FAYETTEVILLE – It’s hard going to Georgia against the nationally No. 2 Bulldogs.
But two aspects for Sam Pittman going to Georgia as Arkansas’ head coach with Tre Williams and Barry Odom on his side are easier than as Georgia’s offensive line coach beset by Odom and Williams representing Missouri.
For second-year Arkansas Coach Pittman and second-year Arkansas defensive coordinator/former Mizzou head coach Odom, former Missouri defensive end Williams has starred. Williams of Columbia, Mo. excelled in Arkansas’ 20-10 upset of the then unbeaten nationally No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies last Saturday at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
Georgia, 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC, looms next for now AP eighth-ranked Arkansas, 4-0, 1-0, going into Saturday’s 11 a.m (CDT) ESPN televised game Between the Hedges (alias Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.).
Pittman last year immediately espoused the pleasure of coaching with Odom rather than against him in the 2016-2019 annual Georgia vs. Missouri SEC East games.
Williams lettered at Mizzou from 2017 through 2019, leaving the program of Eliah Drinkwitz, Odom’s 2020 Missouri successor. He briefly transferred to the University of Maryland before reconnecting with Odom at Arkansas.
Arkansas advances from No. 16 to No. 8 in the AP poll and stands 4-0 in part because of Williams bedeviling the Aggies.
Among Williams four official tackles, two sacked Aggies quarterback Zach Calzada. When not actually sacking Calzada it seemed Williams was menacing A&M’s quarterback. Statistics credited him three times for hurrying Calzada into an incomplete pass.
Anecdotally, Arkansas senior linebacker Grant Morgana (five tackles with three quarterback hurries and a pass breakup) with making Calzada an easier target to tackle and harass.
“A lot of times he (Calzada) was getting pushed out to me because of Tre,” Morgan said.
A lot of times offensive plans got pushed aside because of Williams, Pittman said recalling Georgia vs. Mizzou matchups.
“He’s a good football player,” Pittman said. “I know because he gave us trouble when I was at Georgia. Georgia had two (NFL) first-round left tackles and we had a hard time blocking him when he was a freshman and a sophomore.”
The Aggies certainly discovered a hard time blocking him Saturday. And that was with Williams operating outnumbered on the line of scrimmage.
“Tre Williams was a big difference in the game in my opinion, ”Pittman said. “I was so proud of Tre Williams, too, because he put pressure on them all night in a 3-man front.”
Even Arkansas’ offensive players, often busy getting instructed by the offensive coaches while the defense is in the game, took notice.
“Tre Williams is an absolutely dog,” starting quarterback KJ Jefferson said with “dog” now meaning high praise. “Just knowing we have him on the edge is just a great asset.”
A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher threw everything he could at Williams.
“The whole game it was a different guy coming in,” Williams said. “All day I felt like the whole game I just had to mix it up on them. I just tried to show them what I can do and just see what their weak points are and get to the quarterback and being effective.”
He and Markell Utsey, the former Mizzou defensive lineman reunited with Williams as a starting Arkansas defensive lineman, had presumed their Odom reunion would go well.
“What led me to Fayetteville was Barry Odom most definitely,” Williams said. “And the style of defense that we play. I played in it before and I knew I could come in and make it.”
Morgan predicts Arkansas won’t be the last football place that Williams makes it.
“He’s a guy that easily could be successful on the next level,” Morgan said. “Everyone should know Tre Williams’ name because he’s that type of player.”