Through much of last season, Arkansas football fans worried that Barry Odom would the first Razorback coordinator under Sam Pittman to leave for more lucrative pastures.
His name was tossed around in concert with a few high-profile openings, including at LSU when it became clear former defensive coordinator Bo Pelini was soon to be ushered out the door. All the interest helped get Odom a $750,000 raise. Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, meanwhile, only came up as part of a joke Clay Travis made about Auburn football in the wake of Gus Malzahn’s firing.
This season, however, the tables have turned.
Kendal Briles, who has led the Razorbacks to the sixth-best rushing attack in the nation, has the offense humming at a more prolific pace than in 2020 with the emergence of dual-threat quarterback KJ Jefferson.
This success, combined with the high-octane offenses Briles masterminded at previous stops Baylor, Houston, Florida Atlantic and Florida State, means Razorback fans should expect to hear Kendal Briles’ name pop up a lot in the next month and a half as head coaches get fired across the nation.
Many believe that the 38-year-old Briles, who did not get a raise after the 2020 season, is ready to take over his own program.
Some of those folks live in Lubbock, Texas, where Briles’ father Art Briles coached running backs in 2000-02.
Kendal Briles and the Search for the Next Texas Tech Coach
On Monday, Texas Tech fired Matt Wells after more than two seasons of mediocrity. The Red Raiders have finished each of the past five seasons and six of the past seven with losing records. On top of that, Texas Tech has not finished above .500 in conference play since Mike Leach’s last season there in 2009.
In the aftermath of that firing, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams reported that Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt “emphasized that getting a coach with Texas ties will be important for high-school connections and recruiting reasons.”
When Williams checked with a source, he got four names that are “that are most realistic at this point,” including Kendal Briles and former Razorback assistant Jeff Traylor.
All four have deep Texas connections, including Texas native Kendal Briles.
Around the same time, David Collier, a Heisman voter and the sports director at Lubbock’s KAMC, reported similar information:
It doesn’t end there. CBS’ Shehan Jeyarajah put together his own list of 10 Texas Tech candidates and included Briles.
He writes: “Kendal won’t be the only Briles whose name is bandied about for the signature job in West Texas. However, he is a far more likely choice than his father, Art, after building a reputation of his own at Houston, Florida State and now Arkansas.”
“The Razorbacks have made a marked improvement with Briles and head coach Sam Pittman leading the way. His family has deep ties in West Texas.”
Finally, we have Chat Sports’ R.C. Mansfield, who also included Kendal Briles in his top four candidates:
“You look at what he’s done at Arkansas this year,” Mansfield said.
“KJ Jefferson’s all kinds of legit. It helps when you have a first-round wide receiver in [Treylon] Burks, right? But you look at his resume, obviously, he’s at Baylor when all that crap went down and…my goodness, that’s the reason that his dad will never have another job in Division I football.”
“Then he went to Florida Atlantic [with] Lane Kiffin. Then he went to Houston. Then he came down to Florida State. Now he’s at Arkansas. He’s producing. Everywhere he’s gone he’s had a solid offense, right?”
“The problem with me with Briles is I wonder if he’s going to be guilty by association when it comes to his dad.”
Well, that association with the Baylor sexual assault scandal wasn’t enough to dissuade four different schools from hiring Kendal Briles since then. I don’t think it would stop Texas Tech, either.
Art Briles and Texas Tech Football
Texas Tech football reporter Don Williams wrote that his source said “a number of people who are very influential are pushing for Art Briles, so he probably will be discussed. Those with hiring power have refused in years past to consider the former Baylor coach whose tenure in Waco ended in scandal.”
“Asked directly if Briles could be a viable candidate, Hocutt said, ‘I don’t want to speculate on candidates. I don’t want to talk about individuals today. I think that would be very divisive and problematic and not something we’d talk about at this time.'”
We’ll see how this pans out. There’s no question such a move would lead to a significant pay raise considering Kendal Briles currently makes a million per year while Wells made more than three million annually. But if Briles were to leave after this season, his heir apparent appears to already be on board with Dowell Loggains, the current tight ends coach who has been an O.C. in the NFL.
Arkansas fans know they have a good thing with Odom and Briles on board, even if they acknowledge the likelihood of both sticking around for 3+ years is slim given their bonafides and how desirable they will likely become as head coaches.
On Monday night, a 247 Sports college football analyst named threw a little grenade out into the Twittersphere with this:
As frustrated as Hog fans have been with the Arkansas defense these last three SEC games vs Georgia, Ole Miss and Auburn, they should also be glad that the defense’s recent struggles make Barry Odom a less attractive head coaching candidate. (So does the fact he earns $1.75 million and would theoretically be more expensive than, say, Briles.)
Odom, at the moment, is no longer the hot name that he was through much of last season and in September after Texas and Texas A&M wins.
But if the bye week helps the Hogs play defense like they were earlier this season, that could change in a hurry.