481 yards. 32 points.
Both season-highs in a conference game.
If Kenny Guiton is auditioning for the full-time offensive coordinator role with Arkansas football, Saturday’s performance was a heck of a first impression.
The first touchdown drive was scripted and beautiful. Seven plays, 75 yards in just 2 minutes, 54 seconds and it got AJ Green in the end zone for the first time since the BYU game.
KJ Jefferson was what KJ Jefferson used to be — 20 of 31 passing, 255 yards, 2 touchdowns, plus 17 rushes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
There were no eye rolls or any defeated body language from him today.
Really, it almost just leaves one angry that they wasted nearly an entire season trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with Dan Enos.
This team is probably 5-4 or 6-3 right now and in contention for a pretty serious bowl game if they had done all season what they did against Florida, which was let KJ be KJ and mix the run with the pass and be less predictable, along with playing at a faster tempo.
Saturday’s win will have many Razorback fans buckling up for a storybook ending to the season where the offense continues to catch fire, scenes like below become commonplace and they win out.
If that happens, Guiton would and should have the full-time job, no question. The issue is, in the SEC era, the Arkansas football program and storybook endings to regular seasons don’t get along well. Outliers like the end of the 2014 season are far and few between.
Winning at the Swamp means the chances of Pittman sticking around for 2024 as head coach are higher and likely just an FIU win away from being a virtual lock. As good as vibes are right now, and as promising as the next couple games look at home, a regression with the offense is still possible.
As Fayette Villains’ Adam Ford points out, Guiton had the advantage of coaching against an injury-riddled defense with no game film yet available on him. That won’t be the case against the two remaining SEC opponents. Ford wrote: “There is still a scenario where Auburn and Mizzou – both better defenses than Florida – now have film and can come up with a plan to stop the Hogs.”
If that happens, then Pittman still needs to get an OC who can deliver consistent, long-term results.
Arkansas Football’s Recent OC History
Arkansas has had six full-time offensive coordinators since the SEC expanded to 14 teams in 2012.
Of those, only one was truly a success and it was only for a season with Enos in 2015, when Brandon Allen had an NFL-type offensive line protecting and weapons like Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan, Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle to get the ball to.
Paul Petrino was the offensive coordinator during the ill-fated 2012 season that spiraled to 4-8 after the Razorbacks began the year No. 8.
Jim Chaney came in for two years under Bret Bielema, but never moved the needle enough to keep his job and he was replaced by Enos for three years. Enos’ offense was really good in 2015 during his debut, but it started to go south and he was eventually fired with Bielema and the rest of the coaching staff at the conclusion of the 2017 campaign.
Joe Craddock was Chad Morris’ offensive coordinator during his two-year stinkfest as head of the Arkansas program. He was clearly in over his head and the offense never got in a rhythm during those 22 games.
Upon Sam Pittman being hired, he brought in Kendal Briles, who had a solid, but not spectacular three seasons leading the Hog offense.
Eventually he chose to move on to TCU in the offseason after flirting with other jobs previously, and Pittman decided to reunite with Enos for 2023.
It was an abject disaster and left Pittman with really no other choice but to ditch Enos and move on.
Kenny Guiton, the former Ohio State quarterback who was on the team that played Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl, became the seventh man to control the Arkansas offense on an interim basis following Enos’ dismissal.
Past Hiring Trends at Arkansas
If you look at common denominators of the last decade’s worth of offensive coordinator hires for Arkansas football, they were usually someone that either had a prior relationship with the head coach, or was in that particular coach’s tree.
Briles was an exception, as Pittman had never been a head coach other than at a junior college over 30 years ago and did not know him before interviewing him for the job.
Petrino was friends with John L. Smith because of Smith’s connection to Paul’s brother, and Chaney had coached in the Big Ten against Bielema and was tight with Pittman, who Bielema had hired to be his offensive line coach.
Craddock had GA’d and coached with Morris at Clemson and SMU. Enos, of course, had worked with Sam Pittman at Arkansas previously.
Of the potential coordinator candidates below, only one has a track record with Pittman. We list him at the top:
OCs to Consider for Arkansas Football
Dowell Loggains, South Carolina OC
As the Razorbacks’ former tight ends coach, Dowell Loggains already has experience working with this staff and is a former UA holder who loves the state and the players in it, along with recruiting a number of players still on the roster.
South Carolina has woefully underperformed considering expectations based on what it did at the end of 2022, so Shane Beamer may be forced to move on from Loggains anyway, even if he doesn’t want to.
However, things didn’t exactly end on the smoothest of terms with regards to his exit from Arkansas, and with the way things went with rehiring Enos, Pittman would probably be hesitant to bring someone back again.
Willy Korn, Liberty OC
2022 (before) 27.5 ppg, 71st / 2023 (after) 39.1 ppg t-12th
One name that has gotten significant play on social media and in the coaching network cycles is Liberty’s Willy Korn.
Korn is 34 (will turn 35 in January) and was a quarterback at Clemson when Dabo Swinney was hired before getting injured and losing his job.
He was at Coastal Carolina with Jamey Chadwell for three years before Chadwell took the Liberty job this past offseason and Korn followed him.
Chadwell is actually the only coach he’s ever worked for, but he may realize that the time to move to a Power Five school is now.
Liberty’s offense is tied for 12th nationally in scoring and is fifth nationally in yards per game. The Flames are undefeated and will likely stay that way.
Clint Trickett, Marshall OC
Another name that got traction last year and has again this time is Clint Trickett. The former Florida State and West Virginia quarterback is in his second year as the OC at Marshall.
This is his third year with the Thundering Herd, after spending three years as the tight ends coach under Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic and then taking over as the OC for FAU in 2020 under Willie Taggert.
Marshall is struggling this year with a 4-5 record and is 1-4 in its division in the Sun Belt after a successful 2021 debut for him which saw him oversee the 14th-best passing offense in America. In 2022, he had a running back rank in the top 15 nationally in four major statistical categories.
The 2023 numbers for his offense are worse than Arkansas, so this hire would probably be given the thumbs down girl.gif by the fan base.
Brennan Marion, UNLV OC
2022 (before) 26.3 ppg, t-76th / 2023 (after) 36.7 ppg, 16th
UNLV’s up-and-coming hotshot, Brennan Marion, would be worth a look. The Rebels, led by Pittman’s former defensive coordinator Barry Odom, are 7-2 and firmly in the Mountain West title hunt, although Air Force is in the driver’s seat.
Marion is 36 years old and was previously at Pittsburgh and Texas, the latter of which is where he was Steve Sarkisian’s passing game coordinator. He then took the job that Bobby Petrino bailed out of to go try and rescue Texas A&M.
Would Odom allow Pittman to talk to Marion? I would assume so. The bigger question may be whether or not Marion is ready to make the jump to the SEC.
Sean Lewis, most recently OC at Colorado
Sean Lewis was just demoted by Coach Prime for analyst Pat Shurmur after an offense that was gangbusters to begin the year had started to fizzle and the Buffaloes struggling to make a bowl game at this point.
Before getting the offensive coordinator gig at Colorado, Lewis developed a veer-and-shoot approach from Dino Babers, who had served under Art Briles at Baylor and had also worked with Kendal while there.
Despite moving to Shurmur, things didn’t improve at all on Saturday night against Oregon State, as they were held without a touchdown on its first 10 possessions and only gained 78 yards on their first 40 plays.
Still, it matters that he was the head coach at Kent State for five years before taking the Colorado gig and is only 37. Coaching wunderkinds like Lane Kiffin sometimes fail in their early to mid 30s and then rebound later on, so Lewis will most likely have a lot of suitors if he isn’t retained at the end of the season.
Pittman’s Looming Decision for Arkansas
Arkansas could do worse, a lot worse, than just promoting Kenny Guiton to the full-time role. Guiton has already been building relationships with Arkansas recruits and players that they’re looking at in the portal.
No one wants a retread, either, especially with how bad it was under Enos. Hiring Jim Chaney or someone in that mold would be career suicide for Sam Pittman for sure, and maybe even Hunter Yurachek if he signed off on it.
Get a sense of Willy Korn’s soul here:
Comedian Matt Besser has one last burn for Florida and their ridiculous Gator chomp:
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…