Sam Pittman, one of the nation’s premier recruiters, was named the 34th head coach in Razorback history prior to the 2020 season and has led one of the most remarkable program turnarounds in college football since taking the helm.
Preaching belief, it did not take long for Pittman to make the state proud. After restoring belief in his first season as the head coach, Pittman pushed the program back onto the national scene in just his second year. The Razorbacks won eight games combined in the three seasons prior to Pittman’s arrival before winning nine games in 2021, including an Outback Bowl victory over Penn State, for the program’s most wins in a decade. Arkansas finished the season ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 20 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, ending the season ranked for the first time since 2011.
The Hogs started the 2021 season 4-0 and rose to No. 8 in the Associated Press poll early in the season – the team’s highest ranking since 2011 – and later set a program first by being ranked in consecutive College Football Playoff rankings after the Razorbacks beat No. 17 Mississippi State. For the first time in history, the Hogs also captured all three of the program’s trophy games, beating No. 7 Texas A&M in the Southwest Classic, winning at LSU to recapture the Golden Boot and topping Missouri in the season finale to earn the Battle Line Rivalry trophy. Pittman and the Razorbacks entered the postseason with eight wins – the most regular season victories at Arkansas since 2011 – before adding a fourth trophy to the case with a 24-10 win over the Nittany Lions in Tampa, Fla. at the Outback Bowl.
Pittman’s players have also been in the spotlight over the last two seasons. Linebacker Grant Morgan became the first Razorback in history to win the Burlsworth Trophy – given annually to the nation’s best player who started his career as a walk-on – and just the 16th Hog ever to earn Walter Camp Football Foundation All-America honors. Earlier this spring, Treylon Burks became the first Arkansas player to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2018 when Pittman protégé Frank Ragnow was taken 20th overall. Burks went 16th overall to Tennessee after being named a First-Team All-SEC wide receiver. Montaric Brown earned All-SEC first team honors this past season before being selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Burks and Brown were joined by John Ridgeway (Dallas Cowboys) to give Arkansas their most players selected in the NFL Draft since 2019.
Pittman’s program has also proven to be strong on the recruiting trail. The Razorbacks have hauled in consecutive Top 30 classes while also finding impact players in the transfer portal. This past fall, freshmen running backs Raheim Sanders and AJ Green along with wide receiver Ketron Jackson and defensive back Jayden Johnson all made significant contributions with Sanders being one of four Hogs to eclipse 500 yards rushing. The 2021 team also featured five impact players from the transfer portal, including Ridgeway.
Under the first-year head coach in 2020, Arkansas compiled a 3-7 record against an ultra-challenging SEC-only schedule in a season marred by the COVID-19 pandemic. In week two, the Razorbacks defeated No. 16 Mississippi State on the road, 21-14, snapping a 20-game SEC losing streak and claiming their first win against a ranked team since November 2016. Pittman oversaw immediate change on both sides of the ball with the offense averaging 51 more total yards per game and the defense forcing seven more interceptions than the 2019 team. Linebacker Grant Morgan earned Walter Camp second-team All-America honors, becoming the 16th Razorback in program history to earn the nod from the nation’s oldest All-America team. Pittman guided the Razorbacks to their 43rd all-time bowl berth, becoming the fifth coach in school history to lead the team to a bowl in his first season and first since Houston Nutt in 1998 (Florida Citrus Bowl). The 2020 Texas Bowl, however, was canceled due to COVID-19 issues within TCU’s program.
Before his return to Fayetteville, Pittman spent four seasons on staff at Georgia, including the 2019 season when he served as associate head coach and offensive line coach for the Bulldogs. He arrived in Athens in 2016 as the offensive line coach as part of Kirby Smart’s first staff. In his four seasons with the Bulldogs, Pittman helped Georgia to unprecedented success including three-straight Southeastern Conference Eastern Division titles. Pittman’s linemen paved the way for the Bulldogs’ rushing attack in 2019 led by D’Andre Swift, who finished fourth in the league with 1,216 yards just ahead of Arkansas’ Rakeem Boyd (1,133). Andrew Thomas, Isaiah Wilson and Solomon Kindley led the way up front on Pittman’s o-line and later heard their names called in the NFL Draft with Thomas and Wilson going in the first round.
The 2017 Bulldogs were a special team, winning 13 games, the SEC championship and making the school’s first-ever College Football Playoff appearance – a win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. Georgia’s offense that year was the best in the SEC and ninth nationally in rushing, led by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. During his four seasons in Athens, he was part of a staff that produced four Top 10 recruiting classes, including the nation’s No. 1 class in 2018.
An original member of Bret Bielema’s staff at Arkansas in 2013, Pittman helped build the Razorbacks’ offensive line into one of the league’s best. He quickly made an impact, helping Travis Swanson earn first-team All-America honors and Rimington Trophy finalist honors in 2013. His first two offensive lines at Arkansas led the SEC in sacks allowed per game and his offensive line in 2014 paved the way for two 1,000-yard rushers in Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. The unit averaged 328.4 pounds per player, making it the largest offensive line in the FBS and NFL that season.
In Pittman’s final year in Fayetteville his offensive line contributed to an offense that finished second in the SEC in total offense (456.8 ypg), second in scoring (40.2 ppg) and third in passing offense (264.2 ypg). During his tenure with the Razorbacks, Pittman mentored some of the best offensive linemen at Arkansas in recent memory, including Swanson, Sebastian Tretola, Dan Skipper and Frank Ragnow.
The Oklahoma native has coached at seven different Power 5 schools during his 32 years of coaching, including Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, North Carolina and Tennessee. With a wealth of experience, Pittman is widely regarded as one of the nation’s best offensive line coaches. He has coached 17 players that have been selected in the NFL Draft since 2013, including first round picks Andrew Thomas (4th in 2020), Isaiah Wilson (29th in 2020), Ragnow (20th in 2018), Isaiah Wynn (23rd overall in 2018), Ja’Wuan James (19th overall in 2014) and Jonathan Cooper (7th overall in 2013).
Overall, Pittman has coached seven offensive linemen that were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, including Stockar McDougle (20th overall in 2000). Swanson also became the highest drafted Razorback center in school history at the time when he was picked 76th overall in 2014.
Pittman’s coaching career began in 1987 as the head coach at Princeton (Mo.) HS. He coached at Hutchinson (Kan.) CC for three seasons, including the final two as the head coach, before getting his first FBS opportunity as Northern Illinois’ offensive line coach in 1994. He later returned to NIU to help the Huskies to a pair of division championships and two bowl games and was the first assistant head coach in program history. While in DeKalb, Pittman’s offensive line paved the way for Garrett Wolfe and Michael Turner, two standout running backs. Wolfe led the nation rushing for 1,928 yards in 2006, while Turner finished second in the nation as a senior at Northern Illinois in 2003 with 1,648 yards.
Pittman got his first experience in the SEC in 2012 when he joined the staff at Tennessee.
Pittman played defensive end at Pittsburg State, where he was a first-team NAIA All-American and twice earned all-conference recognition. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1986 and was inducted into the PSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. As a senior at Grove High School, Pittman won the state Class 3A shot put title.
He and his wife, Jamie, reside in Fayetteville.
Sam Pittman Profile
Birthdate: Nov. 28, 1961
Birthplace: El Reno, Okla.
High School: Grove HS – Grove, Okla.
College: Pittsburg State (Kan.), 1986 B.S. Education
Family: Wife – Jamie
1987-88 Princeton (Mo.) HS (Head Coach)
1989-90 Trenton (Mo.) HS (Head Coach)
1991 Hutchinson (Kan.) CC (OL)
1992-93 Hutchinson (Kan.) CC (Head Coach)
1994-95 Northern Illinois (OL)
1996 Cincinnati (OT/TEs)
1997-98 Oklahoma (OL)
1999 Western Michigan (Assistant Coach)
2000 Missouri (OL)
2001 Kansas (OL)
2003 Northern Illinois (OL)
2004-06 Northern Illinois (Assistant Head Coach/OL)
2007-10 North Carolina (OL)
2011 North Carolina (Associate Head Coach/OL)
2012 Tennessee (OL)
2013-15 Arkansas (Assistant Head Coach/OL/Recruiting Coordinator)
2016-2018 Georgia (OL)
2019 Georgia (Associate Head Coach/OL)
2020-present Arkansas (Head Coach)
1980-83 Pittsburg State
First team NAIA All-American, twice All-Conference … Inducted into PSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.