FAYETTEVILLE — Despite rumors swirling about his future, Sam Pittman reiterated on Monday that he plans to remain the Arkansas football coach in 2024 and beyond.
Calls for his job reached a fever pitch this weekend following an uninspired and lifeless effort against Auburn, as the 48-10 loss dropped the Razorbacks to 3-7 and eliminated any hope of reaching a bowl game.
Pittman said following the game that he wasn’t worried about his job security and, after making through a 24-hour period that saw two other SEC coaches fired, told reporters that not only would he be on the sideline for the Arkansas vs FIU game on Saturday, but he didn’t plan on retiring any time soon.
“Jamie and I, when we got here, we were planning on coaching here until whatever that date was that we were going to do down to Hot Springs and call it a day,” Pittman said. “I’m not close to that year right now, and the plan is to get this program back to where it deserves to be and stay here as long as we possibly can.
“My job is to get ready for FIU. I’m not worried about my job security — at all. And I think I’m the guy for the University and I want to stay here for a long time.”
Blocking out the outside noise has been challenging, Pittman admitted, but that’s what he’s tried to do as the Razorbacks turn the page to their final non-conference game of 2023, which has a 6:30 p.m. CT kickoff and will be televised on ESPNU.
In fact, he said he didn’t even anticipate bringing it up with the team this week, as that’d just take away time that could otherwise be used to prepare for FIU.
“I’m not going to address it because I don’t think it’s as severe as y’all do,” Pittman said. “But if they ask me about it, then I’m going to explain about that, but I don’t have time really to explain about my job security, to be honest with you. We’ve got to beat FIU and that’s an honest answer.
“If I was worried about me personally, I think it would take away from what we’re trying to get done here. I’ve got a job to do, I get paid to do it. I need to do a better job, so I can’t really sit around worried about my job security or me.”
It’s impossible to ignore the fact that Pittman’s seat has warmed considerably over the season. A six-game losing streak capped by an ugly 7-3 home loss to Mississippi State — which fired first-year head coach Zach Arnett on Monday — and then Saturday’s abysmal showing against Auburn have led to him rising to No. 2 on CoachesHotSeat.com.
As he has after every game during his tenure in Fayetteville, Pittman said he met with athletics director Hunter Yurachek after the latest loss and it sounds like the pair are on the same page, even though he declined to share any details of their conversation.
Asked whether or not he felt like he was coaching for his job this week against the Panthers and next week against Missouri, Pittman indicated his mindset was the same as usual.
“You’re always trying to win, so honestly, it doesn’t feel a whole lot different than what it does every week,” Pittman said. “We want to win and coach for our players to be the best they possibly can be.”
One difference that did emerge Sunday was the need for the coaching staff to call all of their recruits as damage control in response to rumors on social media and message boards about Pittman’s status.
He said they were well received, but was clearly frustrated with how everything went down Sunday.
“We can’t do anything about what people write,” Pittman said. “I just wish they’d write truth. Not opinion. If you’re saying a man is fired then he should be fired. We can’t deal with (untrue) things and that’s probably the most difficult thing, because they kids believe and the parents believe it. But look, we put ourself in this situation and we’ve got to fight our way out of it.”
Fighting their way out of it begins with taking care of business against one of the worst teams in the FBS. Despite owning a 4-6 record, FIU is widely considered a bottom-10 team. ESPN’s Football Power Index has the Panthers ranked at No. 132 — ahead of only Week 2 opponent Kent State.
Attendance will likely take a hit and it’s far from a brand-name school, plus bowl eligibility is no longer on the table, but Pittman said he expects his team to bounce back in their penultimate game of the season.
“I would think that we would really want to play after what happened Saturday,” Pittman said. “We got embarrassed on Saturday. I like our kids in the locker room. I would be shocked if we don’t come out ready to play.”
Arkansas Football’s Weekly Press Conference
Here are several other updates from the fourth-year coach’s weekly Monday press conference, in which he looked back at the Auburn loss, previewed the Arkansas vs FIU matchup, gave some injury updates and more…
- On what the Auburn film review showed: We weren’t handling the edge. We weren’t getting out to turn the ball back. Tackling wasn’t very good. We’ve got to do something different because we’re not wrapping up well. They out-physicaled us. Not a lot of good things to say about our blocking or breaking tackles or protecting the quarterback in all phases. Special teams, we have to cover better. We kicked it out of the zone, but we have to get the guy on the ground.
- On his message to the fans: First of all, we thank them for coming out and supporting us. WE’re disappointed we didn’t have even a good showing for them. We believe we can get this thing turned around and that’s what we’re going to do.
- On the tackling struggles: We’re just not wrapping up. We’re body tackling people. We’ve talked about what we can do differently (in practice). I don’t want to go live at practice, but you can fix anything if you emphasize it – or you can get better at it.
- On quarterback Jacolby Criswell’s role moving forward: To come in here on a Monday and answer questions and be truthful is hard because we haven’t had any conversations with anybody on the team. … Jacolby has earned the right to play some. I think he really gave us a spark and he looked fast. He’s thrown a touchdown in both games he’s played. I’m really excited about him and our future. He’s earned the right to get on the field.
- On the viral video of players watching The Polar Express: I want to reward our kids who work hard in practice by letting them run through the ‘A’ and we don’t have enough space in our normal locker room, so some of them are in a separate room. A young man made a mistake. I’ve already addressed it with him.
- On tight end Nathan Bax: Bax is reliable. You know exactly what he’s going to give you and he’s been wonderful to have on the team. We only have him for two more games, so we need to rev him up a little bit and see what he can do. I was proud of his effort.
- On the response after quickly falling behind 21-0 vs. Auburn: Momentum is a wild thing now. When you lose it, it’s hard to get back. We just never had it. Nudie gave us a chance to maybe get it stopped and we go three plays, two yards and kick the field goal.
Watch Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman’s full press conference ahead of Arkansas vs FIU here:
Arkansas Football Injury Report
Here’s the latest on various Arkansas football players dealing with injuries ahead of Arkansas vs FIU…
- RB Rocket Sanders (knee): Left the game late in the first half, but returned after halftime… Pittman said on Monday that he was fine
- RT Patrick Kutas (high ankle sprain): Missed the Auburn game with a high ankle sprain suffered against Florida… Expected to be a limited participant in Monday’s practice, but still very much questionable for the FIU game… “We’re going to be smart with him because a beat-up him is not better than what we have,” Pittman said. “But he has an opportunity.”
- CB Jaylon Braxton (shoulder): Suffered a shoulder sprain late in the game against Auburn, spotted with ice on the sideline… Won’t participate in contact drills this week at practice… Considered questionable for the FIU game
- CB Jaheim Singletary (ankle): Suffered an ankle injury at practice
- LB Antonio Grier (undisclosed): Left the Auburn game in the fourth quarter because of an injury, but Pittman said on Monday that he was fine
- DE Jashaud Stewart (undisclosed): Did not dress out against Auburn… Has battled numerous injuries this season
- WR Andrew Armstrong (head): Did not miss the Auburn game despite leaving the Florida game with an apparent head injury a week earlier… Caught two passes for 34 yards
- DT Anthony Booker Jr. (ankle): Did not miss the Auburn game despite leaving the Florida game with an ankle injury… Made five tackles
- DT Marcus Miller (undisclosed): Has not dressed out this season… Was not spotted at the Auburn game at all
- TE Luke Hasz (broken clavicle): Out for the season
- TE Ty Washington (dislocated shoulder): Out for the season
- CB Quincey McAdoo (neck): Out for the season
- OL Terry Wells (torn pec): Out for the season
- OL Eli Henderson (knee): Out for the season
- WR Sam Mbake (knee): Out for the season
Arkansas Football Depth Chart
The following depth chart for Arkansas vs Auburn was released to the media by the UA in its weekly game notes…
For a breakdown of how the depth chart has evolved throughout the season, click here.
(NOTE: It’s important to remember that this depth chart is essentially worthless, as has been proved time and time again.)
|QB||KJ Jefferson||Jacolby Criswell|
|RB||Rocket Sanders||AJ Green -OR-|
|TE||Nathan Bax||Var’keyes Gumms -OR-||Francis Sherman|
|WR||Andrew Armstrong||Davion Dozier|
|WR||Isaac TeSlaa||Isaiah Sategna||Bryce Stephens|
|WR||Tyrone Broden -OR-||Jaedon Wilson||Dazmin James|
|LT||Andrew Chamblee -OR-||Devon Manuel|
|LG||Brady Latham||Josh Street|
|C||Beaux Limmer||Amaury Wiggins|
|RG||Joshua Braun||Ty’Kieast Crawford|
|RT||Patrick Kutas||E’Marion Harris|
- There were no changes to the offensive depth chart for Arkansas vs FIU.
- However, it’s worth noting that Kutas missed the Auburn game and Crawford – not Harris – started at right tackle instead.
- There is still an “or” at left tackle, but Manuel made his second start of the season against Auburn. That said, Chamblee still played a lot.
|DE||Landon Jackson||John Morgan III||Jashaud Stewart|
|DT||Cam Ball||Taurean Carter||Keivie Rose|
|DT||Eric Gregory||Anthony Booker Jr.|
|DE||Trajan Jeffcoat||Zach Williams|
|LB||Chris Paul Jr.||Antonio Grier -OR-||Brad Spence|
|LB||Jaheim Thomas||Jordan Crook|
|NB||Hudson Clark||TJ Metcalf||Jaylen Lewis|
|CB||Lorando Johnson -OR-||Dwight McGlothern||Kee’yon Stewart|
|S||Alfahiym Walcott||Malik Chavis|
|S||Jayden Johnson||TJ Metcalf|
|CB||Jaylon Braxton||Jaheim Singletary||LaDarrius Bishop|
- The only change on defense is there is now an “or” between Lorando Johnson and McGlothern at cornerback. McGlothern returned to the starting lineup against Auburn, moving Johnson to nickel and Clark to safety.
- With both Braxton and Singletary questionable, though, there’s a chance Johnson and McGlothern both start against FIU, with Clark remaining at nickel.
|K/KO||Cam Little||Blake Ford|
|P||Max Fletcher||Devin Bale|
|LS||Eli Stein||Ashton Ngo|
|H||Max Fletcher||Devin Bale|
|KOR||Isaiah Sategna||AJ Green|
|PR||Isaiah Sategna||Bryce Stephens|
- No changes were made to the special teams depth chart for Arkansas vs FIU.
How to Watch Arkansas vs FIU
Date: Saturday, Nov. 18
Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 6:30 p.m. CT (ESPNU)
Announcers: Brian Custer (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (color analyst), Lauren Sisler (sideline reporter)
Arkansas’ Rankings: NR (AP) | NR (Coaches) | No. 58 (SP+) | No. 46 (FPI)
ESPN FPI: Arkansas has an 97.3% chance to win
SP+ Projection: Arkansas has a 91% chance to win, favored by 23.4 (proj. score: 38-15)
Odds/Betting Line: Arkansas, -31.5 | O/U 52.5 (BetSaracen)
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…