BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas head football coach Sam Pittman knew what the media was most interested in during his Monday press conference so he got right to point in detailing the Sunday firing of Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos.
“I think the first thing that maybe I can eliminate some of your questions would be on Dan Enos,” Pittman said. “The first thing I want to say is Dan worked extremely hard. He was in the building all the time, put a lot of hours into it and things of that nature. It just wasn’t working.
“Yesterday morning we decided to make a change there. Not a change, but go ahead and let Dan go.”
in its first year under Enos, Arkansas offense had plummeted in virtually every category from previous OC Kendal Briles, who left for TCU.
That included rushing yards, passing yards, total offense (5th national to 119 out of 133 teams) and explosive plays while there were increases in penalties, sacks and negative plays.
That offensive play calling and quarterback coaching will now be handed over to wide receivers coach and first-time play caller Kenny Guiton, the former Ohio State quarterback who has been at Arkansas the past there seasons.
Former Alabama wide receiver Derek Kief will take over coaching wide receivers.
Pittman made it clear Enos’ offensive players were not responding to the veteran coach in a manner that would be expected and certainly not as the defensive players have responded to new coordinators Travis Williams and Marcus Woodson.
He did so while also pointing the finger at himself.
“I think a lot of coaching has to do with enthusiasm, spirit, wanting to run through the wall for different people,” Pittman said. “We just never really had that on the offensive side of the ball. If you look at it defensively, there’s a lot of that there.
“I think you can get guys to play better that maybe even what their talents are if they believe in you. To be honest with you, up until this season, I think, that has been a positive about me that guys seem to want to play and those things of that nature.
“They’ve got it going on defense, so I know it’s possible to do. We have a lot of similar players to what we’ve had in the past, it just never clicked. It really never did.”
Arkansas has a bye this week before traveling to Florida for an 11 a.m. game on Nov. 4. The Razorbacks will then host Auburn, Florida International and Missouri to finish the regular season.
“This is not a move for any other reason than it just wasn’t working,” Pittman said. “It’s not a move to can the season. We’ve got a really good defense. If our offense can go out and function and function well, we still have games we can win. And we need to.
“ I can’t really put a finger on it except it was just rough. Our kids weren’t as motivated, and that can go on me as well. Our kids weren’t as motivated to play as I have seen in the past.”
Pittman said that mindset was clear before the game started on Saturday, one in which Arkansas only had 200 yards total offense and was held to a single field goal.
“You can tell from the way we took the field on Saturday it was like… I can remember being on the headset going ‘What are we doing?’ I mean, it was almost like a ‘Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum’ as we were going out there. And we were in the game the entire game, it just didn’t feel like it.
“Mississippi State had a great game plan and all that, but we didn’t adjust. We’ve lost our spirit, and there’s a lot to be said about that.”
Pittman noted that he spent time Saturday night thinking about the right way to try and move forward.
While saying it was not an immediate decision, the anemic offensive performance was a factor according to Pittman.
“…I don’t think anybody makes decisions like that, after we scored three points, you know what I mean?,” Pittman said. “I think you’re thinking about it and a lot of things go into that. You know, conversations, communication, lot of things go on that other than we scored three points.
“You never want to do that because you are saying really well “He’s the problem” That’s not the case. We’ve got a lot of things we need to fix, but I thought this was the best way for us to win games, so yeah it didn’t just come across my mind on Saturday.”
Pittman was asked how Enos took the news.
“He’s a professional man, a good man,” Pittman said. “Obviously, no one wants to do that, you don’t want to do that, but for the best of the team and the program, I thought that was it. He handled it professionally. He’s a good person. He’s a good football coach. It just didn’t work out here.”
That being said, Pittman made clear that his offensive wishes were being followed in practice, but not in games.
He had mentioned in previous press conferences that he wanted to get quarterback KJ Jefferson moving out of the pocket because of protection issues and stressed that too Enos.
“We didn’t do it,” Pittman said. “ I mean… We practice it. We didn’t do it. So I don’t know what to say about that.”
Pittman pointed to a specific situation in Saturday’s loss.
“Well, third-and-10, you’ve got to do something,” Pittman said. “You know what I mean? But … We wanted to move the pocket, we haven’t. We haven’t. We did the other day down on the goal line, we just missed him to go up 7-0.
“… We’ve got to do more than say we’re better than you, and you can run every blitz you want to and our back will pick you up, and all this kind of stuff. We can’t do that. It looks good on paper.
“We just can’t physically do that. I think we threw 29 pocket passes on Saturday, and that number has got to be closer to 8 to 10. We can still throw the football. We did it under Briles’ offense. But it wasn’t the drop-back, here we are, this is the point. We just can’t do it. We can’t physically hold up right now.
And honestly we’re getting so must blitz and twists and stuff, I don’t know if a lot of people can, especially our young tackles. We’ve known they’re young as well, so we’ve got to protect them somehow.
“Listen, we can sit here and say all we want about we don’t have this player, this player, this player. They are who we have, and we’re playing good enough defense to win football games, and we’re not doing it. So we’ve got to figure out how to score one more point than they do.”
Photo by John D. James