After several months of this search, for the first time, we finally have what could be considered a clue! Last week, Jeff Long went on Bo Mattingly's radio show and said, "I think they'll be a coach who is coaching and working on college or professional football." It's just enough of a tease to have a likely effect on how we're viewing a couple of people, and vague enough that we still can't completely rule them out. You're a sly one, Jeff Long.
Remember, this isn't just a list of everybody who might be a good fit for Arkansas, it's more a list of people who are mentioned either by folks in the media or frequently seen names on the message boards. There are several other coaches not seen here who may be getting looked at but we haven't heard much about them.
As always, with most coaching searches, we have no idea who's actually on Jeff Long's list and the next coach could very well be someone completely out of left field.
CANDIDATES FROM WITHIN THE CURRENT STAFF
L.: See ya. Gut Feeling: 0% Jeff Long still won't say he's not a candidate, but did refer to his salary structure as a retirement strategy. Enjoy your retirement, L.
- Paul Petrino: We should see if we can get a clue from him as to where his brother (and likely him) will be next year. Gut Feeling: 0% It's been real.
OTHER COLLEGIATE HEAD COACHES
Charlie Strong, Louisville: Defeated Cincinnati in overtime. Now 8-0. Gut: 20%. It will be interesting to see how the Louisville AD's statement about making Strong the highest paid coach in the country to keep him plays out. That would put him at over $5 million annually. I have a hard time believing he's worth that much right now, and doubt most schools would commit to that salary for him. But if Louisville in fact doesn't go that high, how should Strong react to that?
, Vanderbilt: Defeated UMass. 4-4 on the year. Gut: 15%. I'm telling y'all, Vandy should be bowl eligible, and has a legit shot to win out. Franklin's stock would be at least as high at 7+ wins as it was before the season started. Back-to-back bowl trips and the winningest season in Vandy history? Could happen.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: Bye week. Gut: 1% It really is amazing how uncompetitive they've been in their last two games.
Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech: Lost to Kansas State. Gut: 10% His resume is as good as mostly anyone else's on this list. He's been mentioned as a candidate for Arkansas in 1997 and 2007, so why not now? Raiders should be favored in their remaining games. Would finish 10-2 if they did and likely tie for 2nd in the Big 12 if that happened. Really impressive year so far.
- Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech: Defeated New Mexico State. 7-1 on the year. Gut: 15% Was there least impressive game this year and still led 21-0 going into the 4th quarter. He still makes a ton of sense.
Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky: Won at Florida International 14-6. 6-2 for the year. Gut: 2% Is there an age minimum to this deal? He's a good coach, but for some reason, hard to see him as a good fit at Arkansas to me.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington: Handed Oregon State their first loss this year. 4-4 on the season. Gut: 3% Sometimes they look great. Sometimes they look rough. Don't see him at Arkansas next year.
- Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: Crushed Louisiana-Lafayette on a weeknight. 5-3 on the season. Gut: 7% He'll always be mentioned as a candidate for the Razorbacks until he either retires, career goes South, or actually becomes the head coach. He's still a divisive figure in the state and it's hard to see him at the top of Long's list, but he could be on it toward the bottom.
Gary Patterson, TCU: Lost at Oklahoma State. Gut: 1% If you took his resume and Tuberville's resume and compared the two, isn't Tuberville's more impressive?
Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: Defeated Western Michigan. 8-1 for the year. Gut: 5% Making another run at another MAC title.
Art Briles, Baylor: Lost at Iowa State. 3-4 on the season. Gut: 5% I really don't want a coach who can score 63 points in a regulation game and lose. But he still gets mentioned frequently.
- Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: Defeated Baylor. 5-3 for the season. Gut 8% He's a highly respected coach and he's beginning to see the fruits of his labor this year after taking over for Gene Chizik in 2009. Holding opponents below 20 points per game.
Garrick McGee, UAB: Lost to Tulane. 1-7 on the year. Gut: 1% Losing to Tulane is not good. McGee probably had a better chance in April. Each loss makes it harder to see him getting the keys to the Arkansas program coming off a dreadful season in Birmingham.
Mark Hudspeth, Lousiana-Lafayette: Lost to Arkansas State. 4-3 on the year. Gut: 1% Probably not in the running after last two weeks. If he was ever there to begin with.
- Butch Jones, Cincinnati: Lost to Cincinnati, 5-2 on the year. Gut: 2% Tough couple of weeks for his odds.
- Mario Cristobal, Florida International: Lost to Western Kentucky. 1-8 on the year. Gut: 0% Nope.
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson: Defeated Wake Forest. Gut: 0.1% Why? Why would he leave Clemson? Whenever I see this name pop up on the message boards, it just doesn't make any sense to me. They won the ACC last year and has them back around the top 10 again. I have a hard time seeing him leave for Arkansas.
- Chris Peterson, Boise State: Beat Wyoming. Gut: 0.1% If he showed the slightest bit of interest in leaving, I'd bump it the percentage up, but not feeling it.
- Jon Gruden, ABC: Getting paid a crap-ton of money to watch and talk about an NFL game tonight.Gut: 0.1% Jeff Long's statement on the radio would appear to rule him out, but you never know. Also, Tennessee fans are now drooling over him as much as Arkansas fans have been.
- Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: Lost to Detroit. Gut: 0.1%: Fighting for a playoff spot. If they make it, doubt Carroll leaves for anywhere.
Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama: Defeated Mississippi State. Gut: 15% He very well could take a head coaching job next year. The question is whether or not Long will go for a coordinator without head coaching experience. One of the problems I think with hiring a coordinator is it seems less likely they'd look at a job like Arkansas as a career job. I'd feel better about Smart if Saban's coaching tree produced a lot of winners, but it hasn't so far.
Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator, Texas: Didn't give up as many points, but Texas barely beat Kansas. Gut: 0% He won't be coming.
- Butch Davis, Consultant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Former head coach at, among others, North Carolina and Miami: He's the other one Long's statement would seem to rule out. The question is being a "consultant" still qualify as coaching to Long?. Gut: 5% It seems like if he was Long's top choice, why don't you go ahead and hire him before the end of the season? May be down the list a bit, if he's even there.
- Jim Leavitt, Linebackers Coach, San Francisco 49ers: Play Arizona tonight. Gut: 1% Was fired from South Florida for striking a player at halftime then lying about it. I'm sure that's exactly what Long is looking for in his next coach. He did basically build the South Florida program, however.
Bear Bryant: Former Head Coach: Kentucky, Texas A&M, Alabama: Winning national titles in heaven.Gut: 1% Is an Arkansas native, but reportedly still dead. Not sure Arkansas can afford the buyout.