BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Don’t expect a wholesale overhaul of the Arkansas offense now that Dan Enos has been removed as offensive coordinator, but head coach Sam Pittman does think a change will be noticeable.
Pittman fired Enos on Sunday and installed Razorback wide receivers coach and former Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton as the interim offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to see anything that we haven’t done this year,” Pittman said at his Monday press conference. “I think we may do more of some things that we’ve done a few times. And then you could see a faster pace and some things of that nature. But our volume is what we’re cutting down so that we can do something really well. And if you look in the past, we’ve been able to run the football from running these type of plays. We have them in our offense, we’ve just to got to practice.”
Pittman opined that Arkansas was trying to do too many different things under Enos, including many things the offense just wasn’t good at doing.
“You know when you’re doing a large volume you’re not practicing the fundamentals as much as you should,” Pittman said. “You’re practicing looks. Everybody has to get better fundamentally. Pad level all that kind of different stuff, protecting the quarterback at running back. All these types of things.
“But I don’t know that we can sit back in the pocket like we did for 29 plays on Saturday and expect … I mean the plays are good but if you can’t protect it they’re not. So we’ve got to do some things there that can affect the way we win or lose.”
Pittman also announced that former Alabama wide receiver Derek Kief will take over coaching his old position for Guiton, who will be calling plays for the first time in his coaching career.
Guiton worked on the Arkansas staff under former offensive coordinator and current TCU OC Kendal Briles, whose Razorbacks were 15th nationally in total offense last season, a ranking which plummeted to 119th this season under Enos.
“I’ve been in meetings yesterday and today with the offensive staff,” Pittman said. “We’re trying to eliminate some of the volume we have offensively. Obviously, it was important that we stayed in house so we wouldn’t have a lot of terminology and things to give our kids a chance to win. Nothing ever came easy for us this year. We’ve got to do some things differently, and one of them is to cut down on volume. So, I’ve been meeting with those guys all morning on that, and we’ll go from there.
Arkansas (2-6, 0-5) takes a six-game losing streak into a bye this Saturday and will next play at Florida (5-2, 3-1) on Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. when the head coach is hopeful a different offense will show up early.
Florida plays No. 1 Georgia (7-0, 4-0) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Jacksonville, Fla.
“Because, if you really look at it, what we need an offensive team that feels good about the plays being called, and I think we can still do that in the regular format,” Pittman said. “I was going to tweak it a little bit, but I don’t think so. I think we’re in pretty good shape because nothing is really new, it’s just not as much volume.”
Pittman noted that Arkansas offensive players did not appear to be motivated playing for Enos, but Guiton has traits that those same players might respond to as this season winds down.
“Well, I know he’s been really good at handling his room and that’s a guy that’s respected,” Pittman said. “He has a lot of motivation. He was excited when I talked to him about it. The guys in the room were excited for Kenny. I thought about it a lot Saturday night, which way I was gonna go, how I was gonna go and things of that nature. And bringing somebody in from the outside right now didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
“Simply because, I mean, to me, that’s more of giving up on the season, and the is not what we’re doing. We’re just trying to make a change hopefully get our kids to play a little faster and tougher and things of that nature.”
It will be Guiton’s first time calling plays in his coaching career, but he worked under Briles and was the choice over offensive line coach Cody Kennedy, tight ends coach Morgan Turner and running backs coach Jimmy Smith.
“Well, he knows the offense,” Pittman said of Guiton. “I mean, obviously, he’s going to need some help probably in the run game, which his expertise would be the pass game as a wideout [coach]. He’s a very intelligent guy. Obviously I felt like he knew both.
“Cody is in there and Morgan is in there and I’m in there for the run game and things of that nature. Obviously I thought he was the most intelligent guy in the whole offensive package, so that’s why I went with him. He’s very intelligent, and you can tell that in yesterday and today’s meeting that I felt like he’ll do a really good job.”
Pittman believes the change will likely help Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, who has been under constant pressure.
“The (previous) system was really good,” Pittman said. “It’s a really good system. And like I say, Dan’s a really good football coach. We just didn’t click in it. When he came from Maryland, they had great success over there in their offenses.
“But I do think that we’ve got to allow KJ to take some of the things off his plate that we were obviously trying to teach him for now and for his future. But we need to take those things off his plate because he’s not playing fast and he’s not as accurate throwing the football as what he has in the past.
“And some of those things have to be mentally. They have to be mental and and we’ve got to take some things off his plate as well.”
Pittman stressed there was plenty of culpability to go around and not all the blame should be placed on Enos.
“…It’s just like I told our offensive line with Dan not here anymore, that doesn’t mean all of a sudden, ‘Oh well, all our answers are solved.’ I mean, hell, we’ve got offensive line issues, back issues, running route issues, tight end issues,” Pittman said. “… Dan took the brunt of it on that, but we all haven’t been coaching as well as we have in the past. We haven’t. Maybe it was that you have to coach a little bit more in a fast-paced type [scheme]. I don’t know what the reason was. I wish I did. We’d have had it fixed by now.”
Pittman pointed at himself.
“I’ve got to be better at whatever my responsibilities are, and there’s a bunch of them. No matter what the situation is…I’d lie to you if I told you that some of the things that were going on didn’t affect me, but that’s not an excuse. It’s my job to not have a field goal team out there in time to kick the field goal, you know. That doesn’t matter what’s going on. That’s unacceptable.”
Pittman still believes can produce a team that fans can be proud of in the future.
“To do that you’ve got to coach better and get some more players,” Pittman said. “But I’m real confident that we can get it back to what is respectable for the state of Arkansas and to be honest with you, that’s all I’m really worried about.
“I’m not worried about my job, I’m worried about the damn state of Arkansas and having them proud of our football team. Hell, I’m not right now and I know they ain’t and I get it. But I’m the only one that can change it, so we’re going to work like hell to get that done.”
Guiton will begin his on-field OC duties on Tuesday when Arkansas returns to practice, but got started on Sunday in his new role.
“We’re going to have walkthroughs, which is going to give him opportunities to set a script,” Pittman said. “They’re in there right now. They’re going to have a report for me here when we get back about everything that we talked about this morning, then they’re going to head on their Florida game plan with myself in there. He’ll have an opportunity to call plays Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.”
Pittman was not sure if Guiton will call plays from up in the coaches box or from the sideline and noted that he plans to pay more attention to offense with the change.
“Well, I don’t know,” Pittman said. “We talked about it briefly, about the last part of it. I think he’s more comfortable on the sideline. So I said, ‘Well, we just better put up a hell of a game plan.’
“I’ll be in each one of those meetings as well. And I’ll just … the defense, they’re doing good without me. So I always try to find different things to help the defense. (Co-defensive coordinator) Trav(is) Williams and them can do that and I’ll just strictly stay on offense and see if we can’t help that out a little bit more. But briefly, the conversation was he felt more comfortable on the sideline.”
Pittman was asked might his be an audition for Guiton for a full-time gig as the offensive coordinator.
“Well, obviously since yesterday, I’ve gotten a ton of phone calls and all that kind of stuff.” Pittman said. “ I don’t have no time for that right now. We’re trying to win some games. But obviously if we have success, then that’ll put Kenny’s name right in that.
“You want to… If you can, you want to stay in house, especially because of the portal and the relationship kids have and all that. This doesn’t mean if Kenny goes to calling plays and it doesn’t work out as well that he’s not going to be our wide receiver coach. I’m not putting that on him. But obviously if he does well, then we’ll have to have that conversation. Hell, I’d love to have that conversation.”
Pittman acknowledging talking to numerous OC candidates when int became none that Briles was looking around at other jobs.
“I had talked to some because KB had a couple different jobs, so I talked to some people,” Pittman said. “The thing about each and every year is different people come available after each year. Some guys might not have been available last year that I knew that might be available this year, depending on whether they’re on a team that’s fired or whether they’ve just decided ‘no’ last year might be ‘yes’ now. The greatest thing about me moving all over the world is I know a whole bunch of people. So we’ll see.”
Arkansas can get better on offense before it plays at Florida per Pittman.
“Well, I think a lot of things can improve,” Pittman said. “I think we can run the ball better. If you look at Saturday, I think we had a couple of first downs right in a row and we decided not to run it. That’s nothing — I’m not being negative. Look, the man got let go.”
Injured Arkansas tailback Rocket Sanders was on the sideline Saturday and not dressed on Saturday with Pittman confirming he has been away from the team.
He never left the fold,” Pittman said. “Rocket is getting rehab in Dallas and he’ll be back whenever he’s healthy. I don’t know when that is.”
Photo by John D. James