How Arkansas Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman has handled unprecedented offseason with coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic
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How Pittman has handled unprecedented offseason

Sam Pittman is going into his first season as Arkansas' head coach.
Sam Pittman is going into his first season as Arkansas' head coach. (Arkansas Athletics)

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Sam Pittman has had somewhat of an unordinary start to his first year as Arkansas’ head football coach.

The unexpected turn the offseason took because of the coronavirus pandemic is something many would expect a first-year head coach to struggle with, but based on comments by those around him, Pittman has done a good job guiding the program.

“The thing about him is you know what you are getting,” offensive coordinator Kendal Briles said. “That’s what I love about him, is the consistency on a daily basis. You know exactly what you're going to get every single day.

“You’re going to come to work and you’re going to have fun, but you’re going to get a lot accomplished because he is going to be there in the staff meetings, he’s going to be directing us to do what we need to get accomplished on a daily basis.”

That consistency has helped the Razorbacks on the recruiting trail, which has been seemingly an impossible task during the pandemic because the NCAA has implemented restrictions that prohibit official and unofficial visits.

Despite those challenges, Arkansas has had some early success with 18 commitments and the No. 28 overall class for 2021.

“Well, you can look at some of the things we've been able to do from a recruiting standpoint and that's all coach Pittman,” Briles said. “It really is.”

As someone who spent the last four years in the same position at Missouri, defensive coordinator Barry Odom also appreciates the work Pittman has put in so far.

“I can't really put into words how impressed I've been with it,” Odom said. “He has created belief in our program, and it's just the way he is as a person.”

There are many programs that have had mistrust between the players and coaches when talking about COVID-19. Florida State and Colorado State are just a couple of the schools where players have expressed concern with the school neglecting the virus and not worrying about the players’ health, while continuing to focus on playing games.

On the other hand, Arkansas’ players have all been on the same page and were given the same information from Pittman regarding the health of players.

“They don't give you a manual that says, 'Turn to page seven, this is how you handle the COVID,’ and he's done a heck of a job,” Odom said. “He’s got a lot of good people around him, (but) leave no question - when we walk into the staff room, he's got a clear plan on what he wants, how he wants it, and he's been able to put it into play.”

Although he doesn’t spend as much time with him as the two coordinators, Pittman’s boss - athletics director Hunter Yurachek - has been in regular contact with his first-year coach and has also been impressed with what he’s seen.

“Sam Pittman has been unbelievable,” Yurachek said last month. “For someone who’s never been a head coach other than at the junior college level early in his tenure, he has handled everything that has been thrown at him and his staff like he is a seasoned veteran head coach.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed. … I hope we get to play football just for him because I know he’s been waiting a lot time for this opportunity and he’s handled it like a champ.”

Even though Pittman’s tenure has been overshadowed by the virus, it appears that those around around him believe he is guiding the Razorbacks in the right direction.