Editor’s note: This post has been updated to clarify the quote from Richard Davenport.
All signs are pointing to Sam Pittman hiring the new Razorback offensive coordinator by week’s end. At this point, there appear to be three, potentially four, frontrunners.
Last week, Colorado’s Jay Johnson seemed to be a leading contender but it doesn’t appear he’s yet interviewed for the position. In the last few days, however, the following coaches have reportedly interviewed to helm Pittman’s offense:
1) Chip Long (Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator who worked for Bobby Petrino at Arkansas as a GA)
2) Kendal Briles (Florida State’s offensive coordinator who has deep ties to Texas thanks to his father, former Baylor coach Art Briles)
3) Major Applewhite (former Houston head coach who is currently serving in Nick Saban’s stable of analysts)
You can’t find odds for the next Arkansas OC on Odds USA or any other site, but it’s a safe bet these three would be at the top if you could. A few insiders believe one of the trio will become the next offensive coordinator.
Richard Davenport, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recruiting reporter who talks to coaches, parents and recruits all day long, has as good a bead on this as anybody else. It’s Sam Pittman’s offensive recruits, after all, who would likely get the news before the general public.
On Wednesday, The Buzz 103.7 FM’s Wess Moore asked Davenport who he predicts will win out for a spot on Pittman’s staff. “I think Major Applewhite may be the guy,” he said in a phone interview, as his dog Reuben barked joyously in the background. “I just know he’s up there” in Fayetteville interviewing, Davenport added.
Hiring Major Applewhite, who has experience coaching the RPO schemes Pittman wants to run, would make sense in a few ways.
His recruiting ties to Texas are huge, as are his SEC experience and two seasons as a head coach. It’s no secret that Pittman, who’s never before been a major college program coordinator no less a head coach, needs coordinators more experienced than himself in these realms.
Plus, Applewhite has coached dual-threat quarterbacks in the vein as the Hogs’ KJ Jefferson, the leading contender to start the 2020 season. HawgBeat’s Andrew Hutchinson alluded to that in breakdown of the top offensive coordinator candidates:
“He fits what Pittman said he’d like to do with RPOs and the quarterback run game, as he coached dual-threat quarterbacks Greg Ward Jr. and D’Eriq King both as an offensive coordinator and head coach. Although they didn’t win enough for Applewhite to keep his job, the Cougars did rank fifth nationally in scoring last season. He also has Power Five experience as the co-offensive coordinator at Texas from 2011-13 and the offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2007.”
(Arkansas could emerge as a possible transfer destination for D’Eriq King, by the way, if Pittman hires Applewhite or Briles).
Seeing Applewhite dressed in Razorback gear, strolling the Arkansas sideline, would unsettle some Hog and Longhorn fans. He’s a former Texas quarterback who locked horns in some great battles with the Hogs, as well as a former Texas assistant coach.
They don’t come much more dyed in orange and white than this guy.
Years ago, when Arkansas was regularly vying for league titles with Texas, this kind of thing might have mattered to fans. Nowadays, with sights set much lower, they just need someone who can help lift the program out of national laughingstock status.
Applewhite appears primed to do that.