Portal QB Or Not, The New “Go For It” Sam & Briles’ Coaching Resume

By Mike Irwin
on 2022-11-14 20:02 PM

Q. Our first question is from s-giles who asks: Are we cursed or what? We finally get our defense going and what happens? We lose our quarterback and the offensive line suddenly can’t block anybody.

A. I think we’ve known for the past two seasons what would happen if KJ could not play or was playing hurt. This year it caught up with Pittman and his staff. Last winter when Malik Hornsby hit the portal they could have let him go and put a priority on bringing in a better option out of the portal. Arkansas is not the only team that ends up having to play a backup QB. Pittman did a great job of using the portal this past off season but whiffed at the one position where it ended up mattering the most.

Q. DWR says: Today should put to rest that Malik Hornsby is the QB of the future. What are your thoughts on where we go next? Portal or freshman?

A. Well they already have Malichi Singleton, a highly rated freshman run/pass quarterback, coming in January but to me it’s a risk to count on him next year as a back up and that’s if KJ comes back. I think they need to hit the portal hard for a quarterback.

Q. HL Mc Camish says: I thought Malik would play better. He looked completely out of whack. Nothing like what he did against Mississippi State. What happened?

A. I’ve never been sold on him as the answer if KJ could not go. All this talk about his track speed overlooks the fact that he doesn’t have good footwork. He doesn’t cut or change directions well. He stumbles a lot and he doesn’t cut loose unless he sees a clear path in front of him. As a passer he’s got good zip on the ball but he doesn’t have good touch. I also don’t think he reads defenses very well.

Having pointed all that out, a big part of his problem last Saturday was an offensive line that did not protect him like it did in the Mississippi State game. He had more time to throw in that game. Cade Fortin had the same problem. He was throwing the ball better but too often he didn’t have time to get the ball to a receiver including on that last play which was ruled a fumble.

So what’s happened to the offensive line? Whatever the problem is, Sam Pittman warned that the issues which popped up against Liberty needed to be solved and guess what? It didn’t happen. This is something that’s hard for me to believe. We are in year three under Pittman with a veteran offensive line and that line ends up costing Arkansas the game in back to back weeks. A strength has turned into a weakness.

Q. HogHillbilly says: Absolutely dumbfounded how Briles can’t make adjustments and not double team LSU’s Perkins during the whole game. Can he not read defense’s ? This isn’t the first time this has happened.

A. A question about Perkins came up in the post game presser and I think center Ricky Stromberg’s answer got misinterpreted. He was asked if they had a game plan for Perkins and Stromberg said no. If you were there it was obvious what he was saying. They didn’t have a specific game plan for Perkins and honestly the coaches had no way of knowing that the young man was gonna play the best game of his young career.

But a better question would have been your question. Why didn’t they adjust when he started taking advantage of Ty’Kieast Crawford’s first start at offensive tackle? It certainly didn’t take very long to see that he was killing them with his quarterback pressure and something needed to be done.

Q. Slobberslob says: WOW! Great game! Shows how much we rely on KJ but, dang they were giving it everything. Should’ve took the 3 in the first but, I understand trying to set the tone early. Just didn’t work this time.

A. That’s an understatement. Take that chip shot field goal and the game goes into overtime.

Punt in the 3rd quarter instead of going for it on 4th and 2 from midfield and LSU would have had to go 80 yards or more to score instead of 40. That failed 4th down conversion, I think, was the difference in the game. That was LSU’s only touchdown. Without it the Hogs win 10-6.

What I can’t understand is why Pittman didn’t trust his defense more. They were the story of the game. It’s flat unbelievable how much that bunch has improved. All those fans who were clamoring for Barry Odom’s head earlier in the season, they look really bad right now. But why didn’t Sam see that?

Those two decisions cost Arkansas three points and gave LSU seven.

Q. mousetown wants to know: What’s going on with all these college football coaches who are suddenly deciding it’s bad to punt? It’s like Kevin Kelly wrote a book and they’re trying to make it a best seller. Guess what? It ain’t working?

A. Kevin Kelley is the former Pulaski Academy High School football coach who was famous for never punting the ball claiming that statistically it pays off.

Saturday I watched Lane Kiffin do it some but he’s always been a go for it on 4th down guy. Tennessee’s Josh Heupel did it twice early in the Vols game against Missouri. It backfired both times but Tennessee still won the game in a blow out.

But Sam Pittman? He’s a conservative coach. He really surprised me on Saturday.

So why is it happening so much? I can’t only guess but the social media crowd loves it until it doesn’t work.

Hog fans on Twitter were solidly behind Pittman’s decision to wave off the first quarter field goal claiming that three points would not decide the game. When they turned out to be wrong they vanished on that subject.

Q. BloodRedHog asks: Does Briles have any history of QB development in his previous stops? I don’t see much progression by Malik or Cade. LSU was a game we easily win with a competent passer.

A. Actually he does. His first job as quarterbacks coach was at Baylor in 2015. His starter Seth Russell, threw for 29 touchdowns and 300 yards a game but he also ran for over 500 yards. His back up QB threw for 12 touchdowns.

A year later Russell and Zach Smith combined for 33 touchdown passes and again Russell ran for almost 500 yards.

At Florida Atlantic Jason Driskell and Danile Parr combined for 19 touchdown passes. So again he’s playing two quarterbacks.

At Houston in 2018 Clayton Tune threw for 31 touchdowns and ran for almost 500 yards.

At Florida State James Blackburn and his backup QB combined for 24 touchdown passes, so again Briles was playing two quarterbacks.

I think most would tell you that Briles did a good job of bringing in Feleipe Franks and developing him to fit into Arkansas’ offense in 2000. And of course his development of K. J. Jefferson that year and the following season has been a clear success.

But the last two seasons he has failed to do what has generally been his strength. That is developing not just one but two quarterbacks who can get the job done.

If he remains as the OC in 2023 it’s going to be interesting to see what Briles next move is. If KJ comes back as a senior can Briles can develop Malachi Singleton as a true freshman as quickly as he developed Jefferson?

Q. Pigsfeat asks: Wonder what it would look like if our defense and offense played great at the same time? Just a pipe dream?

A. I think this would be a really good football team but really the question should be, what would it look like if there were no key injuries on either side of the ball? Early in the season the injuries were on the defensive side. As that problem slowly got better and as Barry Odom began to make adjustments to the defense, K. J. began to show the effects of a deep bruise on the clavicle attached to his throwing arm.

So in answer to your question, if K. J. plays this week like he did the last time he took whole week off, I think they can win the final two games.

Q. ArkRiverBaron wants to know:

Could there be a possibility of KJ not playing the rest of the season due to injury or because he is done with the hogs and wants to prepare for the draft?Could it be that certain coaches or coordinators already have one foot out the door and are currently looking elsewhere?

A. Sounds like you’ve heard some rumors. Well the rumors are not true. I’m told that K. J. will not be drafted if he comes out early.

I can’t say there won’t be any coaching changes although it would not surprise me if there are none. There are no rumors coming out the Broyles Center right now about any of Pittman’s coaches being gone. Also Sam Pittman would not be dumb enough to address something like that with any of them before the season is over if he was planning to make some changes.

Plain and simple, the defense has gotten much better. The problems on the offensive side have a lot to to with K. J.’s injuries.

If there’s a takeaway from this season for Pittman, I’m told that he knows he has to bring in a good QB out of the portal and have that QB share playing time with KJ next season.

Q. PatBoat asks: Do you think Quincey McAdoo will stay on defense next year or is he a better WR.

A. He will stay on defense because they’re loaded with young receivers but need help in the secondary badly. He has said that her wants to play where he’s needed the most and that’s where he’s needed the most. McAdoo’s coaches and teammates have embraced his success in such a short transition period. It sure looks like he loves it in the secondary and the fact that he’s making an impact after just two games and a few weeks of practices suggests that he’s a future all SEC or maybe even All American defensive back.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy wants to know: Regarding NIL, what are some of the rules? Such as can schools tell recruits about potential NIL deals? Do businesses have to report their association with players to the players school ? What NCAA monitoring is there?

A. There a two basic rules.

You cannot offer a specific NIL deal in the recruiting process. Specific deals can only be discussed after an athlete signs a letter of intent.

That rule has been largely ignored by some schools and it’s led to what some believe is the outright buying of recruits.

NIL deals cannot be tied to athletic performance. An an example, a quarterback could not be offered a deal that goes up in monitory value based on the number of touchdown passes he throws.

That’s it. Two rules and the NCAA is not even enforcing the first one.

The NIL mess is one of the main reasons that the NCAA’s control of college football is probably going away.

Q. LostinSwine says: You were talking about the new committee regulating the NIL money by having it doled out through the universities. Does that also mean that there will be a cap on NIL money for each university much like there is a salary cap in the NFL?

A. Don’t confuse committees that are currently studying ways to better administer college football with a yet to be formed governing body that will eventually take control of college football from the NCAA.

The NIL proposal I mentioned is being discussed. It may or may not be the way this future governing body deals with NILs. But yes the proposal I mentioned would essentially function as a salary cap to prevent the outright buying of players. It would also rectify the big disparity between what a top college quarterback makes compared to an offensive lineman or a volleyball player for that matter.

Q.RazorAlex88 says: Today reignited my utter hatred for LSU fans. They keep doing their “Go Tigers” when we are all trying to go to our vehicles. You won by 3 points! You would think the 2020-21 years would have humbled them but NOPE! They still are the worst fans to deal with in the SEC!

Q. This is exactly how I developed my attitude about Longhorn fans and Aggies 60 plus years ago? Sitting around them at games as a kid, listening to their nonsense leaving the stadium was completely annoying. When you’re at another team’s stadium, don’t rub it in excessively if your teams wins. Show some class. LSU fans as a group are annoying as are Aggies and Ole Miss fans. Georgia. I like Georgia fans. Mississippi State’s too.

Q. Dr. Starcs wants to know: Did Yurachek get played by Pittman and Sexton? Can you offer the fan base any consolation for what appears to be another example of a coach getting a fat new contract and immediately underperforming?

A. What’s happened this season has nothing to do with that contract. First of all, it’s still a modest contract in terms of salary and buyout.

Secondly three of Arkansas five losses are by a combined seven points. That’s what separates this team from being 8-2 right now.

Arkansas just played the SEC West Champions to 3 points without its starting quarterback. So this notion that Sam Pittman is suddenly Chad Morris, is completely nuts.

He’s still got another season before the team the players he puts on the field are totally his.

I’ve been critical of some of the decisions he’s made but that’s my job. Don’t mistake that criticism for some sort of belief that he can’t get the job done.

Q. Tiredofhogssucking says: The margin for error in the SEC is razor thin between winning and losing. We have 3 losses by combined 7 points – that’s boils down to coaching or in game decisions. What are your thoughts?

A. So lets look at those three losses by a combined 7 points. A&M, Cam Little missing that field goal, was that the result of a coaching mistake? No, a kid that doesn’t miss pressure field goals missed one by a few inches. That’s what caused the loss.

Against Liberty, Jefferson didn’t throw the ball all week and was clearly rusty until the 4th quarter when he finally kicked it in gear. Not sure how that relates to coaching.

Finally does anybody believe that Arkansas would have lost to LSU if KJ had played?

Coaches make mistakes in every game but when their team wins nobody brings it up. When a team loses fans start going though those mistakes like a laundry list, especially if the game is close. What do you think LSU fans would have been saying about Bryan Kelly this week if LSU had lost? His laundry list would be front and center.

(Last updated: 2022-11-14 20:02 PM)