We're finally heading into the home stretch. The new coach could be announced by the end of the month. Folks in the media are pretending to know or at least have clues as to who the new coach will be. My suggestion to you: no one knows anything other than Jeff Long and a close handful of other people. How many people expected L to be the coach this year back in April? Nobody. We're still all guessing at this point.
The one big development this week is that Kentucky has fired Joker Phillips. The first SEC domino has fallen. Long still hasn't formally announced that L won't be back next year, but if you need that announcement for confirmation, you're being silly.
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 Paul with him) will be next year. Gut Feeling: 0% It's been real.
OTHER COLLEGIATE HEAD COACHES
- Charlie Strong, Louisville: Defeated Temple 45-17. Now 9-0. Gut: 20%. If Louisville goes undefeated and still doesn't even crack the top 10, what does that say to Strong?
- James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Defeated Kentucky 40-0. 5-4 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: Lost to TCU in double Overtime. Gut: 1% Amazing how quickly that program's stock has fallen this year.
- Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech: Lost to Texas. Gut: 7% Lost two in a row after jumping into the conversation with some big wins earlier this season. Basically interviewed for the Arkansas job on Bo Mattingly's show last week.
- Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech: Defeated UTSA 51-27. 8-1 on the year. Gut: 15% Probably makes the most sense out of anyone other than Charlie Strong. Dykes is probably more likely to leave and cost less than Strong, though.
- Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky: Lost to Middle Tennessee. 6-3 for the year. Gut: 1% Hilltoppers are starting to fade after a hot start. Many think Taggart is one of the top names for the Kentucky job.
- Steve Sarkisian, Washington: Defeated Cal. 5-4 on the season.Gut: 2% I think he's a good coach but it's hard to argue that he makes much sense at Arkansas. Don't see it happening.
- Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: Defeated North Texas. 6-3 on the season. Now tied for 1st place in the Sun Belt.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. Really hard to see this happening right now.
- Gary Patterson, TCU: Beat West Virginia. Gut: 2% There's been some smoke around Patterson lately. I just don't understand why he'd leave. It reminds me of the Mike Gundy rumors. Has "raise and extension" written all over it.
- Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: Slaughtered UMass. 9-1 for the year. Gut: 5% Would easily be ranked if not for a 1 point loss to Iowa in the first week.
- Art Briles, Baylor: Beat Kansas for first Big 12 win of the year. 4-4 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: Lost to Oklahoma. 5-4 for the season. Gut 6% I get that he's made Iowa State much better than they were when he took over, but he hasn't impressed me enough to think he should be near the top of Arkansas' list.
- Garrick McGee, UAB: Defeated Southern Miss. 2-7 on the year. Gut: 1% Happy that he won another game. Timing has worked out just horribly for him.
- Mark Hudspeth, Lousiana-Lafayette: Defeated Louisiana-Monroe. 5-3 on the year. Gut: 1% Beating the Warhawks is nice. Hell, I'm envious, but he already ran out of steam.
- Butch Jones, Cincinnati: Defeated Syracuse, 6-2 on the year. Gut: 2% Like Hudspeth, he possibly ran out of steam already. May be in play if a few people turn Arkansas down.
- Mario Cristobal, Florida International: Defeated South Alabama. 2-8 on the year. Gut: 0% Nope. Already removed him from reasonable consideration.
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson: Defeated Duke. 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 Petersen, Boise State: Lost to San Diego State. Gut: 0.1% Maybe the Boise fans will get restless after Petersen spoiled them the last few years? Maybe? Wishful thinking?
- 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: Defeated Minnesota. Gut: 0.1%: Fighting for a playoff spot. If they make it, doubt Carroll leaves for anywhere.
- Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama: Defeated LSU. 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: Longhorns beat Texas Tech. Gut: 0% He won't be coming. Gave up way too many points this year.
- 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: Defeated Arizona. Gut: 0.1% 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.
Doc Harper is the editor of ArkansasExpats.com and is a columnist on CollegeFootballNews.com. You can email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @doc_harper.