Wittke Named QB Coach

Roy Wittke will help Houston Nutt rebuild the UA passing game, and he has some West Coast offense principles to get the job done.

In visiting with Roy Wittke after he was introduced to the media as Arkansas' new quarterback coach, it was clear that his principles in coaching have their roots in the West Coast offensive philosophies that we've all come to enjoy watching on all levels of football.

"I started out at Montana at the same time that Dennis Ericksson and Mike Price were getting their starts in the Big Sky Conference, too," Wittke said. "I have a tremendous regard for offensive football."

Wittke said one of his main mentors is Notre Dame assistant coach Bill Dedrick.

"They run the West Coast offense, and while I wouldn't say I'm entirely West Coast in what I've done, I'd say that there is a lot of that there (in his philosophy), especially in the way I've learned to deal with quarterbacks. A good part of the (West Coast offense) has stayed with me."

Wittke came to the Hogs from Eastern Illinois University. Wittke was the offensive playcaller there during the years when Eastern Illinois battled against Houston Nutt's Murray State teams.

"We were in the Gateway when Coach Nutt got his start at Murray, and played them his first game," Wittke said. "I doubt he tells you this, but we beat them."

Wittke said the staff at Eastern Illinois and Nutt's staff at Murray became friends as they traded film and ideas as they played common opponents during those years. Eastern Illinois eventually moved to the Ohio Valley with Murray where a rivalry began.

"Mike Markuson and I became good friends at conventions and summer camps that we worked together in Minnesota and later in Kansas City," Wittke said. "We've always talked on the phone, but not as much lately during the season.

"I consider Mike to be a good friend. I was born and raised in Wisconsin and he is from Minnesota. So, he's a Midwesterner like I am. I had the opportunity to spend all day yesterday with Mike and I'm thrilled to get an opportunity to work with him. We spoke a lot more when he was back at Murray, but we've kept in touch. When we had common foes, we shared a lot of things."

Wittke said he was most comfortable in the press box since that is where he's been "the last five years. I think to be in that environment is valuable to what I can do for Houston. That's what we talked about. Primarily, I'll coach the quarterbacks and provide input. My goal is to put the best product on the field as possible."

As far as his style, Wittke classified himself as a "positive, energetic and enthusiastic coach. I think it's a tremendous game and I love being around kids. I think the quarterback position is special and unique. I try to bring a great deal of passion to offensive football."

Wittke had not met any of his players, but said that he had calls in to all the quarterbacks and hoped to complete those initial meetings by Tuesday afternoon, or at the latest Wednesday.

"I've seen a few games over the past couple of years, so I know some about the players, but not a great deal," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing some game film in the next few hours."

As far as Matt Jones, Wittke said the sophomore quarterback is not like any that he'd coached in the past.

"Not exactly," he said when asked about comparisons to his past pupils. "I know he has won quite a few games so he has some experience. I know he's very athletic. I've seen him on TV. He's an outstanding athlete who can make plays.

"I've had some times where we've run some option, especially in blitz check situations and some on the goal line ... but not a lot."

As far as meshing with Nutt, Markuson and the rest of the UA offensive staff, Wittke didn't see any problems.

"I know more of their philosophy from when we played them at Murray State," he said. "I remember when they won in '96 with Mike Cherry and they were throwing it all over the field. They had Cherry and Swinton and they beat us in the last couple of minutes.

"I know Houston well enough to know that we fit. We haven't gotten into specifics yet, but I think we will fit.

"As far as game situations, I think the most important decisions are made in the offensive meeting room during the week. You have things down before you get to the game and you can make quick decisions because of the work you've done during the week. I don't see problems developing there at all. Decisions will be made quickly and efficiently."

Wittke said he has had only a few hours on the job and had not gotten involved in recruiting, but expected that would happen soon.

"I don't anticipate that I'll go out this week, though," he said. "I'll be here."

As far as giving up the role as the primary playcaller, Wittke didn't anticipate that to be a problem.

"Playcalling ... that's something I've been asked a lot about in the last day or so," he said. "To me that's not the most important thing to being successful. Yes, at Eastern, that's something that fell on my shoulders on game day, but it was a staff effort during the week and that will be no different here."

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