FAYETTEVILLE – After successive 2-10 “hammer down” seasons sloganeered under fired Arkansas Coach Chad Morris, new offensive coordinator, Kendal Briles, wisely replied with a no call when called upon what to call his Arkansas offense.
Briles and defensive coordinator Barry Odom, both brought to Arkansas by new Razorbacks Head Coach Sam Pittman, met with media Friday on a 65-minute teleconference.
“I really don’t care what you call the offense,” Briles, only 38, but for the last seven years coordinating offenses at Baylor, Florida Atlantic, Houston and Florida State, said. “I’ve been called probably a lot worse.”He knows the calling he’d like the offense to earn. It’s not a slogan. Just a simple adjective. ‘Hopefully productive,” Briles said. “I just want us to be productive.”
What’s his alignment to be productive? “Hopefully we’re multiple, we’re tempo, we’re spread and we want to run the football,” Briles said. How it’s achieved will be based on fitting the proper parts in the proper places whenever the currently coronavirus induced shutdown lifts so the Razorbacks can actually practice.
Other than Morris era holdover receivers coach Justin Stepp, Pittman and his staff haven’t overseen any current Razorback practicing. The since mid-March shutdown ended spring drills before they could begin March 29 as scheduled.
“At the end of the day, it’s our job to not coin an offense and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do,” Briles said. “I think our job as coaches is to take your best people and find what they do best and put them in high-percentage situations so they can be successful and not ask guys who maybe can’t do something as well to do that. You have your core things, what you’re going to be doing, but there’s a lot of variables involved. It’s on us as an entire coaching staff to figure out what we do best.”
Missouri grad Odom formerly coordinated defense at Memphis and Missouri and head coached Mizzou from 2016-2019 including 4-0 over Arkansas. Odom said he’s based defenses on a man 4-man front, but evolved with ever more multiple defenses as multiple offenses proliferate in college football mainly based on Spread offensive principles.
Defenses have become so multiple that Odom was asked does the term “base defense” even apply anymore. It does and always will in principle, Odom replied. “You base a core philosophy, beliefs and foundation and how you want to play defense,” Odom said. “More than anything that overrides the initial structure on what schematically you are going to look like exactly. So those are more things that we are building on every day, the ability to influence them and the spirit and competitiveness that it takes to play good, solid defensive football and it takes the 11 guys on the field understanding their job. So we’re Elementary Football 101 and starting from the ground trying to build a foundation in such a way that is going to carry us when we need it in the times whether it’s situational football or third down, the 2-minute drill, or the last play of the game.”
It’s all elementary and virtual, meeting with homebound players over the Internet. It would easily be a panicky setting for a new staff inheriting a struggling team.
Both coordinators credited Pittman, Arkansas’ excellent 2013-2015 offensive line coach for Bret Bielema then coaching powerhouse Georgia offensive lines from 2016-2019 for Kirby Smart, keeping it all calm and on course. “Coach Pittman has done such an amazing job,” Odom said. “He has provided the structure, organization and the things that he’s put in place for us to be able to do. We’ve gotten a lot better as an organization in the last month, and it’s because of his leadership.” Briles said, “This is a new job and new for all of us” yet “everybody is on the same page.”
Coach Pittman has been unbelievable as a leader, providing us with the details on a day-to-day basis of what we want to get done and have a plan to go out and execute it,” Briles said. “It’s been good.”