Arkansas ‘closing in’ on defensive coordinator hire

Update: 3:06 pm – Sources have confirmed to HawgSports’ Trey Biddy that Bruce Feldman’s report is accurate on Tulane defensive coordinator Chris Hampton emerging as a strong candidate to watch in Arkansas’ search for a defensive coordinator.

Hampton has emerged as a prime suspect to replace Barry Odom as defensive coordinator for the Arkansas Razorbacks. HawgSports sources have confirmed an earlier report from Bruce Feldman that Hampton is indeed a strong name to watch for the position. Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said on Friday that he was getting close to naming his new defensive coordinator but was also trying to get the timing right. Last season, Hampton’s Tulane defense finished second in the AAC in scoring defense (by 0.2 points per game) at 20.5 ppg, which was 25th nationally. Both those marks were dramatic improvements over his first season as DC in 2021. The Green Wave was third in yards per game allowed at 342.4 yards per game. which is 33rd nationally. Hampton spent 2016-19 coaching Tulane defensive backs before leaving to coach cornerbacks at Duke in 2020.

Arkansas football is 10 days deep into a crucial coaching search to fill its vacant defensive coordinator position following Barry Odom‘s departure to take over the program at UNLV, and Razorback head coach Sam Pittman told media on Friday he is closing in on making a hire.

Pittman is unsure on when he will make an announcement and admitted he is going through a balancing act of doing what is best for his program while showing respect to other schools as the Early Signing Period is set to open up Wednesday, December 21.

“The defensive coordinator hire, we’re closing in on that. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do as far as announcing that. I think I’m weighing our program and possibilities of hurting our recruiting versus hurting some other university’s recruiting. It is so close to signing day.

“So, I’m closing in on that. I just don’t know when I’m comfortable making a decision as far as when to announce that. Again, I’m weighing a lot of things for our university and our players first and foremost, and others as well. I think that’s where we’re at right now.”

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There is no understating the importance of this hire for Pittman, who had retained his initial coordinators for each of his first three seasons in Fayetteville. Not only is it his first coordinator change since taking the Arkansas job, it comes on the heels of a 6-6 regular season that fell short of expectations, in some part due to a defense that ranked No. 90 nationally in scoring defense (28.8 ppg) and No. 123 in total defense (453.3 ypg).

Pittman stopped short of stating whether or not he has placed a premium on making a veteran, experience hire in a similar mold to Odom, or if he has been more flexible in his search, but when asked what the top attributes he has looked for during the defensive coordinator search, he was quick to bring up the importance of recruiting, which will be critical from the jump with transfer portal season at a fever pitch as well as long-term as the Razorbacks continue to lay a foundation through the high school ranks .

From a schematic standpoint, Pittman wants to see his defense to be more multiple, better-equipped to deploy a four-man front and more aggressive.

“When you answer questions like this, sometimes it’s taken like you’re knocking the past. I’m not. I was very happy,” Pittman said. “We need a guy that can recruit. That’s a big part. I’ll never forget when I went to Georgia, [Kirby Smart] said, ‘You’ve got to change your room. You have to.’ Especially with the portal going on right now, you’ve got to have somebody that can recruit. I’d like to have somebody that’s multiple. I’d like to get into a four-man front more. I think our strengths go to that a little bit more now than what we were in the past.

“I want a good man. One that gets along with his staff and the players respect. I’m looking for some aggressiveness out of that coordinator. I think I said recruiting, coaching, those two things are big. And then what kind of person is he. Will he be able to go get players and will he be able to keep them. And you’re not going to be able to keep all of them. I get that. I don’t believe any school is keeping all of them. But that’s what I’m looking for and I think I’ve found it in two or three guys.”

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