Sam Pittman took the stage at SEC Media Days representing Arkansas but saying “thank-you” to Georgia on Thursday.
It’s Pittman’s second year as the Razorbacks’ coach, but with last year’s SEC Kickoff event canceled on account of COVID, it was his first chance to publicly recognize Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs for their role in his career.
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“The reason I mention Georgia, one, it’s our crossover over game, but the other is because of the indebtedness that I feel towards Kirby Smart,” Pittman said at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala.
“Kirby was very good to me. I wouldn’t be the head coach at the University of Arkansas without him,” he said. “We’re looking forward to going back there and seeing our friends and certainly trying to compete against one of the best football teams in America.”
Georgia plays host to Pittman and the Razorbacks on Oct. 2 at Sanford Stadium.
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As friendly as the pregame handshake will be, Smart and the Bulldogs will know to expect a battle.
Arkansas held a 7-5 halftime lead in last season’s game in Fayetteville before Stetson Bennett and UGA exploded with a 32-3 second-half surge en route to the win.
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The Bulldogs have reloaded on offense with JT Daniels now at quarterback and the offensive line in the midst of a shuffle with Trey Hill and guard Ben Cleveland on to the NFL.
The Razorbacks return 19 of 22 starters including their entire offensive line and 10 starters from last season’s defense.
It’s a team that is being built in a similar fashion and prepares each week much like Georgia, Pittman said when asked what parts from Smart’s program he has applied to Arkansas.
“A lot of it is about the program, the plans, the practice schedule,” Pittman said. “I’m not speaking for Coach Smart. I’m sure he took a lot of that from when he left Alabama with Nick Saban. I love the practice schedule like that.”
Pittman became known as an elite recruiter under Smart’s direction, too.
“The relentless pursuit of athletes is what Kirby Smart does,” Pittman explained. “It’s fourth and a half-inch every day at the University of Georgia. Therefore, that’s why he’s done such a nice job of coaching and such a nice job of recruiting.
“But I learned the importance of we’re in the SEC. It’s different. It just means more. If it’s going to mean more, you’d better get players, and he taught me that as well,” he said.
“I’ve always had a knack for recruiting, but it certainly -- what’s the word -- wrenched up working there at the University of Georgia. By the way, the folks there in the state of Georgia were outstanding to Jamie and I.”
Pittman said the people in Arkansas have been good to him, too.
“If you all don’t know much about Arkansas, it’s a proud damn state,” Pittman said. “It’s a beautiful state, hardworking, loyal, honest people.”
Pittman, no doubt, fits in.