FAYETTEVILLE – After Chad Morris’ “Hammer Down” slogan accompanied his banishment last November with two games left in Arkansas’ successive 2-10 seasons, slogans aren’t espoused by new Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman and his Razorbacks staff.
But new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles does espouse the uptempo offensive ideal that Morris sought though Morris never could implement it at Arkansas.
Briles coordinated uptempo offenses at Baylor, Houston, Florida Atlantic and Florida State and aims to operate Arkansas fast-paced.
“It’s an essential,” Briles said. “That’s what we’re going to do is play uptempo. Obviously you’ve got to manage the game at times, but that’s definitely what we’re going to do.”
Those “manage the game at times” translates into running some offensive clock to give your own defense some off the field rest plus other situations requiring slowing the pace instead of accelerating it.
For all his SEC experience starting 24 games for the Florida Gators from 2017 through his season-ending broken ankle three games into 2019, graduate transfer to Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks hasn’t quarterbacked an offense at Briles’ intended pace.
Whenever the Razorbacks are NCAA allowed to start practice in July or the scheduled August start, Franks takes the field with the first unit under new Coach Sam Pittman with Briles the play-calling offensive coordinator and former Missouri Head Coach Barry Odom the defensive coordinator.
However other than on film from Franks’ Florida days, Briles hasn’t seen Franks throw a pass.
Spring practices, the only opportunities for Briles to see Franks do anything over the winter other than lift weights and conditioning drills, was cancelled before it ever began. The nationally mandated measures to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic cancelled spring football and all college sports.
UA facilities, by SEC decree, have been closed to athletes and all UA classes conducted online since mid March.
Providing they passed last week’s “robust ”physical examinations, Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said were planned, fall semester Razorbacks athletes in football, basketball, cross country, soccer and volleyball “voluntarily” Monday can begin lifting in Razorbacks weight rooms and training in UA facilities under supervision of the strength and condition and the trainers and medical staffs.
They still won’t be allowed during this initial weight and training period be allowed by SEC decree, to be coached by their actual football coaches.
Thus Briles remarks, he’s “been around Feleipe since January” and still hasn’t seen him throw a pass.”
“It’s crazy,” Briles said.
Still, Briles has all that Florida game film to see Franks pass, especially 2018 when Franks started every game quarterbacking the Gators to a 10-3 record capped by a Peach Bowl victory over Michigan.
It’s not Franks passing but Franks operating and directing that Briles most missed about no spring ball.
“The toughest thing is not being able to practice the tempo,” Briles said. “That’s the toughest thing when you talk about a new offense, especially him coming from Florida that’s more Pro-Style. It’s different. You’ve got to rep it. And we’ll figure out a way to get it repped.”
Doesn’t matter the tempo, no offense succeeds without an offensive line paving the way and protecting.
Briles loves the inherent double emphasis on the offensive line. Pittman first-time head coaches after with renown coaching offensive lines since 1994 at Northern Illinois, Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Western Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia.
Along the way, Brad Davis, Arkansas’ new offensive line coach, was recruited by and played for Pittman at Oklahoma, was Pittman’s graduate assistant at North Carolina. Davis so established his offensive line coaching reputation at Portland State, James Madison, East Carolina North Texas, Florida and Missouri that Arkansas had to offer Davis raise shortly after he was hired to stave off others trying to hire him.
Davis stayed, buttressing an effort in the trenches already bound to be unceasing
“I think it will be a strong emphasis and it’s going to help us in recruiting and it’s going to help us with our offensive line play,” Briles said. “Brad Davis played for Coach Pittman and understands the same values and coaching fundamentals that Coach Pittman has coached him with. Coach Davis, I can already tell he is going to be exceptional.”
The Pittman’s trust in Davis allows the new head coach to do more head coach overseeing both sides of the ball.
“Coach Pittman says he doesn’t want to be the O-line coach,” Briles said. “He’s done that. He’s going to be the head football coach.”
But I’m sure that he’ll always kind of be watching those guys (offensive linemen) a little closer than others.”