the band to protect them from beer bottles, well, you’ll just have to draw a mental picture. But they do exist.
With the corona virus seeing increased numbers among students at the UA (with zero reported hospitalizations), there doesn’t appear to be a lot of football players missing time.
Pittman pointed out they are entering a critical time for the players because having to go into quarantine now would affect them being able to play in that first game.
“Now it’s even more meaningful,” he said. “They work their entire year to get 10 games. It’s hitting us a little more mentally that we have to be better after practice.”
That simply means avoiding other students. We’re in a period now where one frat party of kids, well, being kids literally could dramatically affect getting a football season started.
The players apparently have taken it seriously. Pittman and the coaching staff have spent the last six months coming up with a plan to take into account there will likely be positive test results (and the team was tested earlier Wednesday afternoon).
“We knew that going in,” Pittman said, explaining why the depth chart has appeared to be constantly juggling. “Who was on the one depth chart we were trying to get with the four’s. Regardless, if we lost our best this, best that, we’re gonna go play.”
In a year that will likely have more uncertainty than anything in memory, some players may be sitting at home.
They don’t want to put someone out there without a clue what to do and end up looking like Navy did last Saturday against Brigham Young.
While there’s always been a way to figure out who was running with what unit, until they release a depth chart in a week or two it’s a complete guessing game.
Don’t worry. Pittman and the coaches have an idea of who they want on the field first. Unless it’s an emergency there will be a set rotation.
“I don’t know that you can play by committee at any position and be great at that position,” he said.
Which gives you a clue what Pittman is going to want every game and that’s to have the players on the field for the best chance to win.