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Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman on Facing Alabama, and What His Mom Said When Nick Saban Tried to Hire Him

The Arkansas head coach talked with reporters as the Razorbacks turned their attention toward hosting No. 2 Alabama on Saturday.

Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman met with reporters in Fayetteville on Monday as the Razorbacks tried to shake off the tough loss to Texas A&M and turned their attention toward hosting No. 2 Alabama. 

Nick Saban is undefeated against the Razorbacks since he took over the Crimson Tide in 2007. 

Here's what Pittman had to say about Alabama, including about what his mother said when Nick Saban tired to hire him shortly after he arrived at Arkansas as an assistant coach in 2013:

"We’re really excited to play Alabama, to get back home. They have a great team. Watching tape on them they're very explosive, really good on defense. Obviously have probably the best player in college football on defense, and the best player in college football on offense. Bryce Young if it's possible to better than he was last year, he is. Big physical offensive line and defensive line. But we're going to be very excited to get in our stadium and play the national CBS game."

On handling the tough loss to Texas A&M:

I think we're fine. You know after game and on the bus I was going to the airport I went back and talked to each and every one of them. The great thing about is that we’re not used to it. That was only [the second loss] in the last 10 games and but it but it hurt. But every Saturday you put yourself in that situation, you just try to do the best you can as a coach and as a player. We're going to flush it out of here in the first half of our [team] meeting and then the second half is going to be on Alabama, and we've got to learn from some things that we did, and have some things that we have to not do. Once we get that handled we'll move on, but we don't have time. We’ve got the University Alabama coming in here and I'm sure we'll rebound and be excited to play.

Is KJ Jefferson trying to maybe do too much at times this season?

I don't think so. I think his ball security hasn't been as good as what it was a year ago, carrying it. I think he just gets caught up in the moment. If you look back at Ole Miss last year, he dove over those guys and extended the ball and all that kind of stuff, I think he was trying to win the game and probably that's about it to be honest with you.

On gaining some confidence from last year’s close game with the Crimson Tide:

Well, 'Bama, they can beat you before you even run out on the field. Programs like that, Georgia, I don't know in other conferences maybe USC’s that way, I don’t know, maybe Oklahoma is that way, you know, per say in the Big 12 or whomever it may be. But I think what happens when you play somebody close and you start having some belief that you know we got pretty good team, we can go out not making mistakes play well, play hard, get some turnover sayings that nature and you have a chance to win a game and certainly that's where we're at now with our football team.

On linebacker Drew Sanders facing his former team:

I don't know. [That] might be a good question for him. I would assume for him there would be some familiarity with what Alabama's doing. There's gotta be something in there, we’ll probably try to downplay that as much because it is just about shedding blocks and tackling, and doing his assignment. Obviously it’s different because you know people in high school, they probably know each other if they play close rivalry games and things, so he's probably been somewhat through that but nothing like this week. He's mature guy. I would assume it won't affect him too much.

On Bryce Young, what’s different?

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A lot of confidence. In everything he does, whether he’s throwing, whether he’s scrambling, staying in the pocket until the last second. When he gets outside the pocket he just looks comfortable, like ‘I could run it for a touchdown,’ ‘I can throw it for a touchdown,’ ‘I'm just gonna do kind of whichever one I decide to do.’ He’s been so hard to tackle for the teams that he's been playing. Texas is only team really that much pressure on them at all, and they they did pressure on well, but I just think he's playing with an extreme amount of confidence and he's obviously been a good player for probably since he was in 6th grade or whatever. Very, very, very confident. Got lot of players around him yes from really good backs.

On Will Anderson Jr.:

He had such a Goodyear last year, he's right where he was last year. You have to have a plan for him. You have to look out there and think ‘Who could change the game on both sides of the ball,’ and you have to try to eliminate him as much as you can with your schematics and double-team him or whatever it may be for protection, whatever you wanna do. But I’ve seen him -- he's took over a couple of their games defensively just seconds -- 16 seconds, 15 whatever, where they to run or pass he’s just … they got a whole bunch of good players on defense and they D-line, but he sticks out still.

On Alabama’s playmakers:

OK well they got Burton, you know, who came in from Georgia, who is a really good player. Then they got Holden, who is a really good player. You can go down the line a little bit with Bonds and Brooks at wide receiver. They got a really good tight end and then you look at the running backs and they -- because they're so far ahead all the time they played five and sometimes six, you know, with Sanders and Williams and Miller. Their main two obviously are Gibbs, the transfer from [Georgia] Tech and McClellan They play those guys about the same amount, or maybe Gibbs a little bit more. But they’re big, really good players, and Gibbs returns kickoffs as well. But a lot of speed. They have a big offensive line. The Louisville transfer, Harrell, he hasn’t played yet. I don’t know if he’ll be coming back … they have three wideouts who haven’t played yet. It doesn’t look like they’re missing them too much to me, but we’ll see.

On Nick Saban’s age, and his trying to hire Pittman almost 10 years ago:

I don't know if you're supposed [talk about that] to or not, I think he's fantastic. He's been so kind, so good to me. I sat right next to him in the SEC head coaches meetings and asked him questions and he's been kind enough to answer them. He's treated me outstanding, and I have nothing but wonderful things to say about him. He’s the greatest coach all time and in college football in my opinion. But yeah, I was kind wondering when he's going to retire too (laughing), but I don’t know when that’s gonna come.

As for the [assistant] story, I had just been here about four or five weeks and had been talking with players about loyalty and this and that, and you can't be hypocritical. And my mom told me she didn't raise a son that would do that. So that ended that conversation.

Were you tempted?

Yes. But I loved it here at the time you know when I was an assistant coach as well now, but I gave Brett [Bielema] my word and with the kids, I was their coach and had been for five or six weeks, I can't remember, it wasn’t very long. And then I called my mom and she told me she didn’t raise a son who would do that. I said ‘Yes Mam,” and that was the end of it.

Sam Pittman and Nick Saban

Does Alabama having so many blowouts make it tougher to scout?

A little bit, but you’ll get a half. You’ll get a half of all of those games, 'cause they're they're playing whatever their game plan is and what do they like to do against whatever defense, whatever offense. Yeah, I mean because most of the three of the four games you're seeing the second- and third-team guys in there. But at that point you're going back a little bit of the base offense, you’re understanding this is what they do base-wise for most of the time with what guys do with their second- and third-team guys when they come in, so yeah a little bit. The Texas game we shared a good game to watch and learn from that one as well. But yeah, three of the four haven’t been close. 

See Also:

Everything Nick Saban Said to Open Arkansas Week