FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas is coming off the bye week and now set to make their final road trip of the season.
Arkansas (2-6, 0-5) and Florida (5-3, 3-2) will battle in the Swamp on Saturday. Sam Pittman has installed Kenny Guiton as the new offensive coordinator. Pittman was asked about the bye week and how it helped the team?
“It’ll be hard to say,” Pittman said. “I think there’s a little bit of a different feel in the building. Coach Guiton, I think everybody is excited for him. Obviously, I think we’ve got some bumps and bruises healed up a little bit better that what we had before, but it’ll be hard to say. I’ll know a little bit more how we adjust to the new offense and things of that nature, or the less offense I guess would be a better way to say it. We’ll know more about that as the week progresses, I think.”
Pittman was asked if he talked to anyone about a mid-season coordinator change or did he have previous experience with it?
“Man, I don’t think I’ve ever been through a mid-season coordinator change,” Pittman said. “I’ve had a lot of jobs. I’ve been through some late-season head coaches getting fired. It’s terrible. But I don’t know. I mean it’s terrible for everybody: Fans, players, coaches. But I don’t know if I’ve ever been through that.
“What I wanted to do was make sure we brought life back into the program, brought enthusiasm back into the program. Accountability. And I’m not saying we didn’t have any of that before because it makes me sound like I’m blaming a guy, and I’m not. I already spoke about Dan (Enos) and my respect for him. But something has to change, so I feel like we’ve done that. But I can’t remember ever having a coordinator change during the season, to be honest.”
In addition to a new offensive coordinator, Pittman may get running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders back. In three games this season, Sanders has rushed 34 times for 91 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught seven passes for 58 yards. Sanders has battled a knee injury he suffered in the season opener.
Man, I don’t think I’ve ever been through a mid-season coordinator change. I’ve had a lot of jobs. I’ve been through some late-season head coaches getting fired. It’s terrible. But I don’t know. I mean it’s terrible for everybody: Fans, players, coaches. But I don’t know if I’ve ever been through that.
“Well, he’s back, so we’ll see,” Pittman said. “I anticipate him practicing today, but how much he can do I don’t know. When I talk to y’all again Wednesday, I’ll know more then about that because obviously I don’t know where he is physically.”
Pittman has removed the Monday and Tuesday practice viewing this week for the media. The media has generally been allowed to watch 20 minutes of practice on those two days this season.
“We trust you,” Pittman said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with that. We’ve had plenty of distractions. I’m just trying to close it in and make it about us this week to be honest with you. I don’t have a problem with y’all coming to practice at all. It’s something with Kenny and his new role and things of that nature, I’m trying to take any added pressure that he might have off of him.”
Pittman acknowledged he has cut the offense down some with Guiton taking over.
“We probably cut it down, I don’t know, if I’m guessing 30% of it we cut out,” Pittman said. “We’re trying to do the things we do well and more specific to what we can do vs. how to attack a defense. Now, hopefully they’ll combine with checks and RPOs and the way to throw off that and run off that. But probably about 30%, and probably another 5 last night to be honest with you, because some of the things we had in, I want to be able to do it that everybody’s on the same page, blocking the right guys and playinQg as fast as we possibly can with the ability to have that tempo and all those type things.
“So you have to cut your play book down a little bit because of that. But what we’re doing, I think we’re doing pretty good. And so we cut a little bit out of it last night.”
Pittman feels quarterback KJ Jefferson is looking forward to Saturday’s game.
“I think he’s excited about the change,” Pittman said. “Again, no disrespect to anybody on that. But I think he’s excited about that. I think he’s a guy that we probably needed to take some offense off of, where he could play faster and be more confident with what he’s doing. But he’s healthy and becoming…even the last week, I think his leadership skills were better. I think any time a guy opens his mouth and talks, I think he’s got to back it up. To me, that’s what a leader does. If you’re not wanting to lead, you probably don’t talk, because you’re not wanting to back up what you say. He was more vocal last week than what he had been.”
Arkansas and Florida will kickoff at 11 a.m. and televised on ESPN2.