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Arkansas' Next Head Coach Tracker - 9.17.2012

You've heard of Heisman trackers? Welcome to the Next Head Coach Tracker! This is the second week we're running this, and I added a few names that people let me know should have been included last week. So it's more thorough now. 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 discuss one thing before we get started. I've noticed over the first three weeks, that whenever a potential coach's team loses, there becomes a lot of chatter about "we can't take this guy, he lost!" or "he barely won!" Understand, it's highly unlikely Arkansas hires a head coach who goes undefeated this season. Every coaching hire, no matter how much of a fantasy candidate he might be, carries some risk that it might not work out. Even Nick Saban lost a home game last year.


  • L.: A week after presiding over possibly the worst loss in Razorback history, he presided over possibly the most disappointing and embarrassing loss in Razorback history. Gut Feeling: 0% Forget about next year. Can he survive this year?
  • Paul Petrino: The Razorback offense laid the ole goose egg in Fayetteville for the first time since 1966. It's not like Arkansas had dominant offenses all those years either. Gut Feeling: 0% Good luck to you, Paul.


  • James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Commodores stomped Presbyterian. Gut: 33%. Arkansas fans should never take a blowout win over a cupcake for granted anymore. Franklin did what he had to do this week. We'll have to see if this springboards Vanderbilt to some sort of winning streak.
  • Dana Holorsen, West Virginia: Crushed James Madison Gut: 5% The way Arkansas' season is going, you have to wonder if leaving the program he's beginning to establish in the wake of the Rich Rod/Bill Stewart fiasco for Arkansas would even be a step up? It's hard to see him making this jump right now.
  • Charlie Strong, Louisville: Beat North Carolina after nearly surrendering a huge lead in the second half. Gut: 40%. If you go down the checklist for what Arkansas would want in a coach, Strong connects with virtually everything if Louisville can win the Big East this year. The only thing he doesn't do, at least so far, is excite the Arkansas fan base. The way the Razorbacks are going, they need to be excited by someone. Fans should definitely keep an eye on him throughout the season.
  • Chris Peterson, Boise State: Defeated Miami of Ohio. Gut: 0.5% Like Holgorsen, he's only going to leave if he feels he's going to a good situation. Arkansas has to show improvement on the last two weeks to make the job look like less of a rebuilding gig.
  • Steve Sarkisian, Washington: Crushed Portland State. Gut: 2% Stats aren't particularly impressive so far. Getting blown out by LSU isn't going to appeal to a lot of people.
  • Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: Lost to Nebraska. 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: Won TCU's first Big 12 game against Kansas, 20-6. Gut: 2% Take both Holgorsen and Peterson's situation, combine why they wouldn't come to Arkansas, and you've got Gary Patterson.
  • Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: Beat Army by 1 point. 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.
  • Art Briles, Baylor: Beat Sam Houston State, off to 2-0 start. Gut: 7% He's showing Baylor can put up some points even without RG3. He'll have to prove he can do it in the Big 12, however. His pre-RG3 career wasn't the most memorable, so we'll see what happens with him.
  • Dabo Swinney, Clemson: Defeated Furman, off to 3-0 start. 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
  • Garrick McGee, UAB: Lost to South Carolina, off to 0-2 start. Gut: 8% McGee was a beloved figure during the Petrino era, but appeared clear during the coaching search in April that Arkansas wasn't too interested in McGee. Expectations aren't high for his first year with the Blazers, so it's hard to use that as a real scale for his success. You do have to wonder, if he hadn't taken the UAB job and stayed at Arkansas, would he have been the interim head coach? And how differently would things be at this point, if at all? He'll be interesting to keep an eye on this year. I doubt McGee will be at the top of Arkansas' list, but if Arkansas gets turned down a few times, he'd likely pop up somewhere.
  • Mark Hudspeth, Lousiana-Lafayette: Lost to Oklahoma State to drop their record to 2-1. Gut: 10% Most fans don't know much about him so here's a summary: In eight seasons as a head coach at North Alabama and ULL, he's had six winning seasons, winning 10+ games five times. Last season, his first at ULL, he took the Ragin' Cajuns to their first bowl game in 41 years and posted a 9-4 overall record. He's from Mississippi, has spent 3 total years on the UCA staff in the 90s, and spent two years on Dan Mullen's staff at Mississippi State between his gigs at North Alabama and ULL. His overall coaching record is 77-26. Honestly, that's a pretty sharp resume. Doubt he'll excite many Razorback fans, but that's a sharp resume.


  • Jon Gruden, ABC: Getting paid a crap-ton of money to watch and talk about an NFL game tonight. Gut: 0.1% This probably had a better chance in April than it does right now. Arkansas was appealing in April. Why he'd turn down his TV gig to rebuild this ship is beyond me.
  • Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: Beat the Dallas Cowboys and stand at 1-1 on the year. Gut: 3%: 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: Made a lot of fans in Fayetteville by shutting out Arkansas. Gut: 20% 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. 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: The Longhorns blew out Ole Miss in Oxford. Gut: 10% He's definitely an up-and-comer who has head coach written all over day. Diaz is very young, and only has 3 years of coordinating on a BCS level. Is he too young for Long?
  • Jim Leavitt, Linebackers Coach, San Francisco 49ers: Niners beat Detroit to start 2-0. 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.


Doc Harper is the editor of and is a regular contributor to You can email him at and follow him on Twitter@doc_harper.