Welcome to the inaugural edition of Hogs of the Round Table, a series in which we, the staff at Arkansas Fight will be examining each potential candidate in the Arkansas football coaching search. There are next to no leaks coming out of the program, and everything else seems to be rumor and conjecture, so while this list may not be comprehensive, we think there are some legitimate candidates worth examining. So join us on this journey inside the mind of Hunter Yurachek as we attempt to discover who the next Head Hog will be.
Up first is the current interim coach, Barry Lunney Jr. Lunney is an Arkansas boy through and through, and will likely be on the next staff regardless of whether or not he gets the full job. HOWEVER, there’s a non-zero chance that he does get the job, so up first, we’ll be discussing how he would fit as Arkansas’ next permanent head coach.
Barry Lunney Jr. isn’t the first name on everyone’s minds. What would it take for him to get the job? To beat both LSU AND Mizzou? Or would a Mizzou win be enough? Could he be hired with neither game a win, but perhaps we look better?
Adam: I think he would be considered a candidate if the Hogs beat Missouri. If you look around the country, the coaches of three of the top six or seven teams were in-season promotions: Dabo Swinney, Ed Orgeron, and Mario Cristobal. PJ Fleck was also never a coordinator, only a position coach. Getting players to “buy in” and hiring the right assistants are two tasks that are far more important than being a big name or being an offensive genius or something. But he’s not going to be anyone’s top option.
Luke: At the very least, he would have to win both games. Even then, Hunter Yurachek has to make absolutely sure that he’s looked under every rock for a better hire. Interim-to-head coach is a tricky situation, where the players’ emotions toward their guy only make it tougher when the AD picks someone else. Ed Orgeron has been brilliant this year, but there’s a lot more Matt Lukes and Clay Heltons in this world.
Tucker: I think it would probably take both games being won for the fanbase to come around on someone who isn’t thought of as a tier one candidate. After seeing the success of guys like Coach O at LSU, I don’t have the same fear of interim guys made permanent as I once did. Barry Lunney Jr. is 100% Razorback, and will likely be on the next staff anyway, because he’s probably the best recruiter for Arkansas prospects in the world. I’d love a win over LSU and Mizzou, but I doubt that will happen, so I doubt he’s made the coach.
What would you like about this hire?
Adam: If he shows the ability to get the players to buy in, keep the staff organized, and make good personnel decisions, then we’ve seen a lot of what we need to see. He’s not going to leave for another job or embarrass the university. The university could probably save some money on his salary and instead spend more on assistants.
Luke: The man is all Hog, and you would never be able to question his effort or his commitment. He’s not going to be someone with one foot out the door. He’s been breathing football since he was born, with his dad being one of the most successful coaches in Arkansas high school history. With deep high school ties in the state, he may be someone who can FINALLY build that wall around the state.
Tucker: He’s an Arkansas guy, and a former Razorback to boot. That’s about as close of a connection to the region as you can get. He’s been around successful Arkansas coaches and really, really bad Arkansas coaches, so I think he’d know that success would involve making great coordinator hires.
What would give you reservations about this hire?
Adam: Others will probably mention his overall lack of head coaching experience, but another concern is his lack of connections to the broader coaching community. That’s necessary for hiring the right assistants.
Luke: Lunney has coached high school and college for about twenty years, but he’s never been a head coach at either level. I’d be really curious to follow his career and see him take further steps toward that path. I think he could really develop into a good head coach. But coaching the Razorbacks ain’t the first step.
Tucker: The lack of experience would be spooky™️ given that we just saw a more experienced (though still low experienced) coach absolutely fail at Arkansas. I would also worry about the optics here, as it probably means we struck out on other candidates (unless the impossible happens and we upset both LSU and Missouri).
Would you personally be happy with this hire?
Adam: If the Hogs play well down the stretch and then strike out with bigger names, I would prefer to Lunney to some of the other names I’ve heard: Willie Fritz, Sonny Dykes, etc.
Luke: Like Tucker mentioned in his previous answer, hiring Lunney means we didn’t get our first several choices. I can talk myself into being satisfied with just about any hire (gross misbehavior excepted), because it’s the Hogs, and it beats giving up on them. I just know that there’s a lot of other potential hires that’d be easier to sell myself on.
Tucker: I’d love to see him here if it meant we were absolutely putting budget into coordinators, and that the showings against LSU and Missouri were good. A hometown kid succeeding would be really fun, and to see it break the mold of the coaching carousel might be fun too. Is he at the top of my list? No. Would that matter if there were signs of promise to end the season? Probably also no.