Without even playing this weekend, Arkansas was still getting mentioned in a positive way all across the landscape of the SEC … and nobody giggled.
If you don’t think coaching matters, well, think again.
Some of us told you the players on the roster were better than 4-20 over the past two seasons. We were just finding some of the things being whispered to us about the coaching staff could possibly be accurate.
Now everybody knows. Nothing will show up a staff better than after they’re fired someone else coming in and winning games.
The players know, too. If the previous staff did anything related to what’s happening this year it is the large number of true freshmen they redshirted.
And they see the difference, even if they won’t say the previous coaches didn’t have a clue what they were doing.
“Last year there wasn’t a lot enough confidence in our ability,” said Jalen Catalon, one of those freshmen that got a redshirt year. “This year we have a lot more confidence what we can do and we trust each other. We’ve had a mentality of I’ve got your back and you’ve got my back on both offense and defense.”
It’s about consistency, which leads to trust. The previous staff never had the trust of the players, some of whom would quietly admit that over the last couple of years.
“We trust the coaches, and we trust the game plan we have,” he said last week.
The difference has been shocking to some people.
“When the team eats, everybody eats,” wide receiver Mike Woods said last week about a new all-for-one mentality. “If the whole team is eating and doing good, then everybody’s going to get their chances to shine. It isn’t any jealousy or animosity. I’m happy for them. We work on this every day, so if we go out there and execute it, it feels great for everybody.”
The one thing about Sam Pittman that’s been overlooked a little is just the calming effect he’s had on a group of players that never could quite figure out what was going on for a couple of years.
It starts with the quarterback. Feleipe Franks is the starter and, barring an injury, nothing much is going to change that. Eight different players started games the previous two years.
The last head coach was learning on the job.
Pittman has been learning for over 30 years.
The difference is not something you have to look very hard to see because this team has beaten the Mississippi teams and had one stolen from them in Alabama.
It’s also not very hard to see what changed … and it wasn’t the players.