Sam Pittman’s firing of former Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos on Sunday afternoon confirmed what we already knew: Enos’ offense offended more than it did anything else.
Let’s pull no punches here. It takes a lot for a head coach to get fired midseason, but it may take more for a coordinator to get fired. However, it had already happened once before this season.
Three weeks ago, Indiana offensive coordinator Walt Bell was fired after a 44-17 loss to Maryland. The Hoosiers were No. 111 in scoring at the time. Before Saturday’s game, Arkansas was No. 59, but we have to remember the Hogs have three defensive touchdowns and one from special teams.
As far as offensive points against FBS opponents are concerned, Enos’ offense was averaging 22 points per game before Saturday, but with his three-point output against Mississippi State, he was averaging just 19.3.
I felt like Enos had made his case to me for being a terrible hire before spring practice started, but that’s a different story. The price of paying him to pack his bags is well worth it. Arkansas will pay him the amount of his annual salary and other compensation. “After he was hired this past January, the two parties agreed on a three-year contract that would pay him $1.1 million in 2023 with a $75,000 increase each of the following two years,” Trey Biddy wrote for 247Sports.com.
Ugly Showing in Arkansas vs Mississippi State
Saturday’s performance, with an upcoming bye week to break in who we now know will be new interim offensive coordinator Kenny Guiton, couldn’t have come at a worse time for Enos. Let’s just take a look at the numbers from the Mississippi State game that Arkansas lost 7-3.
First, there’s the score. If not for an Alfahiym Walcott interception on the second play of the game that gave the Hogs great field position, they might have ended the game with a goose egg on the board. Once again, the Hogs were able to come away with only a field goal, but at least they didn’t get shut out.
Then there’s the total offense number. Despite winning the time of possession battle by three minutes, the Hogs rolled up a meager 200 yards of total offense at home. That’s the kind of total that might cause even a junior high coach to grumble.
Hell, they put up 250 yards against Alabama in Tuscaloosa just seven days earlier. And they did it against a Bulldogs defense that made LSU, South Carolina and Alabama’s quarterbacks look like bigger stars than they are.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jayden Daniels (LSU), Spencer Rattler (South Carolina) and Jalen Milroe (Alabama) combined to complete 87.9% of their throws for 813 yards. That’s 271 passing yards per game.
Meanwhile, KJ Jefferson went 19 of 31 for 97 yards — an abysmal 3.1 yards per attempt — and one interception. His longest completion was for 19 yards, which barely counts as a “chunk” play of 15 yards or more.
Jefferson’s numbers might have been slightly better, but he was under duress quite a bit and sacked four times. Some of that could be on him, but more likely, it was on the offensive line. The question is, where was the coordinator to get him out of those situations before he gets into them? He’s supposed to be up in the booth, but it seems clear that he wasn’t even in Fayetteville before he was officially shown the door.
Criticizing Dan Enos
Since I wasn’t able to make it to the game to see this rousing debacle in person, I got the benefit of hearing the announcers for the game who described the offense as “powerless” and “impotent.” “Pathetic” sounds more on target to me, but I don’t get the big bucks to sit in the booth and call the games.
Arkansas’ offense has sunk to punching bag status among the ESPN announcers who call Razorback games these days. After the broadcast of video showing Jefferson walking into the stadium decked out in designer threads, one commenter couldn’t help but crack this joke:
Before the season, Jefferson seemed like a shoe-in for All-SEC consideration. But the wheels have fallen, and so far the fifth-year senior has thrown for 1,547 yards. He’ll need to average nearly 300 yards over the next four games to catch up with his own 2022 (2,648) and 2021 (2,676) totals.
I say four games because the Hogs must win all four remaining games just to get bowl eligible and, at this point, there’s no reason to believe that will happen. Also, he had already blown past the five interceptions he threw last year and four he threw in 2021, but added a seventh to that total Saturday.
It’s true that Enos doesn’t have Rocket Sanders to thrust this offense forward on the ground, but even against Western Carolina of the Arts Magnet School in the first game, Sanders put up only 42 yards on 15 carries. Even then, Arkansas football fans could see an offense that had holes in it.
While the Hogs have been good in the red zone this year, scoring on 23 of 24 trips, the problem is getting there – and then scoring touchdowns instead of kicking field goals.
Most who are in the know believe there’s more individual talent on this team than Pittman has had on the Hill, and said talent is mainly showing on the defensive and special teams units, which are well-coached. They have players on offense, too, but when it comes to that side of the ball, it looks like they aren’t getting the same level of coaching overall.
In Arkansas vs Mississippi State, the Hogs had 12 offensive possessions. One resulted in the lone field goal from 24 yards, but the other 11 featured a trio of three-and-outs, two turnovers on downs, two turnovers (one interception, one fumble), three more that stalled out at some point while yielding nothing more than stats, thousands of clenched fists and a meme or two.
And it’s important to keep in mind that this Mississippi State defense is not going to go down in history as an especially stellar group of players. They certainly aren’t that 2021 Georgia defense that suffocated Arkansas in Athens. Mississippi State ranked 92nd nationally in total defense before the game – a ranking that will surely improve courtesy of the Hogs.
Pittman Fires Dan Enos
Best of Arkansas Sports’ Andrew Hutchinson asked Sam Pittman if he would consider in-season staff changes and the Arkansas football coach declined to answer that question.
Besides Enos, the other obvious target for termination would have been offensive line coach Cody Kennedy, whose unit has been about as effective at helping the Hog running game as Jim Jordan has been at running for Speaker of the House.
The difference between Enos and Kennedy, however, is that Kennedy has a track record of success at Arkansas. Like KJ Jefferson, who would probably be blamed for the ineffectiveness of the offense if Hog fans hadn’t already seen what he can do with plenty of protection, Kennedy’s previous success includes a line that protected the same QB with few problems for two years before Enos showed up.
It’s hard to see how Kennedy could’ve all of a sudden become the problem in his third year after so much success in his first two.
Pittman didn’t want to answer questions about mid-season coaching changes on Saturday, but you can rest assured he was thinking about it over his postgame “cold beer” on Saturday night.
For good reason, Enos was the odd man out. Bravo, Sam Pittman, for pulling the trigger sooner and not later.
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