By Brant Daughtry
The Arkansas Razorback are coached by probably the most likable head coach in the sport, Sam Pittman. He’s a good ol’ boy who played offensive line and spent a few years as a high school coach before entering the college ranks as an offensive line coach and climbing the ladder. He’s done a great job as head coach at Arkansas, leading a rebuild beginning in 2020 that saw the Hogs back in top 25 over the past few seasons. Unfortunately, this year has been less than stellar.
Arkansas entered the season as the 19th ranked team in the country and a returning quarterback that many were in love with, but has more or less crashed and burned. A big part of that comes from the departure of offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who left for the TCU job, and replacing him with Dan Enos, a journeyman who never worked at Arkansas. After Arky was only able to muster three points against Mississippi State, Enos was fired and wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton was named interim.
In his first game as OC, Guiton faired pretty well. The Hogs managed to put up 39 points in an overtime win over Florida in The Swamp, and looked completely different on offense. That’s a big help to KJ Jefferson, a big, powerful quarterback who’s something of a poor man’s Cam Newton. He’s big, strong, and powerful. He’s not nearly as good, but the play style is similar, and this new offense leans into what he does well as a player.
This Arkansas team is better than its record will reflect. 3-6 does not do justice to the talent and coaching on display, and all thoughts about the team before this Florida game should be thrown out. This will be a very tough matchup against a team that seems to be getting its swagger back and a head coach fighting for his job.
Players to Watch For:
Running Back Rocket Sanders, #5- Sanders is maybe the best player on the team, and Arkansas is happy to have him back after he missed five games with injury. He hasn’t had the best season, but seems to have gotten his feet back under him at Florida, as it was his first 100 yard game this year. He’s only at 194 yards on the season, but with him becoming healthy and Arkansas running a more open offense now, he’s poised to have his get right game.
EDGE Landon Jackson, #40- Jackson is the premier defensive lineman for Arkansas. He’s a former 4-star who signed with LSU and transferred in 2022. He’s registered 5.5 sacks this season and 11.5 tackles for loss, which leads the team. Another game wrecker that Auburn will have to account for before every snap.
This will be an interesting test, maybe more for Arkansas than Auburn. A few weeks ago, I would have told you that Sam Pittman was a dead man walking. After the decision to cut Enos loose though, there’s a little more love returning for a guy that everyone seems to have a good time around. If Arkansas loses this, Pittman might be fired by Monday. If they continue to climb and look good on offense, he could restore that good will.
From an Auburn perspective, it’s not ALL about winning. Yeah you’d obviously love to win, it’s why you play. But to me, it’s about continuing to show improvement. You’re not going to out talent these guys the same way you did against Vandy and Mississippi State, but you can continue this path of a proof of concept. Show competence on offense against a team that’s more talented than you for the first time this year, and you’ll convince a lot of people that you’re actually headed in the right direction.