FAYETTEVILLE — In an alternate universe, Sam Pittman might be preparing for this weekend’s Arkansas vs Alabama showdown in Tuscaloosa.
Just a few weeks after taking the job to be the offensive line coach on Bret Bielema’s staff back in 2013, Pittman was approached by Nick Saban to take the same position on his staff with the Crimson Tide.
It was something that he apparently put a lot of thought into and even asked his mother, Jackie Pittman, for advice. Luckily for the Razorbacks, she told her son to honor his commitment to Arkansas and the contract he had just signed.
“I had told my players about loyalty and this, that and the other, and you can’t be hypocritical,” Pittman said. “And my mother told me she didn’t raise a son that would do that, so that was the end of that conversation.”
Following the “What If” trail can be tricky, but Pittman would undoubtedly have at least one national championship ring had he accepted the job — just how many depends on how long he stayed.
Would he have followed Kirby Smart to Georgia a few years later? Would he have been as enthusiastic about inheriting the dumpster fire left by Chad Morris had he not experienced the Arkansas fan base first hand?
Those questions are up for debate, but the Razorbacks — both Hunter Yurachek and fans — are certainly glad things worked out the way they did heading into Saturday’s top-20 matchup. Pittman has never been shy about his admiration for Saban, though, and the two have gotten to know each other even better as members of the SEC head coaching brethren.
“He’s treated me outstanding,” Pittman said. “I have nothing but wonderful things to say about him. He’s the greatest coach of all-time in college football, in my opinion.”
Arkansas Football’s Weekly Press Conference
Here are several other updates from the third-year coach’s weekly Monday press conference, in which he previewed the Arkansas vs Alabama matchup, gave some injury updates, took a final look back at the Texas A&M loss and more…
- On the upcoming Alabama game: We’re really excited to play Alabama and get back home. They have a great team. Watching tape, they’re very explosive, really good on defense. Probably have the best player in college football on defense and offense. If it’s possible, Bryce Young is even better than last year.
- On bouncing back from a heartbreaking loss: I think we’re fine. After the game on the bus, I talked to each and every player. The sad thing is we lost. The great thing is we’re not used to it. But it hurt. We had guys that were crying. We’re going to flush it out of here in the first half of our meeting and the second half will be on to Alabama. We have some things to learn from. Once we get that handled, we’ll move on.
- On whether or not KJ Jefferson is trying to do too much: I think his ball security hasn’t been as good as it was a year ago, carrying it. I think he just gets caught up in the moment. If you look at Ole Miss last year, he dove over three guys and extended the ball and all of those things. I think he’s trying to win the game.
- On the play calling distribution: You go into a game thinking you’re going to be about 50/50 run/pass and you have different packages. Then during the game, you go with what’s working for you. There’s always that fine line. On one of Hornsby’s plays, we didn’t pitch it back to KJ. If we do, Knox is wide open. There was a little bit of penetration and he decided to run it. Our problem right now is we have a lot of good wideouts and a lot of good running backs. It’s a good problem.
- On facing a team like Alabama: They can beat you before you ever run out on the field. When you play someone close, you start to have belief. That’s where we’re at now with our football team.
- On Drew Sanders facing his former team: I would assume for Drew, there’s some familiarity with what Alabama is doing. We’ll try to downplay that because it’s just about shedding blocks and tackling and doing your assignment. He’s a mature guy. I would assume it won’t affect him too much.
- On the return of Myles Slusher: Slusher is a big deal on our defense. That nickel spot is probably the most important position we have. It’s a run position and a pass position. I was really pleased with the way he played.
- How Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is even better: Lot of confidence in everything he does – throwing, scrambling. He’ll stay in the pocket until the last second. When he gets out of the pocket, he just looks comfortable. He’s been so hard to tackle. Texas is the only team to put much pressure on him at all. He’s just playing with an extreme amount of confidence.
- On Alabama linebacker Will Anderson: You have to have a plan for him. You have to try to eliminate him as much as you can schematically. He’s taken over a couple of their games defensively.
- On the play of Arkansas’ defensive tackles: I think overall our interior D-line made more plays. Their grading points were higher than they’ve been. That was probably their second best game they’ve played. But as far as big plays, they made more.
- On the running back room: I thought (Dominique) had a good game. We’re looking at it as we probably need to give the ball to Dubinion a little more, too. I think AJ continues to improve. We have four guys back there who can really play. Your changeup guys are really R-Dub and Dominique. At some point, we’re going to have to get down to three. We’re not there yet.
- On his relationship with Alabama head coach Nick Saban: I think Nick is fantastic. He’s been kind and good to me. I sat next to him in coaches meetings and ask him questions and he’s kind enough to answer them. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about him. He’s the greatest coach of all time in college football.
- On what a usual Sunday looks like: I think we got home around 2 a.m. No matter what happens, where you’re at, we have to have the film graded and ready to go. The defense meets with me at 1 p.m. Sunday. I always go in no later than 9 on Sunday morning and watch the tape by then. Meet with the offense at 2 and special teams at 3.
- On being outscored 41-13 in the third quarter this season: We’re going to have halftime at practice this week. We’re going to stop and then we’ll come back with good-on-good. We’ve got to be better. Something has to change.
Watch Sam Pittman’s full interview here:
Arkansas Football Injury Report
Here’s the latest on various Arkansas football players dealing with injuries…
- DB Myles Slusher (undisclosed): Returned to action against Texas A&M and came through healthy
- RB Dominique Johnson (ACL): Played in his first game of the season against Texas A&M
- DE Jashaud Stewart (undisclosed): Dressed out and went through pregame warmups before the Texas A&M game, but did not play for the second straight week
- CB Dwight McGlothern (hamstring): Started and played against Texas A&M despite missing some time with a hamstring injury in the previous game
- WR Isaiah Sategna (ankle): Did not dress against Missouri State and did not travel to Texas A&M
- DT Taurean Carter (knee): Expected to be out for a while
- CB LaDarrius Bishop (knee): Out for the year
- S Jalen Catalon (shoulder): Out for the year
Arkansas Football Depth Chart
The following depth chart was released to the media by the UA in its weekly game notes…
|Ketron Jackson Jr.
|Jalen St. John
- The only change is that the “or” between Bax and Henry is now gone. That’s not a surprise because Bax has handled all of the second-team tight end snaps.
- Although he’s listed as the backup left tackle, Chamblee did not travel to Arlington for the Texas A&M game.
- It’s also worth noting that Sategna – listed as a third-team receiver – has been dealing with an ankle injury and did not travel, either.
|Chris Paul Jr.
- The only change is that there is no longer an “or” between Chavis and Clark. Chavis is now listed as the starting cornerback after starting the last two weeks.
- Bishop is still listed as a backup cornerback, but he’s missed the last two games with a knee injury.
- Slusher returned to the starting lineup against Texas A&M, but if something were to happen to him, Jayden Johnson would likely slide over to nickel even though Gordon is listed as the backup.
|John Oehrlein -OR-
- There are no changes to the special teams depth chart.
- Although there is an “or” listed between Oehrlein and Castro, it appears as though Oehrlein is the backup long snapper based on him being the only one – other than Stein – on the 70-man travel roster for the Texas A&M game.
How to Watch Arkansas vs Alabama
Date: Saturday, Oct. 1
Location: Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 2:30 p.m. CT (CBS)
Announcers: Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analyst), Jenny Dell (sideline reporter)
Arkansas’ Rankings: No. 20 (AP) | No. 19 (Coaches) | No. 28 (SP+) | No. 42 (FPI)
ESPN FPI: Arkansas has a 6.9% chance to win (down 5.1 percentage points from preseason projection)
Odds/Betting Line: Alabama, -16.5 | O/U 61.5 (FanDuel)
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