There’s To Be None of That Namby-Pamby 6-8 Win Talk for Clint Stoerner Entering Hogs’ Season

Clint Stoerner, Arkansas football
photo credit: Twitter / Nick Wenger

For a few more days, at least, we get to cling to that precious preseason optimism as Arkansas football not only remains undefeated, but unquestionably on the upswing. Hell yes!!! Go Hogs!!!

The question is how long will the Hogs enjoy undefeated status? Let’s ask the experts.

Recently on 103.7 The Buzz, former Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner said the Hogs could “struggle mightily” or be “really good and really push and scare a lot of people” to win 9 or 10 games, depending on how well new offensive coordinator Dan Enos meshes with KJ Jefferson, the third-year starting quarterback.

Heading into a season in which most folks feel comfortable forecasting between 6 to 8 wins for Arkansas, this either/or is quite the…um… prediction? Let’s get one thing straight. Clint Stoerner is an Arkansas football hero and Lord knows, he knows more about football than you, or I, do. But let’s call that statement what it was – a hedge.

Yeah, there are a lot of questions around all the new faces on this year’s Arkansas football team. Almost the entire defense is new. A whole lot of the O-line is new. Most of the coaches are new, including Dan Enos who is a proven QB guy, but contrary to popular opinion, he’s less proven as an OC. We’ll get to that later.

What’s not new is KJ Jefferson. Hell, it seems like he’s been around since the Nixon administration. If he’d left last year, he would’ve been remembered as one of the better Arkansas football QBs of all-time.

A New OC for Arkansas Football

In two years as a starter under Kendal Briles, KJ Jefferson threw for 5,324 yards and completed just under 68% of his passes. He’s feared as a runner. He’s made some of the best defenders in the country look foolish. How many times have we seen him break out of the pocket and make a play? I’ve lost count.

So, the question is, are Jefferson and Enos on the same page? I can’t speak with any insider authority, but if they’ve got a problem, it doesn’t come through publicly. In fact, it appears to be the exact opposite.

But here’s my deal on Enos, which I’ve written about in the past: Everyone points to his first year under Bret Bielema, with Sam Pittman as OL coach, to make the case that he’s a great OC.  Yes, that was a great year, but make no mistake about it – and I mean this – that year was an outlier. Look at the numbers. The Hogs scored about 36 points per game.

Let’s not forget the other outlier, though. As OC at Miami for a year, Enos’ team put up about 24 points per game. That’s not going to happen with Jefferson as QB1, but his average points per game in his six years as an OC is lower than the middle of those outliers at about 28.5 ppg.

Do you know what 28.5 ppg gets you in the SEC? Probably a sub-.500 season. At least that was the case for every SEC team last year that averaged less than 30 per game except for Kentucky, which went 7-6.  

In other words, Enos is going to need an above-average season, for him anyway, to get bowl eligible.  

Now, I think he will. Why? There are lots of reasons, but they start with KJ Jefferson and a stable full of running backs, the best of which (Rocket Sanders) is about as good as you’re going to find anywhere in college football.  

Plus, he has a group of talented receivers and tight ends that nobody’s ever heard of – yet.  They’ll prove themselves and some of that will be because Enos is a good QB coach and Jefferson was already very good before Enos started coaching him.

But, even if Enos performs above average, the Hogs will need more to have a great season. I think they’ll get it.

While it’s understandable that Stoerner would talk about KJ Jefferson, Hog success is obviously not all on the quarterback.

Defense Must Improve in 2023

We can see that through the case of Kendal Briles last year. Despite the former Arkansas offensive coordinator calling some over-the-top, boneheaded, nay, stupid plays at incredibly inopportune times during his three years as a Hog, he was not the problem. The Hogs averaged 32.5 points per game last year and that should get you more than a seven-win season – if you have a defense.

In 2022, the Hogs did not have a single defensive TD. They ranked 131st out of 131 teams in passing yards allowed. They were freaking terrible!!! Exhibit A? It took Quincey McAdoo about a minute-and-a-half to become a starter after converting from receiver.

Good riddance to all the defensive backs who left, except of course for Jalen Catalon. All Hog fans should want him to still be in a Hog uniform, but it’s hard to contribute from the sideline and that’s where he was most of the time. Just a guess here, but he probably missed more games as a Hog than he played.

The best defensive back who actually played last year is Dwight McGlothern and he’s a preseason All-SEC selection. The others who left were replaced by far better talent.

The problem was not Briles.  It was Barry Odom and lackluster players who transferred out and not all of them found homes, if that tells you anything. Yes, the talent level on defense has improved dramatically……I mean, DRAMATICALLY. 

Good luck, UNLV. (Talk about the need for hedging a bet.)

Not only that, but one of Arkansas’ new coaches is co-defensive coordinator Marcus Woodson, who coached Florida State’s defensive backs to the fourth-best pass defense in the FBS. I don’t want to be too dramatic here, but the difference between No. 131 and No. 4 is not small. If the Hogs split the difference, they’ll be in great shape.

Even if the new Hog defense is average, it will mean one thing – more wins.   

I’m not about to say the Hogs will go 12-0. Still, considering the Razorbacks’ seven easiest games will be played inside the state of Arkansas and that three of the other five outside Arkansas are against three overrated teams in Texas A&M, Florida and Ole Miss, we can say “eight to nine regular-season wins is doable” with a straight face.

That’s not Clint Stoerner’s “optimistic” take of 10 wins, but it’s a whole lot better than his pessimistic take. Even if things don’t go perfectly between Enos and Jefferson, it’s doable. If the Hogs can win seven with Odom, they can do more with the new staff and talent.

No doubt, Jefferson is the linchpin to make it all go, but what the Hogs really need is a defense that doesn’t provide a margin for error that’s as razor-thin as a surgeon’s scalpel, as was the case last year.


Hear Stoerner talk more about Dan Enos and Jefferson starting at 13:29 here:

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