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Arkansas Head Coach Candidates: Buy or Sell

New Arkansas Head Coach: Buy or Sell

Arkansas fired former head coach Chad Morris on Sunday following the blowout loss to Western Kentucky at home. The Razorbacks are on the heels of another 2-10 season as well as another winless SEC season under Morris.

Morris, who’s former SMU team was ranked for the first time since the Death Penalty, went just 4-18 with the Razorbacks. The $10 million buyout ends what looked like a directionless and fruitless path for the Morris era.

The odds are out on who will be the next Arkansas head coach and we’ll take a look at who the players are.

Mike Norvell: Buy

This is a definite possibility. Norvell has taken over the Memphis program smoothly after the Justin Fuente departure to Virginia Tech. He has posted seasons of 8 wins, 10 wins, 8 wins and now 8 and counting this year.

There are rumors and speculations of why Norvell has yet to take an SEC job or even a power 5 job. Believe what you will, but something seems to be holding back the bigger schools from making the hire.

Norvell has plenty of familiarity with Arkansas after living there and playing for Central Arkansas. The Razorbacks have little to lose by taking a gamble on what may potentially be a PR disaster. Ultimately Norvell would be a great fit if he was willing to take on the challenge.

Eliah Drinkwitz: Buy

Another easy pick for Arkansas. Drinkwitz was born down the road in Norman, Oklahoma and went to school at Arkansas Tech back in the early 2000s. He’s a very similar story to Mike Norvell after taking over for Scott Satterfield and finding immediate success.

New Arkansas Head Coach: Buy or Sell

His Appalachian State Mountaineers are 8-1 after impressive wins at North Carolina and at South Carolina. One slight hiccup on the schedule has them out of New Year’s Six Bowl contention, for now, but they are cruising to a promising season.

There’s no reason Arkansas wouldn’t want to take on this guy. He’s a near mirror image as Norvell, two years younger at 36. He recently took over a successful program and continued the winning tradition. He’s an Arkansas native. The only thing that may put him behind Norvell is his shorter resume. Either way, it would be a good hire.

Lane Kiffin: Sell

While Lane Kiffin would be another home run hire for the Razorbacks, it doesn’t look like he intends on going anywhere. Kiffin seems to be perfectly comfortable at Florida Atlantic and is enjoying his success mixed with the warm sun of Florida’s coast.

Kiffin’s already had a bad experience at Tennessee and Southern California. There’s no reason to think he’s eager to jump back into a power 5 program, least of all one in Arkansas’s predicament.

Not only that, there have been ample opportunities for Kiffin to get back on the main stage again. There have been several big openings recently that he has not jumped on since taking the FAU coaching job in 2017. It doesn’t seem practical that this would be the opportunity he seizes.

Bill Clark: Sell

Maybe not selling as much as the rest but Bill Clark would be a solid pick if he would take the job. He led the Blazers to a 6-6 season before UAB disbanded for two years. Then Clark only did better, going for eight wins, then 11 wins. This year they’re at a respectable 6-3.

The problem for Arkansas is convincing him to come to Fayetteville. The Alabama native has spent his entire coaching career in Alabama. He seems perfectly content with his success in Birmingham with UAB.

Sonny Dykes: Sell

I just don’t see Sonny Dykes saying “hit me” to the dealer when he’s sitting at 20. After taking over for Chad Morris at SMU he’s made historic leaps for the Mustangs.

SMU is in a very respectable conference with contenders for a New Year’s Six Bowl each year. They have multiple ranked teams, plenty of competition, and prime recruiting grounds in the heart of Texas.

When given the option of moving forward with a 9-1 SMU team or taking over the disaster at Arkansas in a brutal SEC West division, I’d take SMU every time. It seems unlikely he follow after Chad Morris once again.

Mike Leach: Sell

It seems very unlikely the west coast native would want to take over at Arkansas. Mike Leach has had profound success in Washington State minus this year. He’s in an arguably an easier conference and division as well as amidst a much more comfortable and stable situation.

There’s also the ongoing rumor that Leach doesn’t want to coach in the SEC. If there’s any truth in that, it’s highly unlikely he starts his SEC tenure in one of the most tumultuous football programs in the SEC. Let’s also not forget, the Florida State job is still open.

Hugh Freeze: Sell

A name that rings around college football and brings immediate thoughts and phrases to one’s head. Freeze’s sketchy reputation precedes him, specifically in the SEC. He’s not far removed from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey encouraging Alabama not to hire him on as offensive coordinator.

Now that may have been a timing issue for Alabama, but it’s hard to believe that the SEC would want the shortcomings of Hugh Freeze back in the cocktail party. If offered, it’s certainly believable that Freeze would pounce on the opportunity. He wants to coach a power five school again, particularly an SEC school. The problem is, the SEC just doesn’t want the drama.

Gus Malzahn: Buy

New Arkansas Head Coach: Buy or Sell
Gus Malzahn is 53-27 with Auburn. (Photo courtesy of sportsnaut.com).

Gus is an interesting one that’s certainly on the fence, but leaning more towards a buy than a sell. It’s also contingent on Auburn’s end to the season. It’s no secret the Auburn fanbase is very torn on Malzahn and there’s plenty of turmoil going on in Auburn.

If the Tigers can avoid an 8-4 finish to end the season, Auburn will likely not have enough grounds to fire Gus like many think they’d like to. An 8-4 finish though just might make the seat hot enough for Gus to hop ship.

Let’s not forget, Malzahn has plenty of familiarity in Arkansas. He went to school there and also spent most of his coaching career there outside of his stint at Auburn. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Gus welcome the opportunity to return home to a fanbase that would praise him.

Bobby Petrino: Buy

Petrino’s been out of the game for a year now after being fired as Louisville’s head coach. His second stint with Louisville was successful but not as successful as his first stint and ultimately ended with his firing in 2018 after a 2-8 start.

The egregious and abrupt ending to his first stint with Arkansas still lingers in the heads of many after nearly 10 years. However, stranger things have happened and in 2019 it’s hard to find anyone without skeletons in their closets. Arkansas’s win total improved every year under Petrino and might be the perfect opportunity for him to come back to coaching.

Houston Nutt: Sell

The ending of the Houston Nutt era in Arkansas was an ugly one. The final season didn’t go at all as planned and ended with Nutt skipping town as fast as he could en route to Ole Miss. Beating Arkansas as head coach of Ole Miss for the first two seasons certainly didn’t help matters.

Nutt has been comfortably removed from the head coaching cycle for nearly a decade now. His final season ended at 2-10 with Ole Miss back in 2011. It’s hard to believe that the current situation at Arkansas is what convinces him to come back to coaching.

Bonus – Jeff Monken: Buy

New Arkansas Head Coach: Buy or Sell
Monken has led the Black Knights to two 10+ winning seasons since taking the job in 2014. (Photo by usatoday.com).

The dark horse of the contestants lands on Jeff Monken. Monken had built Army into a notable non power 5 team, earning win totals of eight, 10 and 11 respectively in the last three seasons. This year has been a tougher year and the Black Knights currently sit at 4-6.

Aside from the performance this season, Monken would be an adequate candidate for head coach. Not only that, he’d love to take advantage of a power 5 opportunity, in the SEC no less. The 3-0 bowl record in the last three seasons certainly doesn’t hurt.

Final Contenders

  • Mike Norvell: 2/1
  • Eliah Drinkwitz: 3/1
  • Bill Clark: 5/1
  • Gus Malzahn: 12/1
  • Bobby Petrino: 18/1
  • Jeff Monken: Bonus

It’s hard to say for sure who would get the job. Not only that but all have very viable candidates. If Malzahn goes 8-4 he’d happily take the job. If Bill Clark is comfortable leaving UAB he’s an excellent option. If Arkansas can settle with Mike Norvell’s shortcomings he would be ideal.

Hindsight will definitely be 20/20 after a few years just as it was with Chad Morris. Assuming all things stay the same, Eliah Drinkwitz would be the best option.

  1. Eliah Drinkwitz
  2. Bill Clark
  3. Mike Norvell
  4. Gus Malzahn
  5. Jeff Monken
  6. Bobby Petrino

 

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