FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Six Arkansas football assistant coaches have signed amendments to employment agreements and three more are in the process of finalizing agreements, Razorback football head coach Bret Bielema announced Thursday.
“We are pleased with the continued progress being made within our football program, both on and off the field, under the leadership of Coach Bret Bielema and his coaching staff,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long said. “As the 2014 season progressed and momentum continued to build, we began discussions with Coach Bielema on ways to retain the quality coaches we have on our staff. After letting the season play out, we proposed extensions and pay increases to maintain the momentum of our program and remain highly competitive with coaches’ compensation within in the Southeastern Conference.”
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith, offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Sam Pittman, tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr., defensive line and specialists coach Rory Segrest, defensive backs coach Clay Jennings and head strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert have all signed contract extensions.
“I am appreciative of Jeff Long and our administration for working proactively to retain the outstanding coaches who are a part of our staff,” Bielema said. “This is another tremendous show of support for the direction of our program and a meaningful commitment to the success of Razorback Football.”
Robb Smith joined the Arkansas staff in 2014 and has transformed the Razorback defense into one of the nation’s top units in just one season. Under Smith’s direction, Arkansas finished the 2014 season ranked No. 10 nationally in scoring defense and total defense, the highest the Razorbacks have been ranked in either category since joining the SEC in 1992. Arkansas also became the first unranked team in college football history to shut out back-to-back ranked opponents.
Pittman just finished his second season as Arkansas’ offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. The Razorbacks have allowed just 22 sacks in his tenure, leading the SEC in the statistic in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Behind a stout offensive line, Arkansas was the only team in the nation to have two players rush for 1,000-plus yards in 2014.
Lunney Jr., in his second season as the Razorbacks’ tight ends coach, has elevated the tight end position to one of the most important in Arkansas’ offensive attack. Tight end Hunter Henry earned All-SEC Second Team honors this season with 37 receptions for 513 yards. Henry was an SEC All-Freshman team honoree in 2013. Lunney was also instrumental in helping AJ Derby convert from quarterback to tight end during the offseason. Derby finished the 2014 campaign as Arkansas’ third-leading receiver with 22 receptions for 303 yards and is preparing for the NFL Draft.
Segrest joined the staff in 2014 and helped the Razorback defense reach unprecedented heights with back-to-back shutouts of No. 17 LSU and No. 8 Ole Miss. He helped defensive end Trey Flowers finish his Arkansas career ranked second in school history in tackles for loss (47.5) and the all-time active career leader in the SEC. Segrest coached two All-SEC Second Team selections in Flowers and defensive tackle Darius Philon.
With Jennings’ guidance, the defensive backs became one of the most improved units on the team. Cornerback Jared Collins broke up 13 passes in the 2014 season, tied for the most of any player in the SEC. His unit helped limit Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper to just two receptions for 22 yards in the Oct. 11 meeting. Cooper finished the season as the nation’s second-leading receiver and third in Heisman Trophy voting.
Herbert finished his second season as the Razorbacks’ head strength and conditioning coach and helped Arkansas student-athletes develop into some of the most physical players in the SEC. The Razorbacks’ starting offensive line in 2014 was larger than any starting offensive line in the NFL. Flowers was named the SEC Freak of the Year by Tim Tebow on SEC Network and also had a video go viral on social media after he box jumped 55 inches in the Razorback weight room.
Amendments to employment agreements for offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jim Chaney, running backs coach Joel Thomas and wide receivers coach Michael Smith are being finalized and will be released in the near future.
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