Arkansas coaching candidates: Mike Norvell, Mike Leach, Bill Clark lead replacements for Chad Morris
Chad Morris didn’t when he was fired on Sunday after going 4-18 (0-14 SEC) in less than two full seasons.
The question now is who wants to inherit this mess? Once again, there will be plenty of guys who will take the job, but who will actually make a difference? Arkansas may not be a 11-2 program like Bobby Petrino left it in 2011, but it should never be this bad.
That’s where Arkansas is right now: lack of talent, lack of interest. Did you see the picture of Saturday’s crowd at Razorback Stadium? It looked like a state high school playoff game.
That’s about as close to postseason as the Hogs can dream. Morris did not win an SEC game, finishing 0-14 in conference play. Arkansas owes him a $10 million buyout, but after that crowd on Senior Day, that performance and the prospect of several players transferring, athletic director Hunter Yurachek had to do something.
By the way, for those of you who are thinking Gus Malzahn: I’m told he is happy at Auburn. Remember, he chose Auburn over Arkansas a couple of years ago when he had the projected offer from each — seven years, $49 million. That’s why his name does not appear on this list.
With 40 days to go until the Early Signing Period, the Arkansas administration has to act quickly. Here are seven candidates who might be in the mix for the Razorbacks.
1. Mike Norvell, Memphis coach: Norvell’s name came up two years ago before Arkansas hired Morris. In that span, he has become a better and more mature coach. Norvell, only 38, is an offensive mind who has the Tigers in contention for the AAC title and a Cotton Bowl berth. Considering where Arkansas is at the moment, his hire would be a home run. The Irving, Texas, native played wide receiver at Central Arkansas.
2. Bill Clark, UAB coach: My gut tells me Clark would crawl to Fayetteville. CBS Sports’ two-time national coach of the year has performed miracles with the Blazers. He is a tireless worker who knows the SEC and can squeeze more out of a roster.
3. Eliah Drinkwitz, Appalachian State coach: The Mountaineers have as many or more ACC wins as five ACC schools (two). Drinkwitz’s star is rising quickly. The question is whether it’s rising too fast for Arkansas to stop and take a look? In three years, he would go from NC State offensive coordinator to Appalachian State coach to Arkansas coach. The Hogs aren’t in a position to be choosy. Drinkwitz has ties to the state from his time at Springdale High School and as an Arkansas State assistant.
4. Mike Leach, Washington State coach: Leach showed his willingness to leave Wazzu when he went way down the line with Tennessee. I think Leach would be interested in Arkansas — but with a huge asterisk. Florida State is a much better job. The Seminoles should have hired him yesterday. It’s easier to win in the ACC. The talent is there … or least around there. There is a dearth of talent at Arkansas.
5. Billy Napier, Louisiana-Lafayette coach: Napier certainly has the pedigree having worked at Clemson and Alabama. In his second year, the Georgia native has the Ragin’ Cajuns at 7-2.
6. Tom Allen, Indiana coach: A lateral move, perhaps, but if Allen wants to get back into the SEC this is (sort of) an entry. Allen coached linebackers and special teams at Ole Miss from 2012-14. The Hoosiers are 7-2. Things aren’t going to get much better than that in Bloomington, Indiana.
7. Sonny Dykes, SMU coach: Not likely, but every Group of Five coach wants to get to the big time. In this case, Cal’s former coach would be getting back to the big time. Arkansas might not qualify, but if Dykes can turn around SMU, then he has a chance with the Hogs. Word is that Dykes is happy for now. There may better jobs to come along next year. Also, not sure if Arkansas administration would be wary about hiring a second straight SMU coach. Dykes, though, is proven in the position.