Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek expressed confidence in the Razorbacks’ football team during his speech at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday.
Yurachek’s appearance came two days after Arkansas lost 38-31 to BYU in Fayetteville — a frustrating outcome for the Razorbacks, who had leads of 14 points in the first quarter and 10 points in the third quarter. The loss dropped Arkansas to 2-1 ahead of its SEC opener this weekend at No. 12 LSU.
“People say, ‘What’s the matter with our football program?’” Yurachek said. “Quite honestly, I don’t know that anything is the matter with our football program but just normal football issues. Absolutely, we have some inexperience on our offensive line. Everybody says, ‘Well, [head coach] Sam Pittman is an offensive line coach.’ Well, he knows how to coach offensive line, but he can’t coach experience. We lost three key members off of our offensive line last year — Ricky Stromberg, who is playing for the Commanders; Dalton Wagner, who is in a pro camp; and then Luke Jones. Those guys took up a lot of snaps.
“I’m not making excuses, but you can’t coach experience. They are learning.”
Yurachek also spoke about the play of quarterback KJ Jefferson, whose offensive production is down compared to three games into the 2021 and 2022 seasons under former offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
“KJ had one offensive coordinator [for] three years at the University of Arkansas,” Yurachek said. “He’s learning about [offensive coordinator] Dan Enos and Dan Enos is learning about KJ. I think you’ll see that start to come together.”
Yurachek said he thinks the Razorbacks will continue to prepare and play hard during a month-long stretch of games away from home. Following the LSU game, Arkansas will play a neutral-site game against Texas A&M before consecutive road games at No. 15 Ole Miss and No. 13 Alabama.
The Razorbacks do not play another home game until Oct. 21 against Mississippi State.
“We’ve got a tough road ahead of us, starting Saturday night in Death Valley against a very good LSU team,” Yurachek said.
Yurachek indicated he was happy with the team’s effort during the BYU loss.
“There’s one thing you can’t take away from those young men on that field: They played hard for 60 minutes on Saturday, and they will continue to play hard for 60 minutes for the remaining nine games we have this year,” Yurachek said. “We’re only three games into the season. We have a lot of momentum coming off of last season, going to two consecutive bowl wins. We’ve had incredible crowds here in Little Rock and Fayetteville.
“There is nothing wrong with our football program, other than we lost 38-31 to a good BYU team Saturday night at home. We will bounce back and I think you will see us play really well Saturday night at LSU.”
Yurachek was asked by emcee David Bazzel, a former Arkansas player, about the mood of the team following the loss to the Cougars.
“For as upset as you think you may have been or the other fans across this state, there was nobody more upset than our players and our coaches at losing that game,” Yurachek said. “You can’t come close to understanding the hard work those men put in, the hard work that our coaches put in to prepare. They get to play 12 times and they had an opportunity to win Saturday night in front of an incredible atmosphere at Razorback Stadium.”
Bazzel also asked Yurachek about the Razorbacks’ partnership with War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. The future of that partnership is in question, in part, due to a potential change in the SEC scheduling model.
Yurachek said he thinks the SEC will have a decision on its future scheduling model by next spring. League leaders are debating whether to continue playing an eight-game conference schedule or move to nine games.
“We’re going to evaluate what that scheduling model looks like,” Yurachek said. “Is it nine SEC games, plus a Power 5 requirement [for a non-conference game]? Then we’ll evaluate our relationship, partnership and what games will be played in Little Rock moving forward.”
The Razorbacks defeated Western Carolina 56-13 in Little Rock on Sept. 2. The game had an announced attendance of 44,397, which reflected tickets sold. The 54,120-seat stadium has not come close to selling out in five of the team’s last six games there dating to 2016.
Arkansas has two games remaining on its contract with War Memorial Stadium — against Arkansas-Pine Bluff to open the 2024 season and against Arkansas State in 2025.
“We’ll see what ’26 and beyond looks like once the SEC schedule gets set,” Yurachek said.