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Arkansas' Next Head Coach Tracker 9/10/12

Can he stick around?  Unlikely now.
Can he stick around? Unlikely now.

You've heard of Heisman trackers? Welcome to the Next Head Coach Tracker! This is basically going to be a roundup of most of the names frequently mentioned as possible head coaching candidates at Arkansas next year. We'll summarize what they (or their teams) did, and provide a gut feeling about how strong of a candidate they are at the moment. We meant to start this last week, but time got the better of us, and really, starting it this week is much more apt anyway. Of course, as 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. Let's begin:


  • John L. Smith: Presided over arguably the worst defeat in Razorback history. I think we'll just start referring to him as "L." Gut Feeling: 0% Almost assuredly lost any chance of being back next year. Would require a truly magical performance over the final 10 games.
  • Paul Petrino: Offense is coming under intense scrutiny for second half performance. 9 total running plays for Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson after Tyler Wilson went out? That's a damning stat that will haunt the team if this proves to be the beginning of the end of the season. Gut Feeling: 0.1% Basically in the same boat as L. His last name was never going to help him anyway, but the team will have to have an epic rebound.


  • James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Commodores lost at Northwestern after narrowly losing to South Carolina in the home opener. Vandy will have to start winning if he's going to get a shot somewhere. Gut: 33%. He is very popular in some circles, and there's still time for Vandy to win some games. They need to start winning quickly.
  • Dana Holorsen, West Virginia: Mountaineers have a lot of hype right now. They may be the favorites to win the Big 12. Gut: 10% The way the programs are going, you might start to have to wonder why he'd leave? Now that the Mountaineers are in a top conference, and look like they're going to do very well, is it really a great move to come to Arkansas?
  • Charlie Strong, Louisville: The Cardinals have looked good in their first two games, and Strong has had the program on a clear upward trajectory since taking over in 2010. Gut: 40%. Strong is an Arkansas native, spent most of his career in the SEC, and Louisville may be the favorite in the Big East now after not going to a bowl game in between Bobby Petrino's tenure and when Strong arrived. Strong also has a reputation as a high character person.
  • Chris Peterson, Boise State: The Broncos were off after losing to Michigan State in week 1. Gut: 1% He'd be a dream candidate for sure, but it's hard to see him leaving Boise for Arkansas after all the other jobs he's turned down. But it never hurts to offer him a ton of money and make him say no. Perhaps he'll see many of the similarities between the Ozarks and the Rockies that Petrino saw.
  • Steve Sarkisian, Washington: The Huskies got drubbed at LSU a week after narrowly defeating San Diego State. Gut: 5% Those results aren't going to impress many people, and Sarkisian's biggest drawback is that he's a career West Coast guy. Personally, I don't think that's as huge an issue as it used to be, but several feel differently.
  • Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: Malzahn earned his first victory as a collegiate head coach by defeating Memphis 33-28. Gut: 8% 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: Didn't play this week after blowing out Grambling State. Gut: 3% Similar to Peterson, he's turned down several jobs over the years. Leaving from Fort Worth to Fayetteville may make more sense than Boise to Fayetteville, but with TCU now in the Big 12, there may be less incentive for him to leave than when the Horned Frogs were in the MWC.
  • Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: Doeren led Northern Illinois to the MAC title last year, his first as coach of the Huskies. They lost to Iowa in their opener by just one point and won their second game easily. Gut: 3% He doesn't have a ton of experience as a head coach and since no one in the Arkansas fan base knows who he is, is unlikely to be at the top of Long's list since Long really needs to hire a name to get fans excited.


  • Jon Gruden, ABC: Getting paid a crap-ton of money to watch and talk about an NFL game tonight. Gut: 0.5% He has hinted at returning to coaching, but if it is to a college job, it would have to be an extremely appealing one. Just can't see him coming to Arkansas
  • Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: Lost NFL opener. Gut: 2%: He does have a connection to Arkansas, having served as an assistant on the staff many years ago. But considering all the NCAA violations incurred under him at USC, and some still being investigated, seems like you'd want someone a little more clean-shaven to come clean up the Petrino mess. He would be an immediate home run in the press, however.
  • Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama: Officially the one in charge of Alabama's vaunted defense. Gut: 15% If Arkansas goes the coordinator route, Smart does seem to be one of the coordinators most frequently tossed around for a head coaching gig. He wouldn't cost as much as some of the others on this list. Con: most of the people from Saban's coaching tree have not panned out.
  • 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 and is a regular contributor to You can email him at and follow him on Twitter@doc_harper.