Kendal Briles. Barry Odom. Sam Pittman.
The faces of the Arkansas football program are not particularly well-liked right now, even among the Razorbacks fan base. Following Arkansas’ third straight loss – a 40-21 walloping at the hands of Mississippi State – some want to burn this iteration of the program to the ground, start over. Funny how they forget Chad Morris, but digression.
Locally, the focus on Saturday was on Briles. Arkansas’ offensive coordinator came under fire – again – from a segment of the Razorbacks’ faithful because of his play-calling and the decision to split the first-half reps at quarterback between Cade Fortin and Malik Hornsby with KJ Jefferson out of the game because of a head injury suffered last week against Alabama.
Nationally, though, it was SEC Network’s Takeo Spikes, a Auburn former linebacker, mind you, who saved his harshest words for Odom, the Hogs’ defensive coordinator.
“I know a lot of people jump on them consistently because they’re an easy target,” Spikes said on the post-game show. “But you have to give some credit – bad credit – to their defensive coordinator Barry Odom. I did not like the game plan today. Three guys rushing up front against Will Rogers. When you allow Will Rogers to have time to throw the football, it’s like playing 7 on 7. Will Rogers was in his head, he was counting, ‘One, Mississippi State. Two, Mississippi State.'”
It’s a point the former All-Pro had already hit home on during the halftime show: “I’m tired of everybody just cooking up the Arkansas secondary. Because if you’re Barry Odom you need to be held accountable too.”
Big Issues for Arkansas Football
Who knows whether Spikes is right or not. He very well may be, although head man Pittman said after the game he stuck with the same defensive style that worked against Mississippi State in Hogs victories each of the last two years. The difference, it was suggested, was a defense missing an All-American safety in Jalen Catalon, a starting cornerback in LaDarrius Bishop and a starting nickel in Myles Slusher. Arkansas has not yet built up enough depth to overcome such injuries all in one unit. Consider, perhaps, the Arkansas defense had their hands on three or four balls that could have turned into interceptions, and two of which should have. Maybe it isn’t the structure?
“I thought they sure could change the game, just getting them off the field,” Pittman said. “They were very patient. They looked at where we were and tried to pick it apart and they did a great job obviously. Those certainly could have helped us, you know.”
Those same fans torching Briles and Odom were preparing defenses in advance for Pittman’s press conference, saying he would defend his coordinators no matter what.
Is he expected to do the same as a fan? Of course not. But the section of crazies continued to grow Saturday, even lambasting our own Andrew Hutchinson for so-called soft journalism in asking weak questions to Pittman and Co. during press conferences.
So, here you go, folks. The questions you want answered:
Q: Why do y’all suck?!
A: We’re 3-3, a record some of the more reasonable in the Arkansas universe predicted before the season began. We’re not exactly slumming it, losing to the best college football program the world has ever seen, losing to a team that needed a complete miracle to win by a single possession and losing to a team on the road without – literally – our two best players on the entire roster.
Q: When are you firing Kendal Briles?!
A: Not in the middle of the game or after Week 6. If you have any ideas as to who should pick up the play-calling in the middle of the season, we’re all ears. Or, hey, how about this offseason? Give us who you think would want to come call plays for a team that “sucks.”
Q: When are you firing Barry Odom?!
A: One second. Barry Odom? You mean the same Barry Odom who you begged to stick around after last season to be the defensive coordinator in 2022? That Barry Odom? Sorry. Not sure we understand the question. We’re a bit busy dealing with the loss of three starters to injury in our secondary.
Q: Do you resign now or tomorrow?
A: Tomorrow. Resigning in Starkville seems like a bad way to get a lift home.
Q: Does Cade Fortin need to be taken out to a pasture?!
A: He might get more protection out there, considering the way our offensive line blocked for him Saturday.
Still not satisfied? Maybe, yeah, burn it down. Go through another debacle like the 2017-18 coaching search and see where that leads.
Look, no one is saying you can’t be frustrated. Be frustrated. Saturday was the worst game the Razorbacks have played all season. But don’t confuse a good team with one that had real national championship aspirations. That’s a you-problem, not a Pittman-Briles-Odom one.