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Andy Hodges

Briles’ handling at QB spot, offense, will tell us if lack of talent an issue

Razorback fans didn’t get to see a whole lot of quarterback K.J. Jefferson, but we’ll know by end of spring whether Kendal Briles thinks he is going to be as good as many hope.



Sam Pittman has probably spent most waking moments since taking over as Arkansas’ football coach recruiting either players or — maybe more importantly — assistant coaches.

Most feel he’s done a pretty fair job at that getting Barry Odom for the defense and Kendal Briles on the offensive side of things.

Both will inherit probably more talent than even a lot of Razorback fans don’t want to admit is on the team. If Chad Morris did anything positive it was redshirting so many talented freshmen off last year’s recruiting class.

Pittman has been around long enough to know he can compensate for that by developing them and keeping them around. There is a natural rate of players leaving for whatever reason, especially with the transfer portal these days.

The Hogs haven’t had any sort of consistent coaching in since the 2015 season. It’s not a coincidence that’s about the time Pittman had all he could take of Bret Bielema’s ego and half-hearted approach to things.

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This roster isn’t 4-20 bad.

No, that doesn’t mean this team could have contended for even the SEC West title but I had a longtime SEC coach tell me one time a few years ago that any team in the league should be able to win one game a season — even by accident — unless he doesn’t know how to win.

It’s interesting to note that’s not always a terminal affliction because the SEC coach being discussed at the time was Ed Orgeron, who managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on several occasions in 2007 before getting canned.

As Bill Belichick and Nick Saban discussed on an HBO special that was like crack for football fans, they agreed that great players simply can’t overcome bad coaching. It wasn’t hard to wonder if they had Arkansas in mind when they said that.

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The guess here is we’re going to find out if those highly-touted freshmen can be coached up to play their ability.

Especially at quarterback.

Freshman K.J. Jefferson was rated as the best high school quarterback in Mississippi and the guy rated behind him ended up starting at Ole Miss for much of this past season.

It was hard to tell if Jefferson’s inconsistency in the limited practice time the media could see was due to his talent or just bad coaching. Morris seemed more intent on doing things halfway in a hurry than just getting it right, then doing that faster.

Folks in Dallas told me when Joe Craddock was hired as offensive coordinator that was going to get Morris fired eventually.

That turned out to be two years and it may be awhile before we find out if it was John Chavis’ coaching or Morris over-ruling decisions on that side of the ball that led to the Hogs not being able to stop anybody.

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But Jefferson and how Briles handles him is going to be interesting to watch. The offensive line will be improved almost immediately just from quality coaching.

This is going to be an interesting spring practice from that standpoint. Briles’ reputation indicates we’ll know pretty quickly if Jefferson is the real deal or not.

With bowl games winding down Pittman will begin completing his staff. There is chatter about possibly a current Georgia assistant joining the Hogs and it’s a good bet that’s been the delay in putting a staff together.

That means, of course, Pittman is looking for guys that know how to win.


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