While Arkansas fans may be feeling some mix of anger and nervousness after losing Sam Pittman -- one of the best offensive line coaches in the nation -- to conference foe Georgia, head coach Bret Bielema seems as confidant as ever. The Razorback coach discussed the news following the team's Saturday bowl practice.
In the immediate future, look for Arkansas to give graduate assistant Eric Mateos an opportunity to coach the line in the Liberty Bowl.
"Eric Mateos our GA here has been with us for three years, my thought is to get him in that spot," Bielema said. "As far as a search to (find Pittman's replacement), I've got a list of four to five guys that I keep with me all the time. This is a prestigious program for any offensive line coach. I began to hear from people as early as 3 a.m. this morning and I'm sure my phone is blowing up right now."
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Bielema even took the opportunity to take a shot at Georgia for their continued pursuit of coaches on his staff.
"Maybe I should just call Kirby and we should just exchange cities, make it a lot easier," Bielema joked. "I think I've proven in my history, when I have a situation like this pop up, I've been able to replace (former coaches) with someone of equal caliber or higher. This situation, it's all coming about because the first person they went after was a current position I had and they went after a couple others before they went after someone I use to have. To get to where we are is a true feather in my cap about how we can hire and make people move (up)."
Bielema is of course referring to Kirby Smart asking for permission to interview current offensive coordinator Dan Enos, which Arkansas denied. Because of a clause in Enos' contract, he was unable to leave Fayetteville for Athens. Having to move on from Enos, the Bulldogs eventually hired former Razorback coordinator Jim Chaney.
The Razorback head coach also addressed the Friday night meeting at Pittman's house, in which Bielema claims he brought the players over to have his former line coach explain for himself to his position players why he had decided to leave.
"I wanted Sam to address the lineman as to why this was happening," Bielema said. "I felt that was the last thing he could do and he didn't want to do it. So I just took them to him."