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Hogs' Biggest Edge: Pittman's Staff Giving Opponents Fits Preparing for Games

Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, defensive coordinator Barry Odom keys to 4-0 start as opposing coaches "waste a lot of time" trying to guess.

In just 14 games Sam Pittman has turned No. 8 Arkansas football from the bottom of the barrel to people actually talking championships.

He did it the way the Razorbacks have always done it.

Going back to when Frank Broyles finally got a phone call from John Barnhill in 1958 to come to Fayetteville, the Hogs have always won big following the same formula:

• Some good players who play great.

• Having early success playing a schedule where early wins provide confidence and drive fans into a frenzy.

• Getting the breaks every team needs to win a game here and there.

• Experienced leadership within the team.

• Great coaching that drives opponents crazy trying to figure out what's coming.

READ MORE: Why Sam Pittman Brings Other Coaches to Sidelines

It doesn't matter what successful year you want to talk about in the last 63 years, those are the ingredients in every big season.

"Man, I got some good coaches now," Pittman said after Saturday's 20-10 win over Texas A&M that launched the Hogs into the national spotlight.

It starts with offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and defensive coordinator Barry Odom. They let Pittman deal with the media and the PR stuff. All they do is concoct schemes.

"Umm, everything," No. 2 Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Wednesday about what their defense has to be ready for in Saturday's matchup. You have to defend the entire field, right?"

Smart has noticed Briles' flexible approach. Like really good coaches tend to do, Briles has adapted what he's learned over the years to what he's got.

"He’s not limited to what he does," Smart said about Briles. "He does what the players do well. You’ve got a quarterback like KJ who creates issues and problems for defenses and then you’ve got good matchup guys, you’ve got speed at back. Got a really good team."

It's not a shy approach to offense, either.

"He is fearless," Pittman said. "Everything that he calls he thinks is going to work. Everything. There's not a question in his mind, that you know, they're going to press Burks and KJ is going to throw a wonderful ball."

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Much the way Broyles was fascinated listening to Lou Holtz' game plans, Pittman likes watching what Briles is doing.

"It's kind of neat to be on the headsets hearing them talking pre-snap this is a touchdown," Pittman said. "It's kinda cool."

Odom does essentially the same thing on the other side of the ball.

"I can’t say we make people left-handed as much as they do," Smart said Wednesday. "It’s just different, I can’t explain it, you would have to watch the tape. Their kids play extremely hard, extremely physical, the strain is enormous."

As a longtime assistant coach, Pittman knows exactly what opponents are dealing with.

"You can waste a lot of time (preparing)," he said.

The biggest part of it, though, is just a more relaxed environment around the entire football program. The popular term these days is "culture" and every coach either has it or is trying to figure out how to do it right.

"There’s no brief way to describe it," Smart said about what Pittman has done transforming the Hogs. "It’s culture, it’s creating the right atmosphere, it’s getting key players at key positions."

And in today's environment with basically free agency for players there's no need for the long building process of years past.

"With the portal, the transfer situation and recruiting the way it is, you can turn over a little quicker than maybe having to build it from the ground up," Smart said.

READ MORE: Hogs Land Highest-Rated Hoops Commitment in 29 Years

Smart thinks the biggest keys, though, are what Briles and Odom are doing.

"(Pittman)’s also got two really good coordinators and that’s part of being a good head coach," Smart said, "is having two guys with good experience at what they do."

Now fans are just hoping it works out again this week against the best team the Hogs have faced this year.

Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. and will be televised on ESPN.


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