Razorbacks reduce playbook in hopes of halting losing streak

Pittman said his Hogs’ have bought into the changes, and that there is a renewed vigor among the offense.
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman responds to questions in a press conference after an NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Addition by subtraction appears to be at least a part of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ approach to their final four games of the football season.

That initiative begins at 11 a.m. Saturday in Ben Murphy Stadium at Gainesville, Fla. in an ESPN2-televised game with the Florida Gators.

Sam Pittman and his offensive coaching staff hope their Hogs can execute better Saturday by focusing on a tighter game plan than they have used most of the season with former offensive coordinator Dan Enos calling the plays.

Pittman fired Enos following the worst offensive performance of the season in an embarrassing 7-3 home loss to mediocre Mississippi State two Saturdays ago, and elevated former Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton to interim offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from his wide receiver coaching position.

While the Hogs’ plays aren’t necessarily simplified, the amount of plays practiced has been reduced with the desired effect being that the Razorback players can concentrate more fully on their reduced docket. Pittman said about 35% of the Razorbacks’ playbook has been pushed to the side with Arkansas retaining the plays and concepts the squad has excelled at the most.

Cutting down on the concepts that need to be practiced each week should lead to more focus on the plays that will be run with the hope of leading to more proficient execution of each play.

So many get caught up on the plays that are called rather than whether the plays are executed properly. A coach can design a wonderfully conceived play, but if the squad can’t execute it properly, it’s a waste of time.

Conversely a simply designed play executed to perfection can be a masterpiece.

From Pittman’s explanation, the Hogs’ reliance on drop-back passing will be reduced with the hopes of speeding up the squad’s tempo and executing more Run-Pass Option plays, which should reduce some of the stress on the offensive line as well as allowing quarterback K.J. Jefferson to play faster and not get bogged down by details.

Pittman said he feels his Hogs’ have bought into the changes, and that there is a renewed vigor among the offense that has played stilted all season.

The Razorbacks need to win all four of their remaining games to become bowl eligible, but Pittman said the goal for the moment is to execute better and win this week and not worry about any goal beyond the trip to Gainesville, where Arkansas has never beaten the Gators.

Success through simplification is the Hogs’ goal for this week. Maybe it will pay off for Hogs against the Gators. It’s been too long since fans have celebrated a Razorback football victory.

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 (11 a.m. ESPN2)
Nov. 11 – Auburn (TBA)
Nov. 18 – Florida International (TBA)
Nov. 24 – Missouri – (3 p.m. CBS)