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Arkansas Hires Kendal Briles as Offensive Coordinator

The Hogs have made a huge upgrade at offensive coordinator.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas’ search for an offensive coordinator is now over. The school announced Monday that Kendal Briles will run the Hogs’ offense in 2020.

Briles’ background and stats

Briles worked for his father Art Briles at Baylor from 2008 to 2016. He was the passing game coordinator from 2012 to 2014 and offensive coordinator in 2015 and then during the post-Briles interim in 2016. Since leaving Baylor, he’s been the OC at Florida Atlantic under Lane Kiffin (2017), at Houston under Major Applewhite (2018), and at Florida State under Willie Taggart (2019).

Briles runs a fast-tempo spread offense that is extremely modern in its approach. It shares a lot in common with the Morris offense the Hogs have run the last two years, but it’s also a little more passer-friendly. While dual-threat quarterbacks can thrive (see D’Eriq King at Houston in 2018), it is very capable of being successful without the quarterback as a major running threat.

There’s not much doubt that this is an instant upgrade. The Seminoles were 46th in Offense PAN a year ago, one season after finishing 89th. The Noles finished that high despite a horrendous offensive line (102nd stuff rate, 120th line yards, 108th sack rate) that was actually much worse than Arkansas’. If Sam Pittman and new OL coach Brad Davis can get the line fixed, the Hogs’ offense could really take off.

Here are Briles’ offenses’ finishes in Offense PAN during his time as OC:

  • 2019 Florida State: 46th
  • 2018 Houston: 14th
  • 2017 Florida Atlantic: 8th
  • 2016 Baylor: 57th (interim year)
  • 2015 Baylor: 3rd

Necessary note

There is, obviously, one issue with Briles. He’s had no problem keeping jobs since the sexual assault and cover-up scandal that rocked Baylor in 2016 and led to Art Briles’ firing. There’s a good reason he’s not scrutinized as much as his father: as the head coach, the buck stopped with Art, not with Kendal. Kendal was not accused of any crime in the Pepper Hamilton Report that serves as a finding of fact on the university cover-up, but he may have been party to some unethical behavior. A later lawsuit accuses him of using sex to sell Baylor to recruits: “Do you like white women?” Briles is accused of asking, “Because we have a lot of them at BAYLOR and they LOVE football players.” The fact that FAU, Houston, and Florida State still hired him is not an excuse for Arkansas if there’s reason to believe Kendal did anything that should keep him from ever being a college coach. I would hope that the university read the report and did its due diligence on Kendal Briles before hiring him.

If the university did indeed do its due diligence, my personal view is that this is a perfectly-acceptable hire and there’s no need to discuss it further. As we said with Bobby Petrino, the university is responsible for whoever it chooses to hire, and since the Baylor scandal major schools have changed their Title IX procedures to ensure that what happened at Baylor doesn’t happen anywhere else. Coach Pittman will be responsible for doing what Art Briles failed to do: maintain a strong, positive culture in the football program. So far, he seems up to the task.

Moving forward

I’m going to guess that no team in the country upgraded its coordinators like Arkansas just did. To go from Joe Craddock and John Chavis to Kendal Briles and Barry Odom is a huge win for Sam Pittman. I’m guessing this hire, like the Odom hire, will convert more skeptics into believers.

In the future, we’ll take a closer look at the X’s and O’s of the Briles offense to get an idea of what we can expect from the Hogs starting next season.