Former Hogs GA, FBS Head Coach Possibilities to Replace Cody Kennedy

Cody Kennedy, Eric Mateos, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Baylor Athletics

Sam Pittman hinted at more Arkansas football staff changes Thursday and it appears one will involve offensive line coach Cody Kennedy.

According to a report by FootballScoop, Kennedy is set to fill the same position on Jeff Lebby’s first staff at Mississippi State after spending the last three years with the Razorbacks.

The news comes less than a day after Pittman told reporters he expected more than just an offensive coordinator change during his press conference to introduce Bobby Petrino.

“I think there’ll be some,” Pittman said when asked if he anticipated any more staff changes. “I’m not ready to talk about it, but I don’t think we’ll be intact totally next season.”

Kennedy still had one year left on his contract after agreeing to a two-year extension last offseason. He had an annual salary of $700,000, making him the highest paid non-coordinator on Arkansas’ staff.

Interestingly, Kennedy did not have a non-compete clause in his contract, which would have prevented him from making such a lateral move within the SEC.

The Razorbacks have recently begun adding those to their coaches’ deals. Pittman has one for himself and so did four of last offseason’s five assistant hires — Dan Enos (OC), Travis Williams (DC), Marcus Woodson (co-DC/DBs) and Deron Wilson (DBs). The lone exception was tight ends coach Morgan Turner.

Mississippi State makes sense as a landing spot because Lebby, who was Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator before getting the head coaching job, is the brother-in-law of former Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.

Cody Kennedy’s Tenure as OL Coach

When Cody Kennedy was originally hired by Sam Pittman, it was to be the Razorbacks’ tight ends coach as a replacement for Jon Cooper. However, he was in that role for only a few months.

During the summer of 2021, LSU plucked away Brad Davis and Pittman slid the newly hired Kennedy over to his more natural position — the position he coached at Tulane and was set to coach at Southern Miss before Arkansas got him.

Even though he lacked much Division I experience as an on-field assistant, Kennedy made sense as a hire because of his experience working for Pittman as a graduate assistant at Georgia in 2018.

For two years, it seemed like a great hire for Arkansas. He led a unit that helped the Razorbacks become the seventh-best rushing offense in the country and, in 2021, he was a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

That 2021 season went so well that Georgia actually pursued him for the same position, but Arkansas kept him by giving him a raise to $700,000.

However, replacing three starters from last year’s team did not go well this year. Even though center Beaux Limmer and left guard Brady Latham garnered some preseason All-SEC attention by various outlets, Arkansas’ offensive line as a whole struggled mightily.

The Razorbacks’ rushing attack plummeted to 91st (139.0 ypg) and they were even worse in rushing yards per attempt, ranking 109th nationally (3.53 ypc). They also couldn’t give the quarterback any time to throw the ball, allowing 3.92 sacks per game. Only four FBS teams gave up more.

The switch to offensive coordinator Dan Enos’ system probably didn’t help, but that didn’t spare Kennedy from drawing quite a bit of criticism from the fan base — despite Pittman routinely sticking up for him in press conferences.

That’s why the fan reaction to losing him to an SEC West foe has been the way it has:

Outlook for Next Arkansas OL Coach

Not only was he the highest paid non-coordinator on Arkansas’ staff, but Cody Kennedy was the sixth-highest paid offensive line coach without a coordinator title (offensive or run-game) in all of college football, according to FootballScoop.

Assuming the increase in salary at offensive coordinator ($1.1 million for Dan Enos to $1.5 million for Bobby Petrino) doesn’t lead to the Razorbacks spending less elsewhere, money shouldn’t be a factor in Sam Pittman replacing Kennedy.

Despite this season’s struggles, Pittman is still considered one of the country’s premier offensive line coaches, so the Arkansas job should be an enticing one.

As for specific candidates, it’d be easy to suggest former Texas A&M offensive line coach Steve Addazio because he worked with Petrino and isn’t being retained by the Aggies under new head coach Mike Elko.

He’s a former head coach at Temple, Boston College and Colorado State, plus was on staff during Florida’s two national championship teams in the 2000s. However, Texas A&M was tied for 90th nationally in sacks allowed per game (2.33) this season and, based on social media reactions, most fans seemed happy he was gone — similar to how a lot of Arkansas fans have reacted to the Kennedy news.

Another name to watch is Baylor’s Eric Mateos. That should be a familiar name to Arkansas football fans because he was a graduate assistant under Pittman in the mid 2010s and actually filled in as the interim offensive line coach in the Liberty Bowl when he left for Georgia following the 2015 season.

Since then, he’s worked as an offensive line coach at BYU (2019-20) and Baylor (2021-current). Mateos’ unit struggled this year, but it was a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award — given annually to the top offensive line unit in the country — just two years ago.

Kennedy was one of Pittman’s graduate assistants at Georgia, so it’d make sense that he’d take that route again by hiring one of his former graduate assistants with the Razorbacks.

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