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Briles staying at Arkansas

by Tom Murphy | January 21, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas football program will retain offensive coordinator Kendal Briles for the 2022 season after reaching agreement on a raise and extension according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Sources had indicated to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in recent days Briles was expected to remain with the Razorbacks after new Miami Coach Mario Cristobal had discussed the Hurricanes’ vacant offensive coordinator position with Briles.

ESPN.com’s Chris Low reported first on Thursday that Briles and the UA had reached an agreement on a new deal. The agreement appears to be verbal at this point, as a UA spokesman said there were no responsive records such as a memo of understanding regarding a renegotiated deal with Briles as of Thursday afternoon.

Briles could be in line for a raise in the 50% range after his contract called for a salary of $1 million per year each of his first two seasons with the Razorbacks. He agreed to an extension last year that carried his deal through February 2023.

Retaining Briles, 39, is a key move for third-year Coach Sam Pittman, who guided the Razorbacks to a 9-4 and a third-place finish in the rugged SEC West last season.

The Razorbacks rushed for an SEC-best 227.8 rushing yards per game behind a diversified attack, a figure that ranked seventh in the nation. Arkansas also passed for 213.9 yards per game, ranked 27th nationally with 441.7 total yards per game and 48th with 30.9 points per game.

The 2021 Razorbacks became the first Arkansas team in 50 years to average 200-plus yards rushing and passing in the same season.

Quarterback KJ Jefferson blossomed in his first year as a starter in Briles’ productive run-pass option attack. The redshirt sophomore completed 198 of 294 passes (67.3%) for 2,676 yards, with 21 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, exceeding Briles’ stated pre-season goal of 65% completions for Jefferson.

The Razorbacks also had four 500-yard rushers for the first time since 1974, with Jefferson leading the way with 664 yards and 6 touchdowns, followed by senior Trelon Smith (598 yards, 5 TD), freshman Raheim Sanders (578, 5), and sophomore Dominique Johnson (575, 7).

Briles, who cold called Pittman in the winter of 2019 to express his interest in the offensive coordinator’s role, has produced top-tier results at quarterback under both a pocket passer in KJ Jefferson and a dual-threat presence in Jefferson. Franks broke Kevin Scanlon’s 41-year school record of 66.2% completions with a 68.5% accuracy rate in 2020.

Briles will remain in the Arkansas job for a third season, bringing stability to both the position for Pittman and for Briles’ personal career path after he held five different coordinator jobs in a five-year span at Baylor, Florida Atlantic, Houston, Florida State and Arkansas between 2016-2020.

Arkansas is now poised to retain all three of its coordinators — Briles, defensive coordinator Barry Odom and special teams coordinator Scott Fountain — for a third season under Pittman, who said during preparations for the Outback Bowl that UA officials were working to keep his staff intact. The Razorbacks capped the season with a 24-10 victory over Penn State on Jan. 1 while rushing for 353 yards.

Odom, the former Missouri head coach, has received pay raises each of his first two years at Arkansas, and is under contract at $1.75 million per year through February 2024.

Odom received a $100,000 raise early in 2020 after Pittman said he had been pursued by an undisclosed SEC team, which was believed at the time to be LSU.

Odom got a $450,000 pay raise early last year after reportedly being a candidate for open defensive coordinator jobs at LSU and Texas.


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