In the 2021 season Arkansas Football Head Coach, Sam Pittman, continued to impress in his second season in Fayetteville. He would lead the Razorbacks to a nine-win season capped off with an Outback Bowl victory over Penn State. Arkansas would finish the season ranked in both polls [AP and Coaches] for the first time since the 2011 season and win the most games in a decade. With the 2022 season looming, what will it take for this success to continue? What will be the 2022 version of the Pittman effect on Arkansas football?
Keeping The Band Together
In the current world of college football, we see head coaches and assistants leave yearly. This would not be the case for Arkansas as they would retain both coordinators in Kendall Briles and Barry Odom in the off-season. Keeping continuity in these positions will be key to helping Arkansas continue its success coming into this season. The staff at Arkansas saw two new additions that fit well with what Pittman is building.
The first is Dominique Bowman who will coach the cornerback position. Bowman joins the Razorbacks after being at Marshall in 2021 where he helped the Thundering Herd to a #28 ranked defense. Bowman has stops at Arkansas-Monticello, UT-Martin, and Austin Peay in his coaching career prior to this season. Bowman will have talent and depth at the corner position which are two good problems to have. Players like Latavious Brini, Jalon Catalon, and others should make this transition easier.
Veteran coach Deke Adams will coach the defensive line. Adams comes in with a wealth of knowledge and experience in the SEC after stops at Ole Miss , Mississippi State , and South Carolina [2013-2015] over his 20-plus-year career. Adams will take over a defensive line that hasn’t finished higher than eighth in sacks in SEC play since the 2013 season. Adams, like Bowman, will have depth and talent in his position room this season. He will have to replace players such as defensive tackle John Ridgeway who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in this season’s draft. Players like Zach Williams, Eric Gregory, and Isiah Nichols will all need to continue to make impacts for the line to be successful.
Just Keep Winning
Prior to the arrival of Pittman, the Arkansas football program was reeling and in desperate need of one thing. Wins. Going into 2020 Arkansas had not won an SEC game in two years and had finished last in the SEC West standings for three consecutive seasons. 2020 was a wild season that was a schedule of all SEC opponents, while Arkansas would finish one of the greatest turnarounds in all of college football by winning three games. Pittman has the Arkansas faithful believing after the 2021 season that featured wins over Texas A&M, LSU, and Missouri in the same season.
This upcoming 2022 will be a good litmus test to see where this program sits on the national level. The schedule at home has games against Cincinnati, Missouri State, Alabama, and Liberty and includes road trips to BYU, Mississippi State, and Auburn. This will be Pittman and his staff’s biggest challenge so far. Arkansas will not have an open date until after the trip to Provo to battle BYU which is week seven of the season.
A New Breed of Talent
The Sam Pittman effect has started to take over the roster. In recent years you have seen many players leave but haven’t seen players from other P5 programs into Arkansas. This offseason has changed that for Arkansas. These players are coming in to make an immediate impact on a program that is on the rise. Who has come to Fayetteville to make an impact?
Jadon Haselwood – Oklahoma
Hazelwood transferred in via Oklahoma at the perfect time as star wide receiver Treylon Burks departed for the NFL. The 6-3 Junior has all the accolades and physical attributes to be the next star for the Hogs. He was a five-star recruit and the number four overall player in the 2019 class. Arkansas will be looking to him to make an immediate contribution. Last season at Oklahoma he played three games with four receptions for 65 yards.
Drew Sanders – Alabama
Sanders comes in from Alabama after two seasons in Tuscaloosa. In 2021 the junior from Denton, Texas played in twelve games gaining twenty-four tackles at the Linebacker position. Sanders was selected as player of the week by his coaches for his performances against Mercer and Cincinnati last season. Sanders was rated a top 50 player nationally out of high school and the state of TX’s number one athlete according to 24/7 sports.
When you look at the effect of Pittman thus far it has been a successful one. With the strength of this season’s schedule, we will see if this effect will continue. It will take everything that has worked so far plus more to keep this going on the hill. If he can keep these things moving forward, he has a chance. This will be a pivotal season in the early Pittman era in Fayetteville.