ATHENS — The Arkansas game plan is second on Sam Pittman’s list of keys to victory and a successful rebuild, and to hear the former Georgia assistant talk it makes sense.
“If we’re not all in this together we can’t win,” Pittman said at his Monday press conference. “First thing you have to do is get your team where all of us will run through that brick wall together.”
The Georgia defense, ranked No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense last season, certainly will represents a brick wall of sorts at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
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Pittman spent four seasons at Kirby Smart’s side, helping to recruit the Bulldogs’ championship caliber roster and building a formidable offensive line.
Smart said he’s not concerned with the inside knowledge that Pittman and Arkansas special teams coach Scott Fountain — who also left Georgia after last season — have on the Bulldogs.
“We have a different offense than we had last year, and a lot of the connection to our program was through the offensive side of the ball with Coach Pittman,” Smart said.
“I’m not looking at it as those guys that were here last year being an issue for us there.”
Smart hired former Tampa Bay and Cleveland offensive coordinator Todd Monken away from the NFL to install an electric offense at Georgia.
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But Smart indicated on Monday that redshirt sophomore JT Daniels has not yet been cleared in his recovery from offseason knee surgery, lending more credence to the strong buzz that redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis will start in his first collegiate appearance.
Pittman, aware that Smart also added former Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke to the staff as assistant head coach and offensive line coach, said he expects the offense might go the way of the Rebels’ plan under Luke last season.
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“They may piece a little bit in from Ole Miss, a little bit from Southern Miss, a little bit from the Browns,” said Pittman, per HawgSports.com. “We’re trying to be prepared for a little of a lot of different places that Monken has been to.
“Obviously their O-line coach (Luke) has had experience in read and gap-scheme reads. So we’re just trying to prepare for everything from the Browns all the way to Southern Miss and Ole Miss.”
Pittman said his Razorbacks’ are coached up enough under former Missouri head coach and current Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom to be prepared for the Bulldogs.
“I think knowledge-wise,” Pittman said, “the guys can run multiple fronts and be in the right positions.”
Pittman said he believes his familiarity with the Georgia defense might be more beneficial than his knowledge of the offensive personnel.
“It would be a little bit easier to know at least where they’re lined up on defense,” Pittman said. “Now, blocking them and running by them would be the problem that we would have.”
Georgia opened as a 24 1/2-point favorite, but as much as Pittman wants to win the game, he wants his program to take a positive step in the wake of 19 straight SEC losses dating back to 2017.
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“I want them to play hard. I want them to be physical, I want you to feel, if you are in the stands, that we have a team that’s excited to be out there no matter the situation,” Pittman said.
“I want you to see a team that’s together that cares for each other and plays for each other,” he said. “That’s not fantasy island, that’s what happens on good football teams.”
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