Andy Hodges

Getting better comes with experience along with coaching

The Hogs’ secondary is showing improvement and if it’s causing the offensive inconsistencies we have a whole new set of questions.

It probably shouldn’t be that surprising Arkansas’ secondary may have improved enough that the offense isn’t looking too good in spring practice.

Barry Odom coaches the secondary in addition to coordinating everything on that side of the ball.

Sam Pittman sees it every day in practice and what he’s seeing in scrimmages he likes.

“They’ve been able to take what they’re doing in individual each day and you guys see them out there every single day,” Pittman said after Saturday’s scrimmage. They’re starting to do that in a game setting in a team setting.

Any time you can do that, you’ve turned yourself into a fine football player and the secondary’s doing that right now.”

Odom has been able to do all of this without having to answer a lot of annoying questions about the defense or secondary. Part of it’s due to covid making everything a little strange.

Another part is Pittman doesn’t want his assistants dealing with the media. He’s not alone in that. A lot of head coaches do all the talking except for the occasional brief interviews with players.

Pittman sees it every day in practice.

“A lot of guys look good over in individual,” he said about seeing the improvement in practice drills.

But he knows that doesn’t always mean a thing in the games.

“Any time you can what you do in individual and you can do it as well or better in a team setting, that’s when you become a good player,” he said.

What Pittman didn’t say is he’s hoping that’s why the offense is struggling at times, particularly Saturday’s scrimmage. If the defense has improved that much it would be a positive.

Let’s face it, the defense played as hard as they could last year but it wasn’t a good defense, especially in big games. When they played the better teams the defense simply wasn’t able to get stops.

They do have players who will hit you. Jalen Catalon leaps to mind immediately and he had a big hit in the scrimmage. Simeon Blair has also developed pretty well, getting an interception off Malik Hornsby.

“I’ve been really pleased with him,” Pittman said. “He’s got a lot of confidence. He’s always been a guy that will hit you.”

Last year he played well at the beginning and at the end of the year.

“Then he kind of tapered off during the middle then came back a little bit toward the end,” Pittman said. “We just talked to him about, ‘Hey, I want that guy and a better guy.’”

The secondary has experience without a mass exodus in place. Joe Foucha is the only true senior, you look at the roster and there are a lot of redshirts in there.

Catalon is just a redshirt sophomore.

With today’s spread offenses that put more strain on the secondary than your grandfather’s days of football, big numbers are a necessity. Experience may be the most critical part of the position (along with the offensive line) in today’s game.

And coaching.

All that experience basically didn’t have great coaching until last year and that really didn’t start until the summer. In a year like nothing seen before and without spring practice, Odom put together a unit that was better than before.

What he can do with the secondary and more time will be interesting.

Of course, if defensive improvement is the reason for the offensive inconsistency in the spring brings up a whole new set of questions.

And it’ll be at least a couple of more weeks before we get any answers there.

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