Sam Pittman comes off as a fun-loving, gregarious guy in his media appearances. You know that’s not an affectation because of how well liked he is by former players, friends, and others that know him well.
However, there is another side of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ head football coach that’s not to be trifled with. He is a decisive man who knows how to make a hard, difficult or tough decision when he deems it necessary.
It would seem Pittman did that recently when former Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles continued to court other job offers after recently pledging on social media and presumptively privately to Pittman that he would be back to coach Razorback quarterback K.J. Jefferson for what will likely be his final year as a college quarterback despite having two years of eligibility remaining.
That pledge came after Briles turned down an offer to take a similar position at Mississippi State. But just days later, Briles’ name became connected with the offensive coordinator position at TCU. While that would be a lateral move just like the Mississippi State job would have been, there seemed to be interest from Briles.
Who knows? Maybe it’s just wanderlust?
Briles has been on the move quite a bit since leaving Baylor when his father’s program there went down in flames in 2015.
Briles is also a proud Texan. Being based in Fort Worth would situate him and his family closer to relatives and friends.
Maybe he believed the OC job at TCU would a better launching pad for a head coaching job than Arkansas?
Maybe he perceived a strain in his relationship with Pittman, possibly for him entertaining that lateral move to Mississippi State?
Maybe it was over the Hogs’ difficulty in the Red Zone this season? Maybe Briles felt Pittman put too much of a governor on his up-tempo offense?
Or maybe Briles sees difficulty ahead for the Razorbacks after so many players exited the program via the transfer portal since the end of the regular season? The Big 12 isn’t nearly as competitive as the SEC West on a week-to-week basis.
Your guesses might be better than mine.
But according to sources after a certain point, Pittman did not allow Briles the option of staying at Arkansas once his name was connected for too long with the TCU search for an offensive coordinator. That breaking point evidently was sometime last weekend. Maybe as early as last Friday.
Briles’ dalliance with TCU could have been affecting Arkansas’ recruiting efforts. It no doubt was irritating Pittman.
By Monday word had leaked that Briles was going to TCU, and by Wednesday evening it was being reported that Pittman was ready to hire Briles’ replacement.
With a move that no doubt expressed Pittman’s and perhaps Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek’s irritation and displeasure with the way Briles handled the situation, Arkansas officially announced that Dan Enos had been hired as Arkansas’ latest offensive coordinator prior to TCU officially announcing that Briles had joined Sonny Dykes’ staff.
That’s some juicy soap-opera-ish stuff right there.
But in the grand scheme, how Briles departed Arkansas doesn’t mean a lot. The page has been turned. He has business to attend to in Fort Worth, and Pittman has the same in Fayetteville.
Enos, whom you may remember was Bret Bielema’s offensive coordinator for the Hogs from 2015-2017, is a fine coach who guided a very productive Razorback offense until the Hogs ran out of quality offensive linemen in his and Bielema’s final year on the Hill. Arkansas went from having a great offensive line in Pittman’s final year as the Hogs’ offensive line coach in 2015 to being less than mediocre in 2017.
The big question is how does K.J. Jefferson feel about this change or more importantly what will he make of it? He and Briles seemed close.
How Jefferson accepts and trusts Enos is huge for the Razorbacks next year, which already stands to be a transition year in many ways with five new coaches on staff, one of them yet to be named. Transition doesn’t have to be bad or mediocre. Sometimes it is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Enos has a proven track record of helping quarterbacks and offenses have highly productive seasons at Arkansas, Alabama, Maryland and elsewhere.
He might be just what Jefferson needs to add to and hone his quarterbacking repertoire as he looks to move on to the NFL.
Both Brandon Allen and Austin Allen had fine seasons under Enos at Arkansas as did Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama and his little brother Taulia Tagovailoa at Maryland last year, each of them throwing for more than 3,000 yards as starters.
Coaching staff changes can be very good things. New ideas, new attitudes, new chemistry can push a program forward, particularly in Arkansas’ situation where late last season things seemed to be a bit off track.
Frank Broyles usually brought in new blood to his staff every two years if not every year. Fresh ideas and new chemistry often brought new energy or as Enos likes to say, “juice.”
As an athletic director, Broyles encouraged his head coaches to do the same, although some of them seldom listened.
Maybe some fresh ideas and a different coaching approach will help Jefferson develop other aspects of his game that he can add to what he already learned from Briles.