FAYETTEVILLE — New University of Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman’s first coordinator hire is a splashy one.
Pittman landed former Missouri coach Barry Odom on Friday as his defensive coordinator.
Sources had informed the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Odom had been Pittman’s top target for defensive coordinator. Pittman, speaking on the Paul Finebaum Show on Friday afternoon, said it was a done deal.
“I can tell you this, that I’m ecstatic that he’s in his car and headed down to Fayetteville as we speak,” Pittman said. “I’m ecstatic. I felt like I needed a guy on my staff who had been a head coach. Someone I could lean on and talk to.
“There’s really not a better person out there and a finer coach, finer man than Barry Odom. I’m just blessed that he’s in his car coming down here.”
FootballScoop.com first reported Friday that Odom was expected to land the defensive coordinator’s job. Odom, 43, had been closely linked to the opening at Arkansas since Pittman was hired Sunday.
Pittman told Finebaum that Odom’s experience in the SEC will serve him well.
“There’s no doubt,” he said. “And when I interviewed, I said you know I think I can put together, I know I can put together an outstanding staff.
“But I want on that staff some people that have had head coaching experience. And if I can get Barry, who’s been a head coach in the Southeastern Conference, I just thought it would be so much help to me, and I’m sure that it will.”
Odom was a candidate for the head coaching vacancy at Memphis, where he previously had served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (2012-14) under Justin Fuente. Memphis made interim coach Ryan Silverfield, who has been preparing the No. 15 Tigers for their Cotton Bowl appearance against Penn State, its permanent head coach on Friday.
Odom compiled a 25-25 record as head coach at Missouri, his alma mater. His final game was a 24-14 victory over Arkansas in Little Rock on the day after Thanksgiving.
Odom finished 4-0 in head-to-head matchups with Arkansas, and he did it with a stream of Arkansas-based players in his program.
Among them were running back Damarea Crockett, who never faced the Razorbacks; defensive linemen Akial Byers and Markell Utsey; receiver Barrett Banister; linebacker Joe Britton; and quarterback Taylor Powell, who helped direct the Tigers’ comeback victory in Little Rock on Nov. 29. Arkansas transfer Jonathan Nance had three catches for 38 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass from Powell, and the Fayetteville native Powell completed 8-of-14 passes for 105 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Odom, former Missouri offensive line coach Brad Davis and previous Arkansas wide receivers coach Justin Stepp are known to have secured positions on Pittman’s first staff.
Odom’s arrival will give him strong input on the makeup of the rest of the defensive staff.
Pittman has not made a hire at offensive coordinator. Candidates for the position are thought to be Jay Johnson, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Colorado; SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, a Springdale native; former Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, who has been head coach at West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona; Chip Long, the former offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and an ex-Arkansas graduate assistant coach; and others.
Patrick Doherty, who has been a quality-control assistant at Georgia since 2016, is expected to join Pittman’s staff at Arkansas, a source with knowledge of the hire said.
Various staff members have been informed they would not be making the transition to Pittman’s staff, among them defensive backs coach Mark Smith, director of operations Randy Ross and assistant director of football operations S.J. Tuohy.