Welcome to the second edition of Hogs of the Round Table. You can check out part one here.
Mike Norvell was heavily rumored last time around, and has Memphis rolling today. Do you think Norvell’s success at an American Conference school would translate to Arkansas?
Luke: I look at Matt Rhule’s success at Baylor, and I can see that AAC coaches can do well moving up to the Power 5. It’s just no guarantee. Mike Norvell’s sustained winning at Memphis certainly does bode well for his future, and if he can get to a place where he can hang on to assistants (he’s on his fourth offensive coordinator in four years, each of the previous ones having been promoted to bigger schools), he should be able to keep winning at a higher level.
Teddy: Yes, I could see Norvell’s success translating to Fayetteville. While I understand any hesitations because of the parallels to the Morris hire, Norvell has proved himself to be superior in one important area: recruiting. Using the 247Sports Composite, Norvell’s last two classes at Memphis (2019-20) have ranked 67th and 57th, respectively. Morris’ last two classes with the SMU Mustangs (2016-17) were 75th and 80th. With increased resources and financial backing at his disposal, Norvell’s ability to connect with young men could give Arkansas the athletes necessary to become competitive again in the SEC.
Tucker: Adam’s previous observations about the American Conference’s lack of defense have me a little scared of translating success here. We obviously JUST hired the “best offensive mind in the American” and that was not great. Arkansas will not be able to out-athlete anyone in this conference, and that seems to be Norvell’s M.O. Would that translate here? Not as it is now. But I do think Memphis’ offense does a great job of getting the ball to playmakers, and after seeing Rakeem Boyd get ONLY 8 CARRIES IN A GAME, I am happy to welcome a coach who wants to feed the studs.
What would you like about this hire?
Luke: Norvell inherited a team on the rise, and he’s only improved their lot. He seems to have a knack for finding assistant coaches, judging by their frequent promotions. And those promotions haven’t stalled his program (*cough* Bielema). He’s out-recruited most of the AAC, no small feat when he’s recruiting them to play in the (shudder) Liberty Bowl.
Teddy: I like the idea of hiring a young, offensive-minded head coach. Norvell seems to have a similar demeanor to his predecessor, Justin Fuente. Ranked No. 25 in the latest AP Poll, Fuente has won 32 games (and counting) in his four years at the helm of the Virginia Tech Hokies. A receiver for the Central Arkansas Bears from 2001-05 and a graduate assistant in 2006, Norvell’s familiarity with the state would come in handy, too.
Tucker: Norvell has Arkansas ties, and that seems to matter, if only to the fans. He would “get” what the job entails, and understands the region. Memphis’ recruiting region is almost the same as Arkansas’ and Norvell is from Texas, so you can add Texas to his recruiting cap, which helps. I would be excited to see us run a scheme that attempts so many explosive plays.
What would give you reservations about this hire?
Luke: I’ve been hurt before.
Teddy: Other than the similarities to our previous hire, the only thing that would cause me to pause on hiring Norvell would be his defense. In his four years at Memphis, the Tigers have never fared better than 56th nationally in opponents points per game, including ranking 94th or worse twice.
Tucker: I personally don’t buy much of the “he likes the cards” rumors, as there’s not any substantial evidence to support that. I’m not a “if there’s smoke, there’s fire guy.” Rather, I’d like to focus on the fact that we just hired an American Conference coach, and it was a disaster. Does that conference translate to the SEC? That would be my biggest reservation to Norvell, and I think it’s a reservation that has substance. Those cornrows he had in college give me reservations.
Would you personally be happy with this hire?
Luke: I think Mike Norvell is one of our better options. Memphis plays fun games (seriously, take some time to watch them), and they do that while winning. He would have to show that he can make the leap, but I would always rather roll the dice on someone who might or might not take us higher than someone whose peak is eight wins.
Teddy: I would be, but I wouldn’t consider it a home run. I think Norvell is one of the better candidates we will discuss, but not the best.
Tucker: I wouldn’t be unhappy. I think it’s a realistic hire. I wouldn’t be jumping for joy, but I wouldn’t be disappointed by any stretch of the imagination. As far as potential coaching candidates go, I’d probably be more skeptical of Norvell than a lot of other coaches, but perhaps that’s just me being jaded by Chad’s Thunderdome Experience. I think he could succeed here, but I also think he could fail here. Maybe that isn’t a fair assessment, but I don’t get paid to write fair and balanced™ sports takes.