Jeff Long

Potential replacements for Petrino at Arkansas

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With the ghosts of Butch Davis‘ and Jim Tressel‘s coaching careers looming off in the distance, Arkansas officially announced its stunning decision Tuesday evening: the university has fired Bobby Petrino as the Razorbacks’ head football coach less than five months before the start of a new season.

The how’s and why’s of what led the football program to this point are not pertinent to this post; Ben’s had you covered very, very well on that front for the past few days.  What is pertinent is the future, and what tack UA takes in finding a replacement — interim or permanent — for Petrino.

During the press conference making Petrino’s dismissal official, athletic director Jeff Long announced that interim head coach Taver Johnson would continue in the same role through the end of spring practice, which will conclude with the spring game April 21.  Beyond that?  Long stated that he would commence a search for a permanent replacement “at the end of the press conference”, although he acknowledged, when pressed on the question of whether a permanent successor would be in place before the start of the upcoming season, that it’s possible an interim head coach could lead the Razorbacks in 2012.

Given the timing of the dismissal, it’s highly possible or even borderline probable that Long will take the path blazed by North Carolina (dismissing Davis a handful of weeks before the start of the 2011 season) and Ohio State (dismissing Tressel a couple of months before the start of the same season) — go the interim route for the upcoming season, while simultaneously conducting a national search for a permanent replacement.  In fact, that would probably be the most prudent course of action for the university, keeping as much of Petrino’s staff in place to lend familiarity for a roster full of players that are certainly in a state of uncertainty and could use some continuity.

While that seems likely, there are some quality candidates who could/would have an interest in what is, thanks in large part to Petrino oddly enough, a high-quality SEC coaching job.

Here are thumbnail looks at but a few of the potential replacements who have already been mentioned — or should be mentioned — as potential long-term and “permanent” successors to Petrino:

Gus Malzahn, head coach, Arkansas State — The former Auburn offensive coordinator has deep ties to the state — he graduated from high school and coached at that level there, and played football at UA for a couple of years — and will be entering his first season as a head coach at the collegiate level.  It’s highly, highly likely Malzahn would have an interest in the top job at his home state’s flagship university — next year.  Malzahn had previously turned down opportunities at high-profile jobs, reportedly because he didn’t feel he was ready for such a coaching step.  Stepping into the maelstrom that currently exists in Fayetteville likely isn’t something Malzahn would consider at this point in time.  Next offseason?  He would have to be considered one of the prohibitive favorites as a permanent replacement.

Garrick McGee, head coach, UAB — Out of all the possibilities, this one might be the most intriguing for both the short- and the long-term.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. “GM only coach Ark should look at if they wanna win now. … He can win at Arkansas,” Mallett tweeted, adding for clarity, “and not Gus M[alzahn].”  McGee will be entering his first year as a head coach, heading to UAB after spending the past four seasons at UA, the last two as offensive coordinator.  He was — and still is — beloved by his former players, and would lend some much-needed, instant credibility and stability in both the locker room and on the practice field.  Given the very recent and established relationship with the football program, a McGee hiring might be the only choice right now which would trump going the interim route.  Whether he would abandon UAB before coaching a single game remains to be seen, although those who know McGee and swear to his character would profess there’s no chance he would ditch UAB after the school took a chance on him.

Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette — The first-year Ragin’ Cajuns coach has no direct ties to either the state or the university, with the exception of two separate coaching stints at Central Arkansas spanning three years.  His name has, however, already been mentioned as a possibility, so we thought we’d toss it out there into the mix.  I will say this: Hudspeth is widely considered one of the rising stars in the college coaching profession, so he should not be dismissed completely simply over the lack of name recognition.

Skip Holtz, head coach, USF — The early buzz is that, if UA does indeed eschew an interim coach and instead hires a permanent replacement, the son of Lou Holtz becomes an instant front-runner.  In fact, CBSSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman tweeted Tuesday night that “Holtz may get in the mix for Arkansas with his dad pushing for it.”  Holtz graduated from an Arkansas high school, attending Fayetteville High while his pops was coaching the Razorbacks in the late 70s and early 80s.  If Longs skews away from the interim approach, he and the football program could do a helluva lot worse than Holtz, who in my opinion is one of the most underrated and undervalued head coaches in the country.

Butch Davis, unemployed — Don’t tell me this isn’t one of the first names you thought of.  Davis played for the Razorbacks in the early 70s before a knee injury ended his career, and the early word is that, obviously, Paul Hilton would jump at the opportunity if offered.  The other obvious part of the Butch equation is his messy departure from the Tar Heels.  Given Petrino’s even messier departure from the Razorbacks, it’s borderline laughable that this would even be an option for Long.  Then again, it was borderline laughable that Petrino.. and Davis… and Tressel… and Paterno would be dismissed over off-field issues, so who’s to know any more given the current state of the game of college football.

Dave Wannstedt, defensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills — There’s one reason and one reason only why the former Pittsburgh head coach has been mentioned by a national writer — a previous relationship with Long.  Beyond that convenient tie, Wannstedt makes zero sense and would instantly and literally become one of the worst hires in the history of the game.

Mike Smith, head coach, Atlanta Falcons — Hey, that’s where Long found his last head coach, right?

In the end, and unless they can pry McGee away from UAB after four months on the job, it seems highly likely that an interim head coach from the current staff will be named for the 2012 season — perhaps as early as next week — and Long will begin a methodical, diligent search to find a permanent successor.  And, based on Long’s impressive and emotional performance in the press conference, the Arkansas faithful can feel at ease knowing that the search will be in good hands.

Then again, Long is the one who hired Petrino away from the Falcons in the midst of an NFL season

Michigan reportedly adds ex-Vikings QBs coach as offensive analyst

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Jim Harbaugh has added more experience and another “name” to his Michigan football staff.

According to NFL.com‘s Albert Breer, Harbaugh has hired Scott Turner as an offensive analyst.  Harbaugh’s nine-man on-field coaching staff is already full, but Turner could be in line to join that group if/when the NCAA approves a 10th assistant.

Turner, the son of former Washington, Oakland and San Diego head coach Norv Turner, spent the past three seasons as the quarterbacks coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

Turner has spent the past six seasons in the NFL.  His last job at the collegiate level came as the wide receivers coach at Pittsburgh in 2010.

It was previously reported that Harbaugh had, controversially in the eyes of some, hired former NFL offensive coordinator Michael Johnson Sr. to an undetermined off-field position.  Johnson, the father of the top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2019, ultimately took an on-field job at Oregon.

Montell Cozart becomes third Kansas QB to leave in two months

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 29:  Quarterback Montell Cozart #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks looks to throw against the Oklahoma Sooners October 29, 2016 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated the Jayhawks 56-3. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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If it wasn’t clear before, it is now — Kansas’ quarterback room will have a decidedly different look this coming season.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, Montell Cozart announced his decision to transfer from the Jayhawks and finish his playing career elsewhere. The quarterback described it as “a tough decision that brought along a lot of prayer, sleepless nights, and meaningful talks with my family.”

Cozart started five games as a true sophomore in 2014, then started three of the first four games of the 2015 season before a shoulder injury ultimately sidelined him for the remainder of the year.  After starting seven games this past season, he lost his job just past the midway point and never got it back.

He received a medical hardship waiver for the 2015 season, giving the graduate another year of eligibility he can use immediately in 2017.

Early last month, Ryan Willis announced his decision to transfer from Kansas to Virginia Tech. Less than four weeks later, Deondre Ford followed his former teammate out the door as well.

Redshirt freshman Carter Stanley took over as the starter for the three last games of the 2016 season and is pencilled in as the starter heading into the offseason. KU also added Peyton Bender, a transfer from Washington State by way of the junior college ranks who’s eligible to play immediately in 2017 and will pose a stiff test for the incumbent.

Virginia confirms addition of Notre Dame transfer John Montelus

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 10:  A general view of the game between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Miami Hurricanes at Scott Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
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Two months after deciding to leave Notre Dame, John Montelus officially has a new college football home.

On its official Twitter account Tuesday, Virginia announced that Montelus has signed his grant-in-aid papers with the university and will play his final season for the Cavaliers.  As a graduate transfer, the offensive lineman is eligible to play immediately.

Over his four seasons with the Fighting Irish, Montelus played in just six games. A four-star 2013 recruit, Montelus was rated as the No. 8 guard in the country and the the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Massachusetts.

Montelus is actually one of two Irish linemen joining the Cavaliers as transfers, with Colin McGovern confirming last month that he’ll be doing the same. UVa. has yet to officially announce his addition to the roster.

Starting D-lineman one of two dismissed by Duke

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 19:  Clayton Thorson #18 of the Northwestern Wildcats tries to get away from Marquies Price #91 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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In the midst of spring practice, Duke has seen its defensive line take a twin hit unrelated to any health issues.

Tuesday afternoon, the football program announced that a pair of sophomore defensive linemen, Brandon Boyce and Marquies Price (pictured), have been dismissed by David Cutcliffe.  Other than failing to meet the standards of a Blue Devil football player, no specific reason for the dismissals were given.

Both had been expected to contribute significantly this coming season.

Price started all 11 games in which he played during the 2016 season, and started 14 in his career.  His six quarterback hurries last year were second on the team.

Boyce played in 21 games during his time with the Blue Devils.  Eight of those appearances came in 2016.

In mid-August, it was announced that Boyce was one of two football players suspended for the first three games of last season.  Unspecified violations of team rules was the only reason given for that punitive measure.