Ask Mike: Top 5 Players of the Eddie & Nolan Years, A Smiling Ref & Was Briles Fired?

By Mike Irwin
on 2023-01-23 19:54 PM

Q. We have several questions about Arkansas Football’s new offensive coordinator so let’s get to it.
Maxadories wants to know: What would you think about Dan Enos coming back to Arkansas if Briles leaves?

A. Clearly this question was submitted before the news came out that Dan Enos had been hired so kudos to Maxadores for thinking ahead and realizing that Enos was a possibility. A source close to the team told me that he thought Sam Pittman would do what he did when he replaced Barry Odom as defensive coordinator. That is, go with an up and coming young offensive coordinator with a strong reputation as a recruiter. I speculated that it might be Texas Tech offensive coordinator Zach Kittley. He was a grad assistant at Tech in 2016 and worked with former Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury to develop Patrick Mahomes into the top passing quarterback in the country.

Kittley returned to Tech for the 2022 season after establishing Western Kentucky as the number two scoring and total offense team in the FCS along with number one in passing..

In 2022 Tech was second in the Big 12 in total offense.

I never saw the Dan Enos hire coming but but once it came out, it made total sense. In 2015 with Enos as Arkansas offensive coordinator and Sam Pittman as the offensive line coach, Arkansas went 8-5 with big SEC road wins at Tennessee and Ole Miss. The Hogs closed out with a win over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl. Pittman left for Georgia after that season but the two remained friends and now Enos is back. I think it was a no brainer hire.

Q. BloodRedHog says: I remember Enos at Arkansas.
Should we be excited or not?

At Maryland, Enos’ offense scored
-0- points against Penn St
10 against Wisconsin
14 against Iowa
16 against NC State

A. Maryland had some injuries this season and also played a brutal schedule.

They scored 30 points in a 13 point loss to number two Ohio State and
22 points in a 12 point loss to number four Michigan. You referenced the 16 points they were held to against North Carolina State but Maryland won the game, 16-12.

They finished 4th in the Big 10 ten in scoring, total offense and passing.
That’s impressive to me.

By comparison Arkansas finished 6th in scoring in the SEC, 5th in total offense and 8th in passing. I think Enos will impact the passing game. That’s his strength as an offensive coordinator.
Those who complained that Arkansas was too run happy this past season will be happy with Enos.

I’ve always believed that KJ Jefferson is underrated as a passer. I think his numbers will go way up in 2023 and he will be more selective running the ball which means he’ll be less likely to get injured.

Q. Stu asks: How does Enos’ new contract w Arkansas compare to what Briles had before going to TCU?

A. Briles was supposedly set to make $1.6 million next season. Enos comes in at $1.1 million. The athletic department is saving about a half million dollars a year on that change. Throw in the 1.8 million Barry Odom was making as defensive coordinator compared to the 1.1 million Travis Williams will get and you have a total savings of 1.2 million next year. Sam Pittman has some extra money at his disposal for 2023. Like $1.2 million

Q: our next two questions are related.
Edwardclutch wants to know: What happened with Briles? He flirts with Mississippi State, tweets he was ready to “run it back” with KJ then a couple of weeks later leaves for TCU. I get coaches move around but the offense we have coming back is loaded. Did he fish for a raise one too many times?


Q. RazorAlex88 says: Welcome home, Coach Enos! I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam actually FIRED KB once he started flirting with them (TCU).

A. I don’t think Pittman actually fired Briles before he officially accepted the TCU job. I’ve been told that after Briles turned down the Mississippi State job and secured a promise of a raise at Arkansas, Pittman said, No more of this. We’re trying to recruit we need to be able to tell our offensive recruits, this is our offensive coordinator.

I was also told that Pittman already had secured word from Enos that he would take the job if Briles name came up again for another job. So when it happened he called Enos and said, come on. He then told Briles I hope you have the TCU job because we’re going to hire Enos. But Briles did have the job so no, technically, he was not fired. But if TCU had backed out of its offer then yes, Briles would have been looking for a job.

Q. WVHogfan want to know: Is it possible that Sam Pittman encouraged Kendal Briles to find another job?

A. That story was making the rounds right after Barry Odom left for UNLV. The claim was that after the Missouri loss Pittman told both of his coordinators to look for other jobs.

I don’t think it was ever true.

Pittman seemed encouraged when Odom turned the Tulsa job down and appeared to be caught off guard when a day or two later Odom took the Vegas job. Also if Pittman had told Biles to find another job why would he let him stay after Briles decided to turn the Mississippi State job down?

So to me it was a bogus rumor.

Q. Big Boi asks: How do you feel about Coach Pittman staff 2.0? What areas do you think CSP is excelling in and shortcomings?

A. The big change is the coordinators. Fans who did not like Barry Odom’s three man defensive front will be happy with a four man front under new defensive coordinator Travis Williams. He coaches an aggressive, go after the quarterbacks style.

That secondary will be directed by Marcus Woodson, another young coach who mirrors William’s philosophy. In fact the two have worked together before at Auburn under Gus Malzahn.

There’s also a new tight ends coach. Morgan Turner is one of the best recruiters out there and he’s solid as a developer of tight ends. He replaces Dowell Loggains who was coaching out of position with the tight ends. Loggains is, in reality, a quarterbacks coach.

It remains to be seen how effective these new coaches will be but for now Pittman has answered complains about a lack of defensive pressure on quarterbacks and offensive play calling.

Q. JMartin_AF1 asks: Has Arkansas finally paid off all the salaries from the previously fired coaches (i.e. Chad Morris)? If so, it would seem we should be better off financially.

A. The athletic department will still be paying them through December of this year. Then they’re done.

Let’s go to basketball where….

CowHog32 says: Hearing Nick Smith Jr. is back at practice and could come back as early as the LSU game. Have you seen or heard anything to back this up? Has any media actually seen NSJ at practice in person?

A. We’ve not see him a practice because we don’t see practice except on rare occasions. He was on the bench for Saturday’s Ole Miss game. Eric Musselman said after the game that Smith Jr. is not currently working out and is still getting treatment so it would seem doubtful that he would play against LSU. The word floating around is not to expect him back until February but who knows if that’s accurate?

Q. Kevin says: Anthony Black is a point guard not a 2 guard.

A. This is in reference to a remark I made a couple of weeks ago on Phil Elson’s radio show. I said that all of Arkansas guards right now look like 2 guards, not point guards. I do believe that Devo Davis, Ricky Council IV and Nick Smith are all 2 guards even though each has played the paint for Arkansas this season. Black is a point guard and will play there in the NBA but right now he’s struggled to be consistent at the point. He’s turned the ball over too much, has trouble dribbling in traffic and at times makes indecisive decisions running the point. This is all because he’s a freshman. If Black played at Arkansas for four years he might end up being the best point guard in school history. But he’s more than likely a one and done and for this one season, at least up to now, I still think he’d be more effective playing at the 2 spot with an experienced point guard running Arkansas’ offense. That can’t happen so Black plays the point when he’s on the floor.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy wants to know: Are there any sanctions for officials who make such game changing (wrong)calls as the one(s) made against the Hogs late at Mizzou?

A. Nothing has been made public about the mistake make by a replay room official in the Missouri game. I’m told that any disciplinary action taken by the conference office is usually kept in house. Occasionally an entire crew will be suspended for a game or two, especially in football. When it’s happened the SEC has acknowledged that action. But again, it’s rare.

Q: Chuck Farr asks: With the phantom foul in the Mizzou game…when was the last time we benefited from a blown call in football or basketball? The only game I remember is a PI call at Texas A&M, when Hatfield was the coach, that helped us go to the Cotton Bowl.

A. I drew a blank. I’m sure there are some but the average Hog fan could make up a long list of calls that cost Arkansas a game but I doubt they’d remember calls that hurt the other team. Part of that is human nature. Remember the times Arkansas got the shaft. Forget when it goes in Arkansas’ favor. But I do believe that even with proper research, you would find a lot more of those calls going against the Hogs than for them.

Q. revolution asks: Who would you list as the top 5 Basketball Hogs of the Eddie Sutton era? Nolan Richardson era?

A. Gonna have to leave some really good players out but here goes.

Sutton era:

No 1: That’s obvious. Sidney Moncrief.
No. 2. Ron Brewer
No. 3 Joe Kleine
No. 4. Darrell Walker
No. 5. tie Marvin Delph, US Reed

Richardson era:

No. 1. Corliss Williamson
No. 2. Lee Mayberry
No 3. Todd Day
No. 4. Cory Beck
No. 5. Tie: Oliver Miller, Scotty Thurman

Q. Lanny says: A lot of fans were ticked off at the refs for not making Ole Miss’ coach stay off the court. I know Muss gets out there a bit but this guy was way out there. Several times I thought the players were gonna run into him. Should they have Teed him up?

A. The refs do have discretion on making such calls but no question Kermit Davis was much farther out on the court than I’ve seen. So why did he refs ignore it?

Well we got an explanation for that on Twitter. An Arkansas fan posted a video of another fan who got out of this seat and approached one of the refs who was just inside the baseline during a time out. The fan was clearly asking why they weren’t making Davis stay off the playing floor. You could hear the ref casually saying, Hey, he’s not hurting anything.

So clearly their attitude was, as long as Davis is not disrupting the action on the floor, they were going to let it go.

To me that’s the way the entire game was officiated. Let ’em play. We’re going make this game about the players and not us. I think after three straight foul plagued games with a total of 116 fouls shot against Arkansas, the SEC office probably told those guys to cool it.

Personally I enjoyed watching it and that ref was right. Davis really did not affect the game by standing on the court.

Q. Peakhog wants to know: What was the deal Saturday at the Ole Miss game with the police presence at the scorers table during video reviews? I’ve never seen that before and it’s not happening at other SEC venues. It seems Hog Twitter has the SEC Officials on red alert.

A. It’s actually standard procedure during all SEC games. It’s done to keep people away from the refs during the review process. That includes coaches, players and anybody else at the table. They just want to make sure that no one but the refs watches the reviews or tries to interact with the officials during a review.

Q. We have three questions about the Arkansas-South Carolina game in women’s basketball.

Dr. Sarcs asks: How much does the women’s basketball team practice defense and rebounding? We have more size this year than ever before so that excuse doesn’t fly. South Carolina are the favorites to win another title, but that was a national embarrassment.


Hog in Iowa says: I tuned in to the LadyBacks game early Sunday afternoon and was treated to seeing our bigs put up about 5 mortar shots from deep in about a three minute stretch. I thought there must be better options than that but sure, they were open but were open for a reason.


From Dr. Strangepork: The LadyBacks loss to S. Carolina on Sunday was hard to watch. Granted any team on any day can have a game like that where nothing works – I get the youth of the team. Not hitting the panic button on this team, but should we be concerned?

A. First of all South Carolina a dominate number one. Beating teams by 37 points a game and out rebounding them by 20 per game. But the numbers were worse in the Arkansas game.

Basically Arkansas has lost its legs. They played three games in six days. they played number 3 LSU and number 1 South Carolina on the road with two days rest. They went down to the wire against LSU. Played a great game. Lost by 3 in the last minute of the game. Has to spend the night in Baton Rouge because the U of A plane could not pick them up after the game. Had to turn around and go to Columbia. There was no juice left in the tank.

No reason to panic. They’re 17-5. Three of those losses are to top 3 teams.

Q Hogdogger says: I know this is old history but what was the deal when Broyles hired Dana Altman to the basketball program? I never really understood what happened there.

A. Another one of those crazy stories from the years when former chancellor John White was trying to figure out a way to get Frank to retire. White had practically forced Frank to Hire Stan Heath after Nolan was fired when Frank wanted Bill Self.

Heath was there five years. Struggled the first two but had back-to-back 20 win seasons his 4th and 5th years. However Frank was told by a former Arkansas assistant coach that Billy Clyde Gillispie was very interested in coming to Arkansas. A&M was one of the hottest up and coming teams in college basketball and somehow Frank convinced White to let him fire Heath and hire Gillispie but by the time that happened Gillispie had taken the Kentucky job.

Frank did his homework and came up with Dana Altman at Creighton. It turned out that Altman was never sure that he should take the job. He was clearly uncomfortable at his introductory press conference.

After it was over Frank immediately left to play golf at Augusta National and Altman started having player interviews. In those interviews some things came up that he didn’t like. He quickly decided he needed to bring in the academic advisor he’d had at Creighton. So he called Frank’s office to get permission to do that and he was told that Frank was gone. He explained the issue to one of the associate AD’s but the guy would not give Altman Frank’s cellphone number. Told him Frank didn’t like to be disturbed when he was playing golf, which was nonsense.

Altman had dinner that night with White and brought it up to him. Said he needed to talk to Frank but apparently White would not help him either. Totally frustrated Altman went back to his hotel room, called the AD at Creighton and asked for his job back.

So while Frank was still gone to Augusta, White had a press conference with the media and announced that Altman had left while telling us that he was going to handle the hiring of the next coach.

He handled it alright. He used a search committee to hire John Pelphrey who turned out to be one of the worst basketball coaches ever at Arkansas.

All of this because of a failure to communicate. I wish Altman had called me. I had Frank’s cell number and had called him at Augusta before, while he was on the golf course. The conversation was brief but Frank wasn’t mad.

Those were some crazy times.

(Last updated: 2023-01-23 19:54 PM)