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

Florida’s Geoff Collins could become next million dollar coordinator

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: The Florida Gators run onto the field before the game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Heading into his second season in Gainesville, Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins just received a significant raise.

Collins, who signed a three-year contract paying him $600,000 annually after leaving Mississippi State to join Jim McElwain‘s staff last winter, netted a bump to $890,000 with a $150,000 retention bonus according to contract details obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

Nine assistants earned at least $1 million in 2015 according to USA Today, with six of those hailing from the SEC.

Additionally, defensive line coach Chris Rumph‘s salary moved to $500,000 with a one-year extension through the 2017 season, offensive line coach Mike Summers will earn $498,500, linebackers coach Randy Shannon‘s $400,000 salary grew by just under $10,000, and new defensive backs coach Torrian Gray signed a two-year deal paying him $335,000 annually.

Florida’s defense ranked eighth nationally in yards per play allowed in 2015, helping the Gators win an unexpected SEC East championship.

Jim Grobe to be paid $1.25 million for ’16 season, per report

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Jim Grobe of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons looks on from the sidelines against the Louisville Cardinals during the 2007 FedEx Orange Bowl at Dolphin Stadium on January 2, 2007 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
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In an odd way, here’s the best way to show just how far Art Briles took Baylor’s football program: his interim replacement will make more money for eight months of work than the full-time head coaches at Iowa State and Kansas.

Jim Grobe will earn $1.25 million for his work from late May through the end of the upcoming football season, according to a report from Brett McMurphy of ESPN on Monday. Iowa State’s Matt Campbell will earn $1.2 million in an incentive-laden contract this year, while KU’s David Beaty will net $800,000.

Grobe’s $1.25 million deal is also the richest for any interim head coach on record. Arkansas paid John L. Smith $850,000 for 10 months of work back in 2012.

Baylor opens its season Friday, Sept. 2 against Northwestern State.

Six Wazzu players targeted in fireworks brawl investigation

PULLMAN, WA - OCTOBER 17:  The Washington State Cougars take the field against the Oregon State Beavers at Martin Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Pullman, Washington.  Washington State defeated Oregon State 52-31.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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Six Washington State football players have been named persons of interest in a brawl that left two students hospitalized and even more injured over the weekend.

According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, a group of students that included Cougars players started threw fireworks at attendees of a Pullman, Wash., party early Saturday morning. That led to a verbal altercation that soon became physical, where one suffered a bloody wound on the back of his neck and another was forced to undergo facial reconstruction surgery after suffering a broken jaw.

“We’re looking at this as a very serious felony assault level based on the injuries to two victims,” Pullman police commander Chris Tennant told the paper. “I would like to make arrests later in the week. I don’t know if that’s a realistic timeline. I expect this to be a lengthy investigation. A lot of people have to be interviewed.”

Wazzu AD Bill Moos released the following statement Monday afternoon:

“In regards to the events that took place over the past weekend, the university was made aware of the situation shortly after the incident occurred. It is our understanding there is a thorough investigation underway by local law enforcement and we will cooperate fully as we take these matters seriously. In addition, facts are being gathered within the athletic department in order to provide assistance. We have high expectations for the conduct of WSU student-athletes, and treat any alleged allegations with the utmost transparency. The WSU athletic staff is in constant communication with the Office of the President and the Office of Student Life to ensure that university leadership is aware of the continuing investigation by local law enforcement. We will refrain from further comment until the findings of the investigation are complete.”

Florida QB-turned-WR Treon Harris to transfer

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 4: Treon Harris #3 of the Florida Gators runs with the ball in the second half of the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on October 4, 2014 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Florida defeated Tennessee 10-9. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Last week Florida head coach Jim McElwain confirmed Treon Harris will move from quarterback to wide receiver.

“Everybody has freedom, he doesn’t have to stay there,” McElwain said, via SEC Country. “But at the end of the day, look, we’re in this not here to hurt anybody’s feelings. But at the same time, it is what it is and we’ve got four guys who I’m really proud of. The room is really good and I’m excited about it.”

McElwain may not have wanted to hurt Harris’s feelings, but he may not have minded Harris taking a hint.

As first reported by Ryan Bartow of Gator Bait and later confirmed by the program, Harris has picked up what McElwain put down.

Harris, rated the No. 9 athlete nationally coming out of powerhouse Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, would have a myriad of options should he be open to playing a position other than quarterback. But, then again, if he wanted to play somewhere other than under center, one assumes he’d have stayed at Florida in the first place.

Florida’s leading returning passer — he completed 119-of-235 throws for 1,676 yards and nine touchdowns with six interceptions, good for a quarterback rating that placed 92nd nationally — Harris would have two years of eligibility remaining should he opt to remain at the FBS level.