Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long spent a lot of time earlier this week emphasizing what the Razorbacks were looking for in a new coach.
The one phrase he kept going back to again and again? He's looking for someone who is eager for a challenge.
There’s no doubt it will be just that at Arkansas in 2013. It’s bad enough veterans like Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton, Dennis Johnson and Chris Gragg will be gone. Then there’s a difficult schedule, which includes road games at Rutgers, Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss and Alabama, waiting for Arkansas' next coach.
So who is up for the task? After a one-week hiatus (sorry, we simply ran out of time in the busy schedule last Friday), the Coaching Poll is back with the usual disclaimers:
• There is no exact formula. I’m ranking guys weekly based on a bit of opinion, a dash of facts, and a little common sense. How a coach would fit in at Arkansas will weigh into the poll. So will impressive wins and bad losses. Public statements (whenever they come) about being “happy” at their current school and other coaching search key phrases like “right now” and “at this point” will be analyzed and monitored. All of it will go into how the top 10 is compiled each week.
• This poll is currently comprised of college head coaches and assistants only. We’re not going down the road of NFL coaches, NFL assistants or coaches currently unemployed in the profession at this point. We won’t unless or until it’s warranted.
• Join in on the conversation. Let me know if I’m an idiot for leaving someone out. Tell me what your own top 10 poll of Arkansas candidates would look like. We’re trying to inspire some conversation and have a little fun combing through potential candidates as Long’s search for a new coach begins to heat up:
With that, here is this week’s Coaching Poll:
1. Butch Jones (Cincinnati) – Jones moves into the top spot because of his work at Cincinnati. He may not have ties to Arkansas or the South, but is an impressive candidate who will have opportunities waiting for him if he cares to listen this fall.
2. Paul Rhoads (Iowa State) — Rhoads has quietly impressed at Iowa State, but may need significant wins to be a good sell at Arkansas. There are big opportunities coming with Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia remaining.
3. Gary Patterson (TCU) – Patterson knows how to build a program, which is evident by his impressive work at TCU. The Horned Frogs have endured some difficulties this season. Is it enough to make Patterson consider options at other programs?
4. Charlie Strong (Louisville) — Strong remains a strong potential candidate, but his dedication to Louisville sounds sincere. Don’t be surprised if programs – perhaps even Arkansas – make a run at Strong just to see if he truly plans to be at Louisville in 2013.
5. Sonny Dykes (La Tech) — Dykes is becoming a hot commodity in the coaching world during a strong season, which included last week’s narrow loss to Texas A&M. His Texas and Louisiana background are attractive features in regard to the Razorbacks.
6. Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia) – Tommy Tuberville and Texas Tech impressively stopped West Virginia, dropping Holgorsen in the Coaching Poll. It’s clear he remains one of the top offensive minds in the game, though. Does he want to test it in the SEC?
7. Kirby Smart (Alabama) – AD Jeff Long said earlier this week he’s not limiting his search to head coaches, then referenced Bob Stoops jump from Florida assistant to Oklahoma coach. So Smart remains someone worth watching in the Arkansas search. 8. Chris Petersen (Boise State) – We really don’t believe Petersen will be the next Arkansas coach at this point, but something won’t let us drop him out of the poll. His success at Boise State remains attractive to any program looking for a coach.
9. James Franklin (Vanderbilt) — Franklin hasn’t gotten Vandy over the top, which is clear after a poor start. But the Commodores have an SEC win (at Missouri) and played well against Florida. A strong finish could be key in any candidacy at Arkansas.
10. Art Briles (Baylor) – Baylor has taken a beating defensively the past few weeks, causing Briles to drop in the poll. We feel confident Briles could put a powerful offense on the field if he is at Arkansas. But would there be any improvement defensively?
Others Receiving Votes: Tommy Tuberville (Texas Tech), Willie Taggart (Western Kentucky), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Mark Hudspeth (Louisiana-Lafayette), Al Golden (Miami), Gus Malzahn (Arkansas State), Chad Morris (Clemson offensive coordinator) and Mario Cristobal (FIU).