When new coach Sam Pittman was hired in December, probably his first recruiting accomplishment was with a player already on the roster, convincing running back Rakeem Boyd to stay.
Yes, the No. 1 guy there stays in place but the depth picture will be completely different now and Jimmy Smith comes from Georgia State after a high school coaching career in Georgia.
He replaces Jeff Traylor, who got the head coaching position at Texas-San Antonio.
And apparently there wasn’t a lot of looking around.
“Jimmy was the first guy that came to mind when I was in the hiring process,” Pittman said on a teleconference Friday. “I needed to hire a great coach. I needed to hire a great recruiter. I have been as pleased as you can possibly be about how he has handled his room.”
He also can get players in the talent-rich Georgia.
“He is an exceptional recruiter and I needed a guy to recruit Georgia,” Pittman said. “We wanted to hire him when I was at Georgia, we just weren’t able to because we didn’t have a full-time job there, but he did interview there and was outstanding in that interview.”
He combined with former Missouri coach Barry Odom to recruit Dominique Johnson from the Fort Worth suburb of Crowley.
“(Smith) was the athletic director at his school as well so he knows how to handle people,” Pittman said. “He is an exceptional football coach and his future is bright, bright, bright.”
It will help that he’ll have Boyd and a supporting cast that could be an upgrade over the past couple of seasons.
“Trelon Smith has stood out,” Pittman said of the redshirt sophomore who sat out last year after transferring from Arizona State.
Just to give you a heads-up, to get Pittman’s attention in the early drills it’s a lot about effort and Smith’s work ethic grabbed the new coach’s eye.
“The guy is a phenomenal effort guy,” Pittman said. “He has a lot of talent. We don’t know if he can hang on to the ball or not. I imagine he can, but just the way that he works. The way he goes about his business. He’s a tough kid and I’ve really grown fond of the way he works.”
He will be joined by redshirt freshman A’Monte Spivey and, as usual, redshirt senior T.J. Hammonds. It feels like Hammonds has been around for a decade or so.
There’s no question who’s at the top of the list, though.
“Of course you have Rakeem,” Pittman said.
What could have been interesting in the spring is Pittman doesn’t exactly sit his star running backs down, which is a risk both ways.
In Razorbacks’ history, there have been running backs suffer season-ending injuries in the spring and August practices and other times they weren’t used to contact and fumbled too much in early games.
Pittman has a plan to be smart about it.
“He would obviously not get as many carries as some of the other kids that haven’t shown as much as he has,” Pittman said. “Nah, there wouldn’t be any limit other than that on him.”
But he wouldn’t be just kicking it on the side.
“If we were going to scrimmage we would limit (Boyd) some, have a limit on his number of carries,” Pittman said. “That would be the same with Smith, Hammonds and Spivey. We would have a number of carries we want them to get in the scrimmage.”
That position group has some depth this year, which is always needed in the SEC, but it is lacking in experience. That means, simply, we don’t know.
Pittman is optimistic, though.
“We’re pleased with a bunch of areas,” he said Friday.