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Arkansas' Pittman: Jerry Jones, 'Big ole good'ns' and hand-written letters

The Boss Hog of the Razorbacks has his Arkansas team nationally ranked and shared his methods for recruiting offensive linemen and why he writes hand-written recruiting letters.

Sam Pittman, the jukebox-loving, hog-callin', offensive line-developing, head coach at the University of Arkansas who's seen his Razorbacks already trample Texas and stampede into the national polls has another idea in mind to help his team this week against former Southwest Conference rival Texas A&M.

This, according to Pittman's engaging Wednesday appearance on the 'Pardon My Take' podcast.

“We haven't beat them in nine straight years,” Pittman told the hosts, who asked if Pittman might get some help from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, an Arkansas alum who's hosting this weekend's showdown inside his AT&T Stadium, against the Aggies. “Well, I'd like to turn the lights out if they're throwing deep. Maybe hit lights real quick and then back on.

“Or if we could sneak a guy off the sidelines or something like that, turn the lights out, and then amazingly the light comes on and our guy's wide open. That would be nice. I really haven't gotten a chance to talk to Jerry about that.”

Arkansas, 16th in the AP Top 25 and 18th per the USA Today Coaches Poll, faces the consensus top-10 Aggies in a surprising ranked matchup of Southeastern Conference Western Division residents.

Pittman spun a number of yarns with the PMT crew, but perhaps his most revealing insight came as he broke down his approach to recruiting – specifically along the offensive line, where Pittman carved a reputation as perhaps college football's preeminent coach along the offensive front during decorated stops at North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and then Georgia, before becoming the Boss Hog.

“The first thing you look at is feet and then kind of 1A is you look at how hard they play,” Pittman said. “It's hard to make a guy who doesn't wanna play hard, play hard. It really is. We're very fortunate we can go out and recruit, and I tell our coaches all the time, if they're not going to play hard, if we have to pry and prod to get 'em to play hard, we've done a terrible job in recruiting.

“You have to be able to bend. A guy has to have leverage. It's hard to get leverage unless you can bend at the hips. And then it's just all about athleticism at that point. You're trying to recruit a bigger defensive lineman to play offense, if that makes sense.”

The emergence of offensive linemen as true athletes – the 2021 NFL Combine saw multiple 300-plus pound offensive tackles run sub-5.0-second 40-yard dashes – is one of the game's biggest changes, according to Pittman.

“I'm so damn old I remember back in the day you couldn't even use your hands when I first started recruiting guys,” Pittman said. “The game has allowed for more athletic offensive linemen because they're able to use their hands and athletic ability a little bit more.

“I've been fortunate, I think I've had 28 guys drafted and seven first rounders. They all had one quality, and that's that they loved to play. I'd rather have a big ole good'n than a small one. I like great big guys and have my entire career.”

Pittman's Razorbacks feature an offensive line with five backup-centers, in addition to the starter.

It's also a group of players who – if recruited by Pittman – also have received a hand-written letter from the aw-shucks, old-school coach who's making Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek look brilliant for his December 2019 decision to hire away Pittman from Georgia as a first-time head coach.

“I got on our (recruiting) guys last night a little bit,” Pittman shared. “I said, 'Gah, dang, man! I'm gonna get freaking writer's cramp.' At 9 o'clock every single night our recruiting staff comes in and they do great job. It's always writing notes, then either texts, calls, film review from 9 to 10 every night. It always has something to do with hand-written notes. It's something of the past, a little bit. I think there's power in it. It doesn't take long to write it; I used to write 25 a day when I was at North Carolina every morning. Just write 'em. Write mamas, daddies, grandpas, anybody.”

Pittman said he often sees his notes on the road during his in-home visits.

“You know what's amazing is I go into the home visits, and on the middle of dining tables, there will be these stacks of notes just sitting there,” Pittman said. “I knew it was powerful, but my job is to make the guy get so close that he cannot say no in recruiting. And there's something to do with those notes.”

But when Pittman does lose a prospect, someone who's maybe received a smattering of those hand-penned letters?

“If you write all of this [and he goes elsewhere], you're thinking, 'Damn. I wasted all that ink.'”