2. Sam Pittman, Arkansas
In the SEC West, there’s Nick, and Coach O, and Gus, and Jimbo, and Kiffin, and Leach, and …
He doesn’t have the brand name, but Bret Bielema had that and it didn’t work out so hot in Fayetteville.
Chad Morris had the upside coming off a resurgence at SMU, and that didn’t work out so well.
Arkansas went 11-2 in 2011 with a Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State. In the eight years since then, the program has gone 37-54. Even worse, it lost its last 19 SEC games, hasn’t beaten Alabama since 2006, and it’s coming off its worst back-to-back seasons since winning four games total in 1931 and 1932.
Enter Pittman, a 58-year-old career assistant with one stint as a head man at the community college level in the early 1990s.
He was a star of an offensive line coach at Georgia over the last few years, and that came after handling the Arkansas line for three seasons. Now it’s his job to bring the program back to respectability, much less any sort of prominence.
He’s not a big name – especially in a division that just hired Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach – but there’s plenty of reason to hope for a huge early turnaround.
It’s not like Morris dominated on the recruiting trail, but a slew of his recruits are starting to mature. Almost everyone on last year’s offense is back, and Pittman did a wonderful job with his recruiting class even though he had little time to work.
Former Florida QB Feleipe Franks has transferred and should be ready to go this fall, and almost everyone on the defensive back seven is back. Throw in a slew of transfers for the defensive side, and at least an experienced group will be in place.
And then there’s the schedule. Arkansas can’t take anything for granted lately, but Kent State, Charleston Southern, ULM. Win those three, and it’s already a better season than either 2018 or 2019.
Coming off a week off, can the Hogs beat a Tennessee team coming off the date with Alabama? Can they have a shot against an Ole Miss team coming off a trip to Texas A&M?
As bad as things were last season, three of the losses were by a touchdown or less.
There won’t be any expectations, but win five games, and everyone will know who Sam Pittman is going into 2021.