FAYETTEVILLE – Former University of Arkansas offensive linemen Travis Swanson and Dan Skipper have been given a well-deserved assist for their role in promoting Sam Pittman to head coach of the Razorbacks in the winter 2019.
Pittman’s charges during his stint as Arkansas offensive line coach (2013-15) had seen enough losses and enough below-par play in the trenches to think Pittman was a great bet. , so they wrote an open letter to Arkansas fans touting their former pit boss.
Following Arkansas linebacker Grant Morgan’s victory at the recent Burlsworth Trophy ceremony in Bentonville, Swanson was asked if he knew Pittman would win at the Razorbacks’ current level. Arkansas is 8-4 and placed No. 21 in the college football playoff poll before the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Penn State.
Swanson, now financial advisor to Athletes Advantage Financial after a five-year NFL career, had a simple answer.
“I knew he was going to win the team,” Swanson said. “I think that’s all they needed.
” I have already said it. If you sat down and really thought about that time, when [Chad] Morris got fired, they didn’t need a new stadium. They didn’t need a new Jones Center. They needed someone they could belong to.
Pittman said he has heard a few former players talk about the team’s change in fortunes over the past two years, but is hoping to catch up with more former players after the Outback Bowl.
“I love Travis Swanson,” Pittman said. “Not because he was a great player here, because he was an incredible teammate and team leader and things of that nature.
“It was easy to coach when Travis was on the team because all they had to do was watch him work. He was one of the few players who called me up and said, “Coach, I don’t think you are training me hard enough. I want everything you have.”
Swanson said he believes former offensive linemen might rally fans around Pittman because of his passion for the job.
“You had all the other names that people were going to try to get,” Swanson said. “But there was only one name that came to my mind and that was Coach Pitt. So I was just like, ‘Why don’t you throw that name out there and see what happens. past?’ “
Sporting director Hunter Yurachek and search committee members Jon Fagg and Steve Cox did indeed get wind of Pittman’s candidacy with the help of Pittman’s original agent, Judy Henry. Former Razorback great Darren McFadden even weighed in with a reel for Pittman.
Pittman’s believers were right.
The rise of the Razorbacks has opened eyes across the country. After their start 4-0, with wins over No. 15 Texas and then-No. 7 Texas A&M, Arkansas reached 8th place in the top 25 Associated Press polls.
Arkansas’ return to respectability is a testament to the fact that sometimes career assistants who are not coordinators and lack flashy blueprints or social media profiles can motivate, nurture, and strengthen teams and rejuvenate oppressed agendas, even at the highest level of college football. .
Jarius Wright, the school record holder with 2,934 receiving yards (2008-11), said he has kept a close eye on the current team.
“One thing I can say is that the team love each other,” said Wright, a graduate of Warren High School. “They love to go out and play for each other. They love to go out and play for Pittman. When you have guys playing hard like the guys we have, the record shows what’s going on.
Wright, married with a brand new baby in North Little Rock, just graduated from AU after an eight-year NFL career.
Former Arkansas offensive lineman Johnny Gibson Jr. (2014-18) described the Razorbacks’ decision this season as very gratifying.
Gibson, of Dumas, has started 29 games in his last three seasons. That stretch included the first 11 games of what would become a 20-game losing streak in the SEC game for the Razorbacks, which included the evictions of Bret Bielema and Morris.
“I saw people talking on Twitter the other day about how uncomfortable they were and feeling like we were just stepping stones to get to this,” Gibson said. “But every former player who’s been through tough times will tell you that watching our younger brothers do what they’re doing is as good as if we were there.
“I like watching them all, especially when you’ve played with most of them. There are new guys in there, but like Grant [Morgan], Bumpers [Pool], Dalton Wagner, all the linemen and all the guys that were there when we were there, to see them do what they’re doing now, it’s like I’m there.
Gibson, now a unit manager at a Waffle House in Little Rock, said he publicly predicted this year’s Razorback race.
“Let me tell you something, I called the eight wins,” Gibson said. “A lot of people didn’t. I was telling people we were going to win eight.
Gibson said he missed a prediction that the Razorbacks would sweep Mississippi schools and did not credit the team with a win he predicted as a loss, but otherwise nailed his prediction.
Arkansas lost 52-51 to Ole Miss after scoring a touchdown on the last play of the game on the 9-yard pass from quarterback KJ Jefferson to Warren Thompson. Pittman opted for a decisive two-runner conversion with no time on the clock and Jefferson pitched incomplete while targeting top receiver Treylon Burks on an optional play with passing and running options.
Former Arkansas wide receiver Drew Morgan (2013-16) of Greenwood, who tallied 1,582 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in his last two seasons, also spoke to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about the 2021 Razorbacks. after his brother won the Burlsworth Trophy.
” It’s awesome. It’s humiliating. It’s nice. It’s impressive, ”said Morgan, assistant coach at Elkins High School. “It all starts with the foundation of what Sam Pittman has amassed in just a few years. That’s what’s scary, is how good they’ll be in the future. Because it’s not a legacy or something that they start and end right now. This is something that will continue.