Recent Head Coach Openings Tied to Odom, Briles and 2 Former Arkansas Assistants

G.J. Kinne, Kendal Briles, Arkansas football
photo credit: UIW Athletics / Nick Wenger

They are under contract with the Arkansas football program for two more years, but coordinators Kendal Briles and Barry Odom seem to once again be candidates for other jobs.

Odom, the Razorbacks’ defensive coordinator, has been mentioned as a possibility for the open position at Tulsa and Briles, the offensive coordinator, is potentially an option at Florida Atlantic.

Both coordinators have been at Arkansas since Sam Pittman was tabbed the head coach following the 2019 season and have stuck around despite numerous suitors over that time, giving the Razorbacks an unexpected sense of stability on the staff.

Following a top-25 finish in 2021, when Arkansas went 9-4 and won the Outback Bowl, Odom and Briles each received a raise and an extension to remain with the program for a third season.

The Razorbacks were one of only five SEC teams with no turnover at the coordinator positions last offseason and were one of only eight Power Five programs with two coordinators together for a third season at the same school.

Even with their contracts going through 2024, it wouldn’t be a shock if either or both of them make the jump to a head coaching position this season.

Barry Odom to Tulsa?

A former head coach at Missouri, where he went 25-25 over four seasons before being fired, Barry Odom is one of a handful of names with Arkansas football connections being mentioned for the job at Tulsa, which fired Philip Montgomery on Sunday.

The top candidate appears to be G.J. Kinne, a former quarterback for the Golden Hurricane when Gus Malzahn was their offensive coordinator. He was actually a graduate assistant at SMU under former Arkansas head coach Chad Morris and was an offensive analyst during his first season with the Razorbacks, in 2018.

Kinne, who has Incarnate Word 10-1 and in the FCS rankings with a No. 5 ranking as a first-year head coach, is probably Tulsa’s top target, but 247Sports’ Brandon Marcello listed Odom as a “name to watch” for the position.

The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman also included Odom on his list of candidates, as did Chris Vannini in a separate story for the outlet.

The move would make sense for Odom because he’s from Oklahoma and has coached in the American Athletic Conference as the defensive coordinator at Memphis. He also has head coaching experience and his entire career has been in this part of the country, with his only collegiate stops coming at Memphis, Missouri and Arkansas.

Feldman’s list had another familiar name on it: Garrick McGee. Now the wide receivers coach at Purdue, he was an assistant during Bobby Petrino’s entire tenure at Arkansas, first as a quarterbacks coach (2008-09) and then as the offensive coordinator (2010-11).

Other names being mentioned for the Tulsa job include former Memphis and Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente, former Utah State and Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells, and Texas wide receivers coach Brennan Marion, who also played for the Golden Hurricane.

Kendal Briles to Florida Atlantic?

In the immediate aftermath of Florida Atlantic firing Willie Taggart on Saturday, the prevailing thought is that the Owls will target someone with ties to former coach Lane Kiffin.

Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles checks that box thanks to his stint as the FAU offensive coordinator under Kiffin in 2017, when the Owls went 11-3 and won the C-USA title.

However, it appears that someone with even closer ties to Kiffin might be the early leading candidate. Chris Kiffin, his younger brother, is being mentioned as a possibility. He’s currently the defensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns, but was the defensive coordinator on the same FAU staff that featured Briles.

Briles’ successor with the Owls, Charlie Weis Jr., is another name getting thrown around as a strong possibility. He’s in his first season as the offensive coordinator for Kiffin at Ole Miss.

That said, Briles is “in the mix” along with Penn State defensive coordinator (and former Miami head coach) Manny Diaz and Florida State offensive coordinator Alex Atkins, according to On3’s Jesse Simonton.

He is not one of the 10 names in Chris Vannini’s piece for The Athletic breaking down the position, but Briles is one of eight names mentioned by Bruce Feldman for the same outlet.

“He has done a nice job helping Sam Pittman get Arkansas football back on its feet,” Feldman wrote. “Briles is making a lot of money with the Hogs, but he might be tempted by the chance to run his own program.”

Another job to keep an eye on as a potential landing spot for Briles is Liberty, which came open when Hugh Freeze took the Auburn job. The Flames’ athletics director is Ian McCaw, who was at Baylor at the same time as Briles. There are already reports that Liberty won’t pursue Art Briles, but his son could be an option. He’s one of several candidates mentioned by Vannini for The Athletic.

Why They Should Leave or Stay

With a disappointing loss at Missouri on Black Friday putting the finishing touches on a 6-6 season that fell short of expectations, the honeymoon period for Arkansas football appears to be over.

At least a portion of the fan base would like to see Sam Pittman make a move at either or both of his coordinator positions and one easy way to do that would be for them to find a head coaching job.

The Razorbacks paid Barry Odom $1.85 million this season, making him the highest paid defensive coordinator in the SEC for 2022. The only coordinator who made more was Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken ($2 million).

Despite the large contract, Arkansas gave up 28.8 points and 453.3 yards per game this season, figures that tied for 11th and ranked 13th in the SEC, respectively. The latter number also ranks 124th nationally and would be the worst mark in UA history.

However, it’s worth noting that injuries played a significant role in the Razorbacks’ defensive struggles this year. Preseason All-American safety Jalen Catalon missed all but one half of the opener and the secondary was decimated for several games in the middle portion of the season.

Last season, with far fewer injuries, Arkansas finished 39th in scoring defense (22.9 ppg) and 50th in total defense (367.6 ypg) — two years after ranking 124th and 110th in those categories, respectively.

Kendal Briles’ salary was bumped up to $1.2 million this season, with $50,000 raises included for the next two years. That made him tied with Tennessee’s Alex Golesh as the SEC’s third-highest paid offensive coordinator in 2022, trailing only Monken and LSU’s Mike Denbrock ($1.3 million).

The Razorbacks piled up 453.8 yards per game this season, which ranks 27th nationally and is the third-best mark in UA history, but red zone struggles (82.4%, 76th in FBS) led to them averaging just 30.7 points (t-51st in FBS).

Much like the defense, part of that can be explained by quarterback KJ Jefferson’s health throughout the season, but there were also head-scratching calls in several losses — such as Trey Knox taking a snap under center for a keeper from the 2-yard line against Missouri and trying force-feed Malik Hornsby to kill momentum against Texas A&M.

Then there was also the baffling decline of what had been the Razorbacks’ strength, the offensive line, down the stretch of the season.


More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…

Facebook Comments