How Sam Pittman May Go About Replacing His Latest Staff Departure

Michael Scherer, Arkansas football
photo credit: Nick Wenger

Linebackers coach Michael Scherer is leaving the Arkansas football program to become the defensive coordinator at UNLV, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The move is not a surprise, as he’ll be following the Razorbacks’ former defensive coordinator, and his mentor, Barry Odom to Las Vegas.

At just 29 years old, Scherer will be one of the youngest coordinators in college football. He spent the last two seasons coaching linebackers at Arkansas after spending the first year of head coach Sam Pittman’s tenure as a defensive analyst.

Prior to coming to Fayetteville, Scherer was a graduate assistant for one year under Odom at Missouri, where he also played linebacker from 2012-16. He was coached by Odom his final two years with the Tigers, first with Odom being the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach in 2015 and then the head coach in 2016.

Those strong connections made him a prime candidate to join Odom’s staff at UNLV. In fact, just three days after Odom took that job, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported that he would try to bring Scherer with him in a coordinator role.

However, Pittman publicly said he hoped to be able to keep him on staff at Arkansas and tabbed him as the interim defensive coordinator for the Liberty Bowl.

“Certainly we want guys to do what’s best for them and all that, but it’s just like I’ve told the recruits: Mike Scherer has a job here as long as he wants one, and I think he likes it here,” Pittman said on Dec. 16.

Scherer is viewed as a promising, young up-and-comer who had success both on the field and the recruiting trail during his two years at Arkansas.

In his first season with the Razorbacks, he coached a trio of linebackers who eclipsed 100 tackles — a pair of former two-star recruits who didn’t have scholarships when they first arrived in Fayetteville (Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry) and a former four-star recruit (Bumper Pool).

This year, Scherer’s position group saw Pool break the UA career tackles record, Drew Sanders achieve All-America status and Chris Paul Jr. earn Freshman All-America honors.

As a recruiter, Scherer helped the Razorbacks land three linebackers in each of the last two classes — Jordan Crook, Mani Powell and Kaden Henley in 2022 and Carson Dean, Alex Sanford and Brad Spence in 2023.

Finding a Replacement for Michael Scherer

If his connections to Barry Odom weren’t enough of an indicator, another sign that Michael Scherer was likely moving on this offseason came in the form of Arkansas’ new defensive coordinator.

Sam Pittman tabbed Travis Williams as Odom’s replacement. On top of his defensive coordinator duties at UCF, Williams also coached linebackers for the Knights. In fact, that’s the only position he’s coached in eight seasons as a full-time college coach, plus he played linebacker at Auburn.

When reporters asked Williams which position he’d coach during his introductory press conference, Pittman spoke up and answered for him. He said that hadn’t been decided yet, as Scherer’s status was still up in the air.

Now that he is leaving for UNLV, Williams will almost certainly take over the linebacker room. That means Scherer’s replacement will coach a different position.

There seems to be two potential options for that. The most obvious of which would be to hire a safeties coach, as that’s the position Odom supervised before he left.

However, Pittman could move cornerbacks coach Dominique Bowman over the entire secondary and go a different route. Arkansas is expected to use more four-man fronts in Williams’ system, so Pittman could have defensive line coach Deke Adams focus on defensive ends or defensive tackles and then hire someone else to coach the other one.

That might make sense considering John Morgan III, the transfer signee from Pittsburgh, told reporters that Arkansas coaches said they wanted him to play the “jack position” during the recruiting process. A hybrid defensive end/linebacker position designed for pass rushers, the “jack” was not a major part of Odom’s defensive system.

It sounds as though Morgan — and likely Jordan Domineck and others — might end up playing that more than the traditional defensive end spot, so Pittman could opt to bring in a coach specifically for that group.

Arkansas Football Coaching Staff Changes

Michael Scherer is the third assistant coach to leave the Arkansas football program this offseason and each of them have left for promotions.

In addition to Scherer going from a position coach to a coordinator and Barry Odom going from a coordinator to head coach, tight ends coach Dowell Loggains left Fayetteville to become the new offensive coordinator at South Carolina.

Sam Pittman filled Loggains’ vacated spot with long-time Stanford tight ends coach Morgan Turner, who has sent numerous players to the NFL over the past decade.

As mentioned above, Travis Williams is the Razorbacks’ new defensive coordinator. He comes to Fayetteville after a two-year stint working with Gus Malzahn at UCF. Before that, Williams was a co-defensive coordinator alongside Kevin Steele at Auburn for two seasons.

It’s also worth noting that Pittman made a change at director of strength and conditioning, firing Jamil Walker and bringing in Ben Sowders from Louisville.

There are only three members of Pittman’s original 10-man staff still with the Razorbacks: offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, special teams coordinator Scott Fountain and running backs coach Jimmy Smith.

Here’s a look at the staff changes during Pittman’s tenure as the Arkansas football coach:

  • OC: Kendal Briles
  • STC: Scott Fountain
  • RB: Jimmy Smith
  • DC: Barry Odom (UNLV HC) —> Travis Williams
  • WR: Justin Stepp (South Carolina WR) —> Kenny Guiton
  • TE: Jon Cooper (fired) —> Cody Kennedy (Arkansas OL) —> Dowell Loggains (South Carolina OC) —> Morgan Turner
  • OL: Brady Davis (LSU OL) —> Cody Kennedy
  • DL: Derrick LeBlanc (fired) —> Jermial Ashley (fired) —> Deke Adams
  • LB: Rion Rhoades (fired) —> Michael Scherer (UNLV DC) —> ????
  • CB: Sam Carter (Ole Miss CB) —> Dominique Bowman


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