Pittman putting salvage effort into motion with Razorbacks

Pittman was congenial when explaining why the ouster occurred in his Monday media conference.
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman calls out from the sideline in the second half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. LSU won 34-31. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Arkansas Razorbacks’ bye week became a “goodbye week” to offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who was scapegoated Sunday after another dismal performance by the Hogs’ offense in last Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

The Razorbacks (2-6, 0-5 SEC) have lost five consecutive SEC games and six in a row when you throw in the Sept. 16 loss to BYU.

Arkansas doesn’t play again until Nov. 4 when they travel to Gainesville to face Florida (5-2, 3-1). Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. on ESPN2. The Gators face No. 1 Georgia at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday at Jacksonville, Fla.

Texas A&M whipped the Hogs by a dozen on Sept. 30. All the rest of the losses have been by a touchdown or less.

So, it’s hard to call Enos’ firing unjust with how poorly Arkansas’ offense has played this year, but then again, I’m not sure how much good it will do at this point in the season. We’ll have to see.

It’s just a little bit of meat for the howling wolves who are calling for Pittman’s job to chew on. It’s not going to satisfy that portion of the fanbase, but I guess it is an acknowledgment by Pittman and the Razorbacks’ athletics administration that the Hogs’ performance so far this season is unacceptable.
What will the Razorbacks have to do in their final four games to salvage Pittman’s job?

I honestly don’t know. Would 2-2 do it or 3-1?

I know the offense must show more life than it did last Saturday against the Bulldogs. The defense practically did all the work to set up the field goal with Snax Johnson’s interception.

Kenny Guiton gets the battlefield promotion from receivers coach to interim offensive coordinator for the rest of the season.

Pittman was congenial when explaining why the ouster occurred in his Monday media conference, calling Enos a fine man and a good coach. The two had worked together on Arkansas’ staff in 2015, the year Pittman left Bret Bielema’s staff to join Kirby Smart’s at Georgia.

“First thing I want to say is, Dan worked extremely hard, was in the building all the time, put a lot of hours into it and things of that nature, it just wasn’t working,” Pittman said. “And so yesterday morning, we decided to make a change there, well not a change, but go ahead and let Dan go … I had a meeting with the offensive staff and called a lot of recruits. We’re gonna have Kenny Guiton move to quarterbacks and he’ll call the plays.

“Obviously, it was important that we stayed in-house so we wouldn’t have a lot of terminology and then we gotta give our kids a chance to win. And it just seems that nothing ever came easy for us this year. And we’ve got to do some things differently. And one of them is cut down the volume that we have. So I’ve been meeting with those guys all morning on that and we’ll go from there.”

Pittman said his choice to move away from Enos wasn’t a split-second decision that was solely made during the loss to Mississippi State or following it. It had been a growing sentiment. Pittman admitted there were signs in spring and preseason practices that Enos’ style and offense was not being embraced by the team.

That said, the Razorbacks can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. The Hogs will continue to run the offense installed in spring and preseason, just with an emphasis on performing fewer plays but with more precision.

Pittman also mentioned using a moving pocket more often rather than the drop-back passing largely featured so far this season. Pittman had made similar comments in media conferences on a couple of other occasions but did not see the Hogs’ offense use the moving pocket much on the field.

Maybe Guiton will take the suggestion to heart where Enos didn’t?

The effort it seems is to play more to quarterback K.J. Jefferson’s and the young offensive line’s strengths.

More tempo might be on tap like in the second half against Alabama. Jefferson and the offensive line seem to work better at a pace where they are being aggressive rather than reading and reacting.

Pittman said he understands the frustration around the program from his own to the players’ and to the fans’.

“It’s disappointing because I’m the head coach at Arkansas, and this state deserves better, and that’s the biggest disappointment,” Pittman said. “Because we’ve got kids in there playing their hearts out. We just got to figure out a way to score some points.”

While Arkansas’ defense isn’t what I’d consider a dominating group. They play hard and sound for the most part. They have kept games in check despite the offensive failures. That’s difficult to do.

The defense’s play is absolutely why the Hogs have had chances to win in the fourth quarter of all of their losses except against A&M.

The offense needs to step forward and carry their share of the water.

Technically the Razorbacks have a chance to become bowl eligible by winning all four of their remaining games. That seems like a pipe dream at this moment, but it’s all Hog fans have to hold on for at the moment.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2023 football schedule

Overall: 2-6   SEC: 0-5   Streak: L6

Sept. 2 – Arkansas 56, Western Carolina 13
Sept. 9 – Arkansas 28, Kent State 6
Sept. 16 – BYU 38, Arkansas 31
Sept. 23 – LSU 34, Arkansas 31
Sept. 30 – Texas A&M 34, Arkansas 22
Oct. 7 – Ole Miss 27, Arkansas 20
Oct. 14 – Alabama 24, Arkansas 21
Oct. 21 – Mississippi State 7, Arkansas 3
Nov. 4 – at Florida (TBA)
Nov. 11 – Auburn (TBA)
Nov. 18 – Florida International (TBA)
Nov. 24 – Missouri – (3 p.m. CBS)