HOGS, Franks eager to face No. 6 Florida
FAYETTEVILLE - Though not their position coach, young Arkansas defensive ends Zach Williams and Eric Gregory have experienced defensive coordinator Barry Odom’s supervision enough to say he’ll capably head coach the Razorbacks this week at Florida.
First-year Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman, leading the Razorbacks to a 3-3 SEC start following successive 0-8, 0-8 SEC seasons under the Chad Morris regime, has tested positive a second consecutive time for the covid-19 coronavirus.
Pittman must quarantine at home while Odom, Missouri’s head coach from 2016-2019, leads the Razorbacks into Saturday’s 6 p.m. (CDT) ESPN-televised game at No. 6 Florida (4-1).
ODOM TO COMMMAND
“Oh, yeah for sure,” said Gregory, a redshirt freshman from Memphis of his confidence in Odom. “He was the Missouri head coach last year so I feel like he knows the job a little more than any of the other coaches on the staff just coming from a head coaching job last year. I feel like we’re going to be very well prepared. I feel it’s very good he’s been a head coach before this.”
Sophomore Williams, a sophomore from Joe T. Robinson, said the assistant coaches have upped their games this week.
“They’re really leading the practices,” Williams said. “Even without him (Pittman), we’re still doing well. We had one of our greatest practices today.”
They don’t fret with Odom combining the head coaching and defensive coordinator roles.
“I think he’ll handle it pretty well,” Williams said. “He was the old head coach at Missouri, and he’s a pretty good defensive coordinator. He does things right. And I just feel like he won’t really have a problem with it.”
Besides, thanks to Pittman zooming in with Zoom technology to meet with the Hogs and review practice, they feel their head coach is with them even while quarantined at home.
“Coach Pittman is still involved with the Zoom meetings and stuff like that,” Gregory said. “So really it’s like he never left us. Like he’s still giving guys pointers and great coaching and looking out for us and stuff like that."
Williams said he’s “shocked” that of anyone, Pittman would test covid positive.
“Coach Pittman, he’s the main one talking about safety and everything else,” Williams said. “I think everyone was surprised he got it because he’s probably the main one washing his hands and doing everything he’s supposed to do.”
EX-GATOR KNOWS GATORS
Between Pittman as Georgia’s offensive line coach from 2016-2019 in the SEC East, and Odom at Mizzou from 2016-2019 in the SEC East annually coaching against Florida, the Hogs have plenty of experience vs. the Gators.
But no one in the program is more Gators experienced than Arkansas’ quarterback. Graduate transfer Feleipe Franks was a Gator from 2016-2019 and the regular starter from 2017 through the first three games of 2019 when a broken ankle ended his season and prompted his transfer to Arkansas.
Franks has provided Arkansas’ defense with insight about the Gators’ offense and Kyle Trask, Franks’ so-successful successor since last season as Florida’s QB.
“He gave us little tips from the O-line,” Gregory said. “A few O-linemen who have been there and their tendencies. So, it's really helped us on the D-line a little bit with the tendencies he gave to us, information."
As for Trask, Williams said, “He can pass the ball pretty well, but I feel like he can't really run that good. So I think we're going to go for him a bit more than the other quarterbacks. We also can watch for him running out of the pocket, but I feel mainly he can't really run so we're just going to go for him instead of trying to contain because he won't really get past us.”
On the offensive end, Franks said Tuesday’s practice under offensive coordinator Kendal Briles sailed business as usual.
“I thought it was obviously not the ideal situation with Coach Pittman,” Franks said. “But practice has been the same. Guys come out there motivated. It’s another big week and a great opportunity for our team. These guys do a great job coming out every day and being motivated, not needing extra motivation.”
It would seem Franks, a Florida native, requires no extra motivation coming home to play his old school.
Franks had just rallied Arkansas past Tennessee 24-13 Saturday night in Fayetteville when he was asked about going back to Florida as a Razorback.
“For the Florida game, man, it’s going to be kind of just crazy,” Franks said. “Not necessarily emotional for me, but I love all those guys on the staff and the players. It’ll just be fun to get back out there to play again in the Swamp. These guys here are ready and excited to play.”