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

Report: Wisconsin DBs coach Daronte Jones leaving for Miami Dolphins

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 27:  Wisconsin Badgers cheerleader waves the flag after the team scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the South Florida Bulls on September 27, 2014 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the South Florida Bulls 27-10. (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)
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The post-National Signing Day coaching carousel is now in full tilt.

According to a report from Adam Caplan of ESPN, Wisconsin defensive backs coach Daronte Jones is leaving to become the assistant defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins.

The Badgers already endured a significant loss this winter after defensive coordinator Dave Aranda took a lateral position with LSU. He was replaced in January by former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

Jones spent but 13 months in Madison, a January 2015 addition to Paul Chryst‘s first staff after spending three seasons at Hawaii.

Wisconsin possessed one of college football’s top pass defenses in 2015; the Badgers ranked seventh nationally in pass defense, tied for sixth in yards per attempt allowed, placed third in opponent completion percentage and finished second in pass efficiency defense.

Former Baylor walk-on RB Silas Nacitas takes his game abroad

Northwestern State inebacker Adam Jones (3) gives chase as Baylor's Silas Nacita (31) fights his way into the end zone for a score late in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 70-6. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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The past year has been quite a ride for running back Silas Nacita. The former Baylor walk-on is now playing football in Germany after signing a contract with the Marburg Mercenaries.

“Signed a contract today with a professional football team in Germany,” Nacita announced on his Instagram account. “When I said I’d go anywhere to play, I meant it. It’s obviously not the NFL, but this is the opportunity that is in front of me. I have always wanted to travel the world, but because of football I haven’t been able to. Now, because of football, I’ll have that chance. Furthermore, and most importantly, I’ll have the opportunity to answer Jesus’ call to go into all the world and preach the gospel! Upon receiving my college degree, it’s off to Marburg. I’m excited for this next step in my crazy journey!”

For those who do not remember, Nacita was ruled to be an ineligible player by Baylor last spring after accepting help from a friend. After being bounced out of Baylor, Nacita took off for the NAIA, where he once again ran into some eligibility hurdles.

Helmet sticker to Sports Illustrated.

SEC wants to keep Michigan spring football practices out of the south

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2015, file photo, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh calls for a flag in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Maryland in College Park, Md. Michigan and Florida both entered the season hoping to revive storied programs that had begun to look more pedestrian than they were accustomed to. Enter Wolverines coach Harbaugh and Gators coach Jim McElwain, who both brought their own style and approach to the sidelines in their first seasons on the job. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File
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Don’t say I didn’t warn you this was coming. Last week when we learned Jim Harbaugh plans to bring Michigan’s spring football practices to Florida for a week over Michigan’s spring break, I suggested this was news that would not sit well with coaches from the ACC and SEC. Here we are now and the SEC is asking the NCAA to prevent Michigan from following through on their spring break plans.

The SEC has reportedly asked the NCAA to block teams from holding spring practices over that school’s spring break, according to CBSSports.com. The timing speaks for itself, as it comes less than a week after Harbaugh confirmed the spring practice plan to travel to Florida.

“Our primary reaction [is] that, in the face of the time-demand conversations, we’ve got one program taking what has been ‘free time’ away,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said to CBS SportsDennis Dodd. “Let’s draw a line and say, ‘That’s not appropriate.'”

Sankey and the SEC have asked the NCAA to make a ruling on this situation “as soon as possible.”

There are no NCAA rules about holding spring football practices off campus or out of state. Spring football games are a different story than practices. What Harbaugh has announced falls within the NCAA rules. The SEC company line will be to address the issue of plauyer safety and well-being by suggesting practicing over spring break reduces the down time for players, but it doesn’t take a bloodhound to sniff out the truth behind the request to the NCAA.

The SEC is not necessarily scared of Harbaugh and Michigan. The conference is afraid this will be a trend that catches on with programs throughout the north that can afford to pick up and travel south for a full week in the cold days of March. The last thing the SEC wants to see is half or more of the Big Ten and perhaps other programs located in the north planting flags in their borders for a week.

The question the SEC should be asked is if they would have the same concerns over spring break practice times if it was North Dakota State or Montana traveling south for a week in Florida. You can probably guess the answer to that.

Kyle Allen rips Texas A&M’s post-Johnny Manziel culture

This Sept. 26, 2015 photo shows Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen standing on the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Arlington, Texas. Kyle Allen is headed to Houston. Cougars coach Tom Herman announced the transfer on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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There was a time when being a part of the Texas A&M family was what Kyle Allen wanted out of his college experience, but his quick departure from the program raised more than a few eyebrows. The culture around the Aggies program following Johnny Manziel turned out to be something Allen was not comfortable being a part of, which is why he opted out and transferred to Houston.

“I think the culture was a big part of it, and I think that stems from Johnny’s era there — the way that they let Johnny and [others] act there,” Allen said in an interview with Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. “They [could] do that and still win games because they had Johnny … and five offensive linemen playing in the NFL right now.”

“A lot of people were riding off that, ‘I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday.'”

Allen’s statements and explanations about his time in College Station shed some light on the state of the program under Kevin Sumlin, who himself has come under some heat in the last few months after losing both Allen and Kyler Murray to transfers after the regular season (Allen transferred to HoustonMurray ended up at Oklahoma). Given how much Texas A&M is paying Sumlin, the bar has been raised and the Aggies have struggled to live up to the hype it has generated the past couple of years without Manziel. As Allen describes it, Texas A&M’s players were going in too many different directions to allow Texas A&M make any run for an SEC division championship.

“When you don’t have players like Johnny and [others] there anymore, you have to really come together as a team and scrap for wins,” Allen said. “We had a lot of people who were talking about the same goal but weren’t all committed and on the same page to get to that goal. For you to win in the SEC — especially the SEC West — 10 games a year and be a controlling powerhouse in that conference, you can’t have a bunch of people going different ways.”

Allen wasn’t done. He also seemed to take a shot at Sumlin and the Texas A&M coaching staff.

“Everyone wasn’t in a straight line. Everyone was going this way, this way, this way. We had a ton of talent there. I think that, once you get all the right coaches there and get the vision right, you can do a lot of things.”

There are always two sides to every story, of course.