FAYETTEVILLE – Back in March Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman lobbied for some kind of NCAA allowed July pre-practice periods to compensate for the national coronavirus shutdown canceling all college sports games and practices.
The national cancellation on March 12 occurred just before the Razorbacks were to hold their 15 allowed spring football practice days.
All coaches ride in the same lobbying boat, especially those like Pittman starting their first year as a school’s head coach.
The SEC allowing athletes to return to campus since June 8 for voluntary weight training and conditioning drills supervised by the strength coaching staffs and trainers was a start.
Pittman hoped for more in July but ready just to make the best of whatever.
“We’ll do whatever they tell us to,” Pittman said in March. “And we’ll do it and be happy about it.”
Presumably he’s now a happier man.
The NCAA Division I Council Wednesday voted to allow six hours of walkthroughs with a football on the field from July 24 through Aug. 6 as part of 20-hour athletic activities related weeks including six hours of team meetings and film reviews and eight hours of weight training and conditioning.
“We’ll end up having two weeks [with the team],” Pittman said Thursday. “Basically, not practice but two weeks of walkthroughs and things of that nature. The thing we need is walkthroughs to see how we’ve retained our offense, our defense, our special teams and they’re allowing us to do that in a six hour per week pace for the last two weeks [of July]. That’s big for us. Maybe it will help us figure out if we’ve got the right people in the right place. The depth chart is going to be fluctuating throughout.”
That period includes two mandatory off days of no organized football or training activity.
I think it’s huge. Otherwise, you’re going out there making a bunch of mental mistakes. I think we can correct a lot of that in that two-week period.
In April Pittman cited what the NFL calls OTA (Organized Team Activities) as necessary leading into the official preseason practices starting Aug. 7 for the Razorbacks currently scheduled to open their season Sept. 5 against the University of Nevada at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Among other benefits, Pittman said the get acquainted walkthroughs in July would lessen injuries when the practices get intense in August.
“ A big part of injuries is not knowing what you’re doing, going the wrong direction, not fitting the right gap,” Pittman said. “There’s conditioning, there’s strength, then there’s knowing what you’re doing. I think it would really help us. It would be a non-physical type of situation and all of those things, but we need terminology on the field, we need technique on the field, we need all of those things that we didn’t have the opportunity to get in spring ball. We need on-the-field movement.”
Pittman reiterated Thursday the into August benefits of walkthroughs in July.
“I think it’s huge,” Pittman said Thursday. “Otherwise, you’re going out there making a bunch of mental mistakes. I think we can correct a lot of that in that two-week period.”
Pittman and his equally new staff other than receivers coach Justin Stepp, the lone on the field coach retained from the previous Chad Morris regime, haven’t been allowed any coaching type activity with their players other than the winter offseason program before the coronavirus shutdown.
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kendal Briles has lamented he has yet to see via University of Florida graduate transfer quarterback Feleipe Franks throw pass other than as a Gator.
He’ll at least get to see that and a lot more beginning to implement the offense he couldn’t implement in the spring. That’s what he hoped for back in May discussing the likelihood of July walkthroughs.
“I think it’s definitely needed because you just don’t know what you have at all,” Briles said. “And not just the quarterback position but all positions. Football is different than just offseason training. So I think that’s going to be a big deal once we are able to see what we have and what we think we are going to be able to do because we didn’t get those 15 practices in to see what can we get good at and how much can we get installed. We’ve just got to do with our team what we think can make us most productive.”
Integral for Coach Brad McMakin’s men winning the 2019 the SEC Golf championship, current Razorbacks seniors Luis Garza and Mason Overstreet stood out academically in the coronavirus shortened 2020 season.
Overstreet, already a UA grad with a degree in business finance and a 3.89 grade point and the 2-time SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year, Garza, a 3.36 grade point set to graduate with a business degree this summer, were named Srixon/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholars, the Golf Coaches Association of America announced Thursday.