It’s never, ever a good thing when the number of fans your offensive coordinator exchanges testy emails with is more than the points his offense can muster.
And yet, improbably, just a few weeks after Dan Enos’ Emoji-gate with UA students, the Arkansas football offense once again sputtered to a near standstill, mustering only three points in a dreadful performance the likes of which didn’t seem imaginable heading earlier in the season with such an experienced quarterback, loaded running back room and sure-handed receivers.
The second quarter of Arkansas’ 4-point loss to Mississippi State saw Arkansas produce a total of 23 yards. On the game, Jefferson finished with just 97 yards passing, his lowest output in more than two years. “I thought we could exploit them in the secondary,” Pittman said afterward. However, the offensive line simply couldn’t hold up long enough to buy KJ Jefferson time throughout most of the game, and then when some better protection came in the the fourth quarter, Jefferson’s accuracy seemed shot. “It’s very frustrating. Everything’s frustrating. Hell, you’re frustrated. You should be. Everybody’s frustrated,” Pittman added.
“There’s one head coach and I’ve got to figure out how to get it done. And I’m obviously not doing a good enough job.”
On Sunday afternoon, Pittman figured part of the answer was firing Dan Enos and promoting wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton to interim offensive coordinator.
The promotion indicates that Arkansas will return to something closer to the fast-paced RPO system that Enos’ predecessor, Kendal Briles, ran. Briles originally played a big role in bringing Guiton to Fayetteville in 2021. They had worked together in Houston in 2018 with an offense that ranked fifth nationally in scoring (43.9 ppg) and seventh in the country in total offense (512.5 ypg).
In 2021, Guiton said he felt that Briles had considerably streamlined his system at Arkansas compared to what he did in Houston. “I think it’s cleaner,” Guiton said. “It’s easier verbiage, you know. It’s easier for the guys to kind of get down. Back when we were at Houston, it was a lot of memorization and guys just literally had to remember a certain signal, see it and go. But now, it’s more clean. I think guys can relate to things, and I think it’s easier on the guys to play even faster, which is kind of weird to say about that offense.”
Arkansas Football Returns to Familiar Ground
Under Enos, the Arkansas looked as bad on offense as it did during the lowest part of the damnable Chad Morris era.
“We have no creativity on offense,” former Arkansas football player Javontee Herndon Tweeted on Saturday. “Our playcalling sucks. Too many bubble screens with 6’4+ WRs. No throws down the field. Why is AJ Green not playing? Can we put 14 & 16 in the game for explosive plays? When will our OL learn to block the T/E switch?”
Frustration is boiling over from every corner of the Razorback fanbase. Folks are ready to see at least one head, maybe more, roll.
“The offense is dead and Dan Enos has killed it,” Arkansas basketball reporter Jackson Collier Tweeted. “When you’ve reached the point where announcers are saying the route patterns don’t make sense, the halfbacks don’t look like they understand their blocking assignments, that there’s no identity, etc. you’ve reach death status.”
Of course, the ire falls on more than just Dan Enos’ shoulders. There’s plenty directed toward the offensive line coach, Cody Kennedy, too:
It sure doesn’t help Kennedy’s case that Jefferson has now been sacked at least four times in each of the last six games, all Razorback losses. That’s the longest such streak among SEC teams in 20 years. “Movement has given us problems all year and you saw it again today, “Pittman said. “I felt we’d have success against this team because we knew where the movement was coming from. I don’t think we got surprised with the movement. I think we got physically manhandled on some of the movement.”
Arkansas vs Mississippi State Struggles
Offensive lineman Brady Latham, too, was asked about the offensive line’s struggles in protecting Jefferson.
It’s troubling that after six straight games of this, he still doesn’t know what the issue is. “There’s nothing exactly that I can put my finger on,” Latham said. “I can just say that we need to go play as hard as we can, every single snap. We need to take pride in what we do. We need to take pride in playing for Arkansas, and we need to get it fixed.”
Well, they have been trying to get if fixed for about a month and a half now.
Failing to accurately diagnose the issue – and then prescribe a remedy – has cost the Hogs a handful of winnable games. Arkansas football fans have seen enough of the dysfunction.
The struggles are enough to warrant a question posed by Best of Arkansas Sport’s Andrew Hutchinson in the post-game press conference. Would Pittman consider making an in-season staff change?
“Oh, I don’t really want to answer that,” Pittman responded.
The fourth-year head Hog has always prided himself on being a straight shooter, and seemed to be so at another point in the conference when he made a surprising admission. Still, declining at at that time was totally understandable. His decision to fire Dan Enos is obviously a reaction to an emergent situation and something he would have wanted to handle internally. Fortunately, he didn’t waste much time in making a decision to allow Guiton as much time as possible to install a new offense during the bye week.
Pittman understood it was more than the Razorback fans who deserve better than what the offensive line was producing. It’s the rest of the team as well, the defensive and special teams guys who are giving it their all to keep Arkansas in these games.
They needed help in the worst way, and Dan Enos’ firing is a step in that direction.
See more on the firing of Dan Enos here:
More on Arkansas football and Dan Enos from BoAS: