Kudos to Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman for having Dan Enos up his sleeve to assume the Hogs’ offensive coordinator amid the high probability that Kendal Briles would leave for a different opportunity. The best spin has been put on it by Pittman and everyone involved with the program, as it should be.
However, let’s just put it out there: This hire of Dan Enos should not at all excite those who look closely at his performance over the past eight seasons. This is not a terrible move, but it doesn’t move the needle like, say, Dan Mullen, who might have made a bigger splash in terms of publicity and production on the field.
Nabbing Mullen might not have been possible, but there are any number of offensive coordinators who have produced far more points per game as recently as this past season than Enos has during his career. Among others are Jim Svoboda of Tulane (36 ppg), Warren Ruggeiro of Wake Forest (36.1 ppg), fired North Texas head coach Seth Littrell (33.8 ppg), all who put more points on the board than even Briles and would probably consider Arkansas a step up.
The Role of the Offensive Coordinator
The job of an offensive coordinator is pretty simple. He’s tasked with scoring more points on an opponent than the defensive coordinator allows the same opponent to score on his team.
In 2022, 54 offensive coordinators in the FBS coached teams that averaged 30 points or more. Enos’ Maryland team averaged 28.2 after putting up 29.3 points per game the season before.
Certainly, feelings among Hog fans about Kendal Briles ran from liking or tolerating him to hating or despising him. However, it’s hard to believe that any fans are feeling the love for his replacement during this honeymoon phase when the love-fest should usually be near the highest it will ever be. Last season was not an anomaly for Enos. His career is checkered, and one could argue it has not improved over time, at least as it relates to point production, which is ALL THAT MATTERS for an offensive coordinator.
And, make no mistake, especially at Arkansas where defense has been nothing short of horrendous in recent seasons, that matters a great deal.
Never was this more apparent than in 2022 when the Hogs ranked No. 15 in total offense and No. 124 in total defense. With a better defense, Arkansas’ 32.5 points per game should have been good enough for at least eight, if not nine, wins. The Razorbacks enjoyed only seven.
The Hogs did well to land Travis Williams and Marcus Woodson as defensive coordinator and co-defensive coordinator, but neither have come to Arkansas as an experienced, home run hire. The defense needs and will get a complete overhaul with many new faces to learn many new schemes and everything else that goes with re-building a defense.
Dan Enos Resume
This alone makes hiring someone with Enos’ track record a risk.
While at Arkansas previously, Enos averaged 35.9 points per game in his first year (2015), 30.2 in 2016 and 28.8 in 2017. In those three seasons, his offense’s point production declined alongside the talent of the players executing it. Not surprisingly, the Hogs’ record suffered, too, as Arkansas went 8-5, 7-6 and 4-8 from 2015-17.
After Bielema was fired in 2017, most of his staff packed their bags. Enos landed in Ann Arbor where he joined Michigan as an offensive assistant in January 2018. He was there just long enough (six weeks) to maybe become a vague memory for the most diehard Wolverine historians.
He left to join the greatest coach in the history of college football as the quarterbacks coach at Alabama. The Crimson Tide had Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, won their first 14 games and got blown out by Clemson in the national championship game.
Given the fact that Alabama has won six national titles under Saban with a number of different offensive and defensive coordinators and who knows how many quarterback coaches, an argument could be made Enos’ success was more a function of being in the right place at the right time than coaching up the uber-talented QBs in his room. That is, not taking anything away from his illustrious assistants over the years, but Nick Saban has shown over time that the only indispensable coach on any of Saban’s staffs is Saban.
Enos was set to be promoted to offensive coordinator, but instead chose to leave — and may or may not have “ghosted” Saban in the process — to take that role at Miami (Fla.).
With the Hurricanes, his offense struggled. Mightily. They ranked 90th in scoring offense and 98th in total offense, not to mention 129th out of 130 in third-down conversions. To the surprise of no one, he was fired after getting shutout in a 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl.
Remembering Enos’ Time with Arkansas Football
Much discussion has been given to the idea that he is a great developer of quarterbacks and that his running backs and receivers have thrived under his tutelage and the numbers do back that up.
However, to be clear, this argument is not about how well he coaches quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, ball boys or janitors. None of that matters without production.
Yes, player development is related to putting points on the board, but whether he’s a genius as a developer of athletes or not, it doesn’t matter if those athletes don’t get across the goal line enough to carry Arkansas’ defense in 2023. It’s a D-grade defense, I might add, that will be led by two good coaches, but neither of whom has been the sole defensive coordinator at a Power Five program.
To bring it a little closer to home and of course, in an effort to pile on, Hog fans must remember that Enos was at the offensive helm when the Bret Bielema regime began to collapse and he was a critical part of the reason the final straw broke its back.
The paving process for Bielema’s road out of Fayetteville began in late 2016.
The Hogs had seven wins going into the last game of the 2016 regular season. After being down 24-7 at halftime, Missouri went on a 21-0 run in the second half and beat the Hogs 28 – 24. It was a colossal defensive collapse, but it was one that was unmitigated by a score of any kind by the Enos-led offense in the second half.
Fast forward about a month to the Belk Bowl and this time the arc of the Razorbacks’ disappointment is harrowingly similar, only worse – the largest blown lead in UA history, in fact. The Hogs led 24-0 at halftime and then the roof caved in. The defense collapsed again, but the Enos-led offense failed to score even a single point after having their way in the first half and the Razorbacks again lost 35-24.
The same group of players and the same group of coaches under the same leadership of Enos that hung 24 on Mizzou and Tech in the first half failed to move the needle an inch in the second.
The next season, the Hogs went 4-8 just a couple years after Bielema appeared to be turning the program around and the rest is history. Enos was there for what turned out to be the apex in 2015, as well as the fall.
Looking Forward for Arkansas Football
To make an excuse for his falling production because certain players didn’t work out, or certain offensive line coaches like Sam Pittman left, is not of concern here. What is of concern is the trend he’s shown throughout his career regardless of program and personnel. With the exception of his time at Alabama where few people fail, his offenses’ point production has mostly diminished from season-to-season since 2015 and has rarely exceeded 30 points per game.
Decades ago, you could win championships like that but no more. Scoring at least 30 points a game is a must to win big in modern college football.
It doesn’t matter how many NFL players he’s coached. It doesn’t matter what coaches have come and gone from programs where he’s coached. What matters is the disturbing trend of regressing offenses when he stays longer than a single season. And, when it really matters on the field, he’s had a history of producing a goose egg when just one score could have saved the day.
These are just the concerns, and of course it’s too early to know how it pans out for sure, but Arkansas football fans should not be surprised if the angry Tweety birds in Razorback Nation become as harsh to Enos as they were to Briles.
For a contrarian’s view, check this out:
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