Andy Hodges

Is figuring out Razorbacks’ identity biggest challenge facing Pittman?

Athlon Sports’ Nick Kayal admittedly knows very little about new Arkansas coach Sam Pittman which puts him in the same boat with just about everybody else.

Right now there are more questions than answers surrounding Arkansas football with a first-year coach that’s never been a head coach or even a coordinator at the college football level.

“I’m not sure many people know a ton about the guy other than reading his Wikipedia page or looking at his resume,” Nick Kayal of Athlon Sports on Wednesday morning told Tye Richardson and Tommy Craft (The Morning Rush) on ESPN Arkansas about new Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman.

That’s not as negative as it sounds. It’s more of a reflection of the lack of a track record to go on combined with Pittman being an offensive line coach and those guys aren’t in the headlines a lot.

College football insiders have known how respected Pittman is developing NFL-ready linemen and being a relentless recruiter.

Nobody has a clue how he’ll do as a head coach at a place where the football program has dug deeper down the chaos hole for several years.

“What a lot of people do when they look at a coach at a program in the conference, they automatically look at the head coach and if the name doesn’t have any glitz or glamour to it or if it’s not a splashy hire or sexy move we automatically assume he’s not going to get that program back to where it needs to be,” Kayal said.

Ole Miss hired Lane Kiffin for that.

The same with Mississippi State and Mike Leach. When things went sideways in the Missouri coaching search they grabbed Eliah Drinkwitz, who at least had one year as a head coach at Appalachian State.

The Hogs have been going through an identity crisis for over a decade. They had some winning years in there but it was clear (even winning 11 games just a few seasons ago) that wasn’t going to continue.

Nobody has really understood the uniqueness of the Arkansas program for over a decade. They’ve tried to create success and programs from other places into the Razorback program and it has failed miserably.

“They are going through an identity crisis right now from where they were five years ago with a guy like Bret Bielema to Chad Morris,” Kayal said. “From a physical, up-front trench team to more of a spread team. We’ve seen the differences the last five years. The win total go from 8 to 7 to 4 to 2 and 2.”

He compared the Hogs to Vanderbilt, who have actually moved ahead of Arkansas in the league. It was Craft who pointed out Arkansas has to get back to competing with the M’s on their schedule … that’s Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Missouri.

Let all of that sink in for a minute. When Missouri came into the league in 2012 there were media people in this state that laughed at the Tigers and said it would be years before they could compete much less win anything.

All they did was win the SEC East two straight years in their second and third years in the league. None of us know if the Hogs will ever get back to that level. Most will continue to predict doom and gloom.

“Now it just seems they’re facing a major identity crisis,” Kayal said. “Before you can rebound and become relevant again you’ve got to decide what you want to be and what you are. That’s the issue they’re going to face this year.”

Pittman at least understands what Arkansas is. He’s shown that in the few months he’s had the job.

But there are more questions than answers and he would probably admit that. Shoot, Pittman hasn’t even had a chance to see his players on a practice field with a ball.

And it’s all speculation … even for folks like Kayal.

“I’d be lying if I said he was going to fail or he was going to get this team back to eight wins in two or three years simply because I don’t know enough about the guy,” he said.

At least we can start seeing SOMETHING on Monday. That’s when the players officially start working out again.

And even that won’t provide answers.

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