You can call Sam Pittman many things, but “coy” or “indirect” don’t fit the personality of the Arkansas coach. He shoots it straight, and even though there’s widespread speculation that his job will be on the line heading into Year 5, Pittman will continue to be who he is.

That’s why it didn’t come as any surprise when he said after Saturday’s spring game that Boise State transfer Taylen Green was the Hogs’ quarterback and that any sort of QB battle was for the backup job.

That wasn’t an Earth-shattering revelation, though in this era of the transfer portal, some coaches do opt to be “coy” or “indirect.” As a result of that spring development, potential QB2 Jacolby Criswell reportedly entered the transfer portal. Not to diminish the importance of having a quality backup option — early enrollee KJ Jackson is now in position to be that guy — but Pittman knew what his future would depend on from the moment he brought Bobby Petrino back to Fayetteville.

There’s no need to be indirect about it — the Petrino-Green connection will determine Pittman’s future. So far, that’s a positive development.

Pittman didn’t want a quarterback battle because no coach in human history wanted that to be the preamble to a pivotal, potentially future-defining season. Coaches want to have a starter get starter reps. Coaches ideally don’t want new offenses to be the preamble to a pivotal, potentially future-defining season, but Dan Enos left Pittman no choice in that matter. Anything will be an upgrade compared to the Enos offense.

Last year, Petrino upgraded the Texas A&M offense by 11 points per game. How much control he had over the offense as Jimbo Fisher’s first primary play-caller is up for debate, but the fact that Petrino led a double-digit scoring improvement with 3 different signal-callers starting multiple games told Pittman something — he’s still got it.

Say what you want about a spring game exhibition, wherein Green wasn’t live and DC Travis Williams mostly kept things pretty basic. You could still see why Green had a stranglehold on the starting job all spring.

He’s going to be a true dual-threat running the RPOs. There were a pair of Green runs that looked like they could’ve gone for 6 if he had been live, but spring game rules prevented him from adding to his impressive day. It’s a much different mindset than this time last year, when Enos’ focus was on taking some of the quarterback-designed runs away from KJ Jefferson to run a more pro-style system.

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Petrino isn’t going to turn Green into Lamar Jackson, but he will utilize those long, 6-6 strides to pick up easy yards. He had 19 rushing touchdowns and 1,022 yards with his legs the last 2 seasons at Boise State. That has to be a part of this Arkansas offense, which needs to get back to blocking like a Pittman offensive line and not whatever that was last year.

Pittman voiced his concern over that unit last year as early as spring camp. This year, a more hands-on Pittman seems much more optimistic about that group’s potential. He’s joked that he’s been a “GA” for that offensive line. Good. That’s what got Pittman the Arkansas job in the first place.

Of course, having a decent offensive line with poor quarterback play won’t fuel a bounce-back season. This is still largely dependent on Green and Petrino making each other better. Green’s accuracy and decision-making are the areas that must improve. In 2023, he threw an interception once every 23.6 pass attempts and struggled with his accuracy. Consistency is the question.

But when you see a touch throw like this, it’s hard not to get excited about Green’s potential with Petrino:

Mercy. I’m as big of a Jefferson defender as there is, but he’s not making that throw.

Don’t get it twisted. That doesn’t mean that Green is guaranteed to outperform his predecessor, who had a frustrating end to a prolific 3 seasons as the Hogs’ starter. But there’s a new type of optimism with Green in the building.

“He’s really electric,” Arkansas TE Luke Hasz told SDS in a recent interview. “He’ll make plays. He makes plays with his feet. He can throw the ball really well. But like I said before, he’s a really good leader with his ability to be liked by everyone and to communicate to everyone, not only on the football field but in the locker room. It’s definitely a big deal for the team and the offense in general.”

After a season-ending injury ended his breakout true freshman season, Hasz figures to become one of Green’s primary targets, along with fellow returners Andrew Armstrong and Tyrone Broden. There’s depth and experience at the pass-catchers position in ways that there hasn’t been in years past. Add in the addition of Utah transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson and there could be no shortage of puzzle pieces for Petrino and Green to work with.

Spring optimism isn’t lacking in Fayetteville, even on the heels of one of the most depressing home slates we’ve seen from an SEC team in recent memory. The optics didn’t favor Pittman, but Hunter Yurachek’s loyalty to him did. It wasn’t that long ago that Pittman’s stock was climbing for the job he did cleaning up the Chad Morris mess. It’s fair to say that this is the lowest his stock has been since his arrival, at least nationally.

But Pittman’s at least got a path to right the ship. It’s all about the Green-Petrino duo making some magic.

If that happens, maybe that redemption path will be just as direct as Pittman.

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