Uh oh...

It appears that you're using a severely outdated version of Safari on Windows. Many features won't work correctly, and functionality can't be guaranteed. Please try viewing this website in Edge, Mozilla, Chrome, or another modern browser. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused!

Read More about this safari issue.
Sports 0

The Dan Enos Effect


As both quarterback and quarterback whisperer, Enos has shown he’s master of the mid-season turnaround.

Dan Enos FB 2015-3359

The Arkansas Razorback offensive coordinator, for instance, makes a point of getting along well with his players. Likewise, he’s committed himself to becoming one of the game’s sharpest and most versatile playcallers, with the ability to gouge a defense equally well on the ground or through the air. And he’s spent decades emerging as a highly gifted quarterback whisperer who can help lift his charges closer to their full potential through technical instruction and emotional support.

But sometimes a man can’t choose the realm over which he holds domain. Enos, for one, never chose to become the master of the mid-season turnaround. But an examination of the evidence shows he has become just that whether he likes it or not.

Let’s start with the 2015 Arkansas team. It began the season ranked No. 18, then stumbled to a 2-4 start before shifting into hyperdrive to finish the season with an 8-5 record. The Hogs beat Kansas State 45-23 in the Liberty Bowl last weekend to cap a seven-game stretch averaging more than 45 points a game and one of the most dominant offensive stretches in program history.

In September, after Arkansas lost to Toledo in Little Rock, many fans felt like the program’s wheels were coming off. Now, after such a strong finish, most fans can’t wait to see what kind of progress the next team makes in the coming months.

“It’s been a crazy season,” wide receiver Keon Hatcher recently told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “After [running back] J-Will got hurt, a couple of us went down, it just really seemed like a dark cloud was over the season. But guys stepped up, practiced hard and kept coming every day and look where we are now.”

Similarly dramatic mid-season turnarounds — those which involve two or fewer wins in the first six games but five or more wins in the last six — are rare in the history of major college football, according to a database query courtesy of sports-reference.com. Only once has a program experienced three such seasons in a row.  And it just so happens Dan Enos was that team’s quarterback all three years.

If there is one program which well understands what Arkansas fans have gone through these last couple rollercoaster seasons, it is the Michigan State Spartans. Michigan State began the 1988 season ranked No. 15 with Enos as its backup sophomore, but out of the gate the Spartans fell directly on their faces, losing to Rutgers and Notre Dame at home and Florida State and Michigan on the road. They tied Iowa at home.

The Spartans’ defense then gelled, former Michigan State running back Tico Duckett recalls, to keep five of their next six opponents under 13 points. Michigan State finished with a 6-1-1 conference record.

The next season Enos became the Spartans’ starter but an early season running back injury hurt the backfield, Duckett recalled. The Spartans rolled in the season opener, just as the 2015 Hogs had against UTEP, but then had the luck of a five-game stretch facing four teams which would end up ranked in the Top 13 by season’s end. The Spartans played all those teams very closely but lost to all of them.

Head coach George Perles, whom Enos has often cited as a mentor, brushed off any suggestion his offense was hurting. “I don’t remember any injuries. Like I said, no excuses — play at home, play on the road, play on dirt, play on grass. There’s no excuse for losing. We would never go public and complain about that.”

Similarly, Enos avoided making excuses after the 2015 Razorbacks’ inability to finish drives in early games against the likes of Toledo and Texas Tech. One excuse could have been a rash of injuries afflicting running backs and receivers. A recently reshuffled offensive line was also still finding its groove.

That 1989 Michigan State offense ultimately turned the corner in late October and proved just as explosive as the 2015 Hogs in winning its last six games.

The 1990 Spartans were better than their two predecessors — good enough to beat No. 1 Michigan on the road in early October — and yet also struggled at the start. Duckett says small, end-game mistakes led to close losses to Notre Dame and Illinois. All the same, once again the Spartans pivoted off a late October game against Purdue to begin a six-game winning streak. They finished as four-way Big Ten co-champions.

Enos’ statistics were far from dominant. He threw for 1,677 yards, four touchdowns and 11 interceptions. But his strong leadership ensured he stayed on the field.  “He’s a guy that never quits. It seemed as if he got tougher and more resilient in the latter part of games,” Duckett says. “As the season got going, he got going.”

He adds: “The kind of team he has now is really a spitting image of his personality.”

Enos credits the Razorbacks’ turnaround to a meeting with head coach Bret Bielema in the team’s mid October off week. Bielema told him he for the most part loved Enos’ schemes, but just needed him to dial up the aggressive playcalling.

As Enos recalled the conversation, Bielema said ‘Sometimes when you feel like we need to make a play just fire bullets. Fire shots,’” Enos told WholeHogSports.com’s Matt Jones.  “After he said that I was like, ‘OK, that’s the go-ahead to go get this thing.’ That gave me a lot of confidence.’”

Bielema added he wanted Enos to use tight end Hunter Henry more in the game plan. He also wanted more run plays called for wide receivers like Dominique Reed and Jared Cornelius.

Enos implemented Bielema’s directives to a T, and the results were most dramatic in the red zone. The same Razorback team which after six games had ranked 125 out of 128 teams in red zone efficiency ended up reeling off 25 consecutive scores inside the 20-yard come November.

The Razorback offense will need considerable retooling to operate at a similar level at the start of next season. It loses stars like Henry and offensive tackle Denver Kirkland to the NFL, and most critically fifth-year senior quarterback Brandon Allen after a record setting season. Still, Enos will back and so will Allen’s talented backups whom he has been training for a full year now. If he can help them improve as much as he did Allen, then the offensive drop off won’t be nearly as steep as some fans fear.

Former Michigan State head coach George Perles believes the Hogs’ the next starting quarterback will thrive under his disciple’s instruction. He sees the 2016 Arkansas team carrying over intangible ingredients like discipline and toughness from their predecessors. “Dan will take care of that offense,” Perles adds.

“They’ll get better every year.”



Meet the

Learn more about .

A little about .

Little Rock native Evin Demirel is the author of African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks and Other Forgotten Stories. Follow him on Twitter @evindemirel.

Read more stories by Evin Demirel


Visit Evin Demirel’s Website

Like this story? Read more from Evin Demirel


Join the Conversation

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Submit a photo

We select one featured photo per week, but we show many more in our gallery. Be sure to fill out all the fields in order to have yours selected.
  • Accepted file types: jpg, png, Max. file size: 5 MB.

Regions Topics

What are you looking for?

Explore Arkansas

Central Arkansas

Little Rock, Conway, Searcy, Benton, Heber Springs

Northwest Arkansas

Fayetteville, Bentonville, Springdale, Fort Smith

South Arkansas

Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, Arkadelphia

Explore by Topic