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Arkansas Defensive Coordinator Hot Board

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a weird past five days as we’ve seen Barry Odom have the Tulsa job in the bag. Then, Odom and the Hurricane program couldn’t come to terms of an agreement leading talks to dissolve.

Tuesday brought reports of Odom being courted by the UNLV football program to bring him in as head coach. The school is 7-23 overall since 2020 and haven’t finished a season with a winning record since 2013. If Odom resurrects a floundering program he could jump back into the Power Five ranks in no time.

Of course, in coaching searches, you see the dream/home run candidates. That leads to more realistic expectations of who the Hogs can bring in. Finally, you come to your list after exhausting your first 6-7 candidates.

When Pittman was hired at Arkansas, he said that plenty of highly successful coaches were texting him about their interest in working with him in Fayetteville. After a couple of weeks, he finalized a terrific group of assistants including two of the best coordinators available to him. Can he do so again? Here’s a list of potential candidates for the current Arkansas defensive coordinator opening.

Home Run Hire

Jim Leonhard- cool

This would be the absolute home run hire for Arkansas. The Wisconsin defensive coordinator/interim head coach wasn’t named the permanent head coach after leading the Badgers to a 4-3 record and bowl eligibility while at the helm.

Leonhard, a Wisconsin graduate l, has coached at his alma mater since 2016. He spent one season as defensive backs coach’s before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017.

There doesn’t seem to be any immediate connection between Leonhard and Pittman. However, there wasn’t a connection between he and Briles either. Without the former Wisconsin interim not being promised the defensive coordinator position there he could be attracted to the Arkansas gig.

His Badger defensive unit was quite impressive this season. They finished 13th in nation allowing only 305 yards per game. The run defense was stout giving up 103 yards per game which was 12th in the FBS.

UPDATE: Leonhard will stay on the Wisconsin staff through their bowl game. However, he will leave the Badger program after according to a report from Brett McMurphy.

Glenn Schumann

The current Georgia co-defensive coordinator may be ready to take “co-” in off his position and jump ship to an SEC rival. He’s a young defensive mind at just 32 years old but has been groomed quite nicely during his time at Alabama under Nick Saban and working his way up under Kirby Smart at Georgia.

Schumann has contributed to the success of the Bulldogs defense being co-coordinator since the 2019 season. Georgia has allowed points at a premium since he’s been at the helm. His 2019 and 2021 defenses led college football in the category. While the 2020 defense finished 16th. This season after replacing six starters all over the defense, the Bulldogs still managed to finish second in the nation for points allowed.

Obviously, Pittman and Schumann worked together in Athens from 2016-2019 before Arkansas hired the ol’ line coach as the Head Hog.

Current Coordinators

Zach Arnett

For Mississippi State’s Mike Leach to be such an offensive minded coach he sure does have an eye for defensive coaching talent. His previous two stops the master of the Air Raid has gifted the FBS with two of the brightest defensive minds in Alex Grinch and Arnett.

Arnett played his college football at New Mexico from 2005-08 before starting his coaching career at San Diego State as a graduate assistant under Rocky Long.

While with the Aztec’s, Arnett was tasked with rebuilding a struggling defense. Arnett quickly navigated San Diego State out of the funk, leading the defense to a 32nd place finish total defense in 2018 and 2nd in 2019.

Mississippi State has finished in the top half in points allowed twice under Arnett. The Bulldogs have been in the top four in run defense in each season, too.

It may take a lot to persuade the rising defensive star to move from Starkville to Fayetteville but we’ve seen moves like this before.

Position Coaches

Tray Scott

For a long time Scott’s name has been on everyone’s short list around Arkansas to bring the Natural State native home. The Crossett native has been with Georgia since the 2017 season coaching the defensive line which has been arguably the best position group in America during that time.

Under Scott, Georgia’s defense led the nation in rushing defense in both 2019 (74.6 ypg) and 2020 (72.3 ypg), in scoring defense in 2019 (12.6 ppg), and in rushing TDs allowed (2, UGA record) in 2019. The Bulldogs ranked 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in total defense in the 2020 and 2019 seasons.

Since his arrival at Georgia, Scott has coached 2018 freshman All-America and 2020 second team All-American DL Jordan Davis, 2020 freshman All-American Jalen Carter, 2018 second team All-SEC DE Jonathan Ledbetter and second-team All-SEC tackle Tyler Clark.

Michael Scherer

Not enough good things can be said about Arkansas’ current linebackers coach. The former Missouri Tiger has been with the Razorbacks since 2020 as an analyst before becoming a position coach in 2021. Since his promotion, he has coached Grant Morgan to a Burlsworth Trophy, Bumper Pool becoming the school record holder for tackles, potentially seeing Drew Sanders become a first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and developing Hayden Henry from a lesser known walk-on to playing starter snaps in one offseason.

The Barry Odom disciple could possibly move onto UNLV and gain more experience under him. Or, he could remain at Arkansas and continue to feed fans excellent linebacker play while being the coordinator.

This will be a coaching carousel to watch as I’ve been told that Pittman already has three coaches highly interested in the defensive coordinator position. While one of them is considered a “big name” in coaching circles.