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

Missouri WR Kam Scott steps into transfer portal

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One of Missouri’s top wide receivers from 2019 could be on the move. Kam Scott has reportedly entered the NCAA transfer portal, allowing him to begin evaluating potential transfer options for the upcoming season.

By entering the transfer portal, Scott is now free to have contact with any other college football program interested in recruiting him. Scott is also free to pull his name out of the portal and remain at Missouri, but Missouri is no longer obligated to hold his scholarship. If Scott does transfer to another FBS program, he will be required to sit out the 2020 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Of course, a potential relaxed waiver process could make a path to immediate eligibility in 2020 a realistic possibility if the NCAA does approve a new waiver process.

Scott caught 17 passes for 328 yards in 11 games last season for the Tigers. He was Missouri’s third-leading receiver in 2019 behind Jonathan Nance and Tyler Badie.

Penn State and Paterno family resolve their issues

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It seems there is peace between Penn State University and the family of former head coach Joe Paterno. Or, at the very least, the two can go their separate ways without any more hostile feelings.

On Friday, the Penn State Board of Trustees announced the university and the Paterno family have reached a resolution on their ongoing issues. The Paterno family has agreed to drop all outstanding claims against the university and Penn State will cover some Paterno family expenses.

“The University recognizes and takes great pride in the many contributions made by Joe Paterno, not just to the football program, but to the academic advancement of this institution and to countless charitable causes in the community as well,” a statement from Mark Dambly, Penn State Board of Trustees chair, said. “We are pleased that the Paterno family has indicated that they will not support public or private advocacy efforts to revisit the past, through further review or release of investigative materials, or otherwise.”

“The last eight years have been difficult, made more so by the opinions in the Freeh Report, which my family and I believe was deeply flawed, reached unsupported conclusions about Joe and unjustly criticized the culture of Penn State,” a statement from Sue Paterno, the wife of Joe Paterno, said. “The University has made clear that Mr. Freeh’s opinions about Joe were never endorsed by Penn State. By confirming this position and reaching this understanding, the leadership of Penn State has acted in the best interests of the University, and for this I am grateful.”

The Paterno family has taken public aim at the Freeh Report, a report commissioned by the Board of Trustees following the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that rocked the university and community in 2011, which ultimately led to the dismissal of Joe Paterno as head coach of the Penn State football program and landed the program on hefty NCAA sanctions (which were later removed in part due to the Paterno family fighting the NCAA in court). Given the Paterno family’s long-time association with the university and the tension that arose with Paterno amid the Sandusky scandal, there were plenty of bitter feelings to go around.

As both the university and Paterno family stated, the real victims in this tragedy have been the ones truly suffering, and the hope is the university and Paterno family putting their differences aside can help keep the focus on what is really important in all of this.

And no, we’re not talking about the whereabouts of the Paterno statue.

Butch Jones getting a new job title at Alabama

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Former Cincinnati and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is moving up the ranks on the Alabama football staff. Jones will be promoted from analyst to special assistant to the head coach, according to a report from Al.com.

Jones joined the Alabama program in 2018 as an offensive analyst after his tenure at Tennessee ended in 2017. As a number of Alabama assistants and analysts tend to be, Jones has been a candidate for some potential jobs on the market since arriving at Alabama. the 2020 season will be Jones’ third with the Crimson Tide, as his name will likely continue to circulate the coaching rumor mill once the coaching carousel picks up again. With a new title at Alabama, it is expected jones will not be a candidate for the vacancy at Colorado.

What jones will do as the special assistant to the head coach, Nick Saban, can be pretty broad, but it will certainly be more than simply getting coffee (although the image of Jones as a coffee boy sounds entertaining). Jones will assist Saban in many parts of the operation of the program, taking some of the load off Saban’s shoulders where needed.

Just remember that Jones is not the assistant head coach, but he is the assistant TO the head coach. But if there is an Alabama spin-off of “The Office” in production, we’d certainly like to see it.

 

Ted Gilmore leaves Wisconsin for job at Michigan State

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Mel Tucker has continued to quickly assemble his first Michigan State football coaching staff.

Friday, MSU announced the addition of Ted Gilmore to Tucker’s first staff in East Lansing.  The 25-year veteran of the profession will serve as the Spartans’ tight ends coach.

“Coach Gilmore is a great teacher and excellent motivator who brings high energy,” said the new Michigan State football head coach in a statement. “He’s a proven developer of players and a very effective recruiter. He’s a true difference-maker.”

Gilmore comes to the Michigan State football program armed with recent and extensive experience in the Big Ten.  The past five seasons, Gilmore worked at Wisconsin as wide receivers coach.  From 2017-19, he carried the added title of passing-game coordinator for the Badgers.  From 2005-10, Gilmore was the receivers coach at Nebraska.  The last three seasons with the Cornhuskers, he was also the assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator.

In between those two stints, he worked as the receivers coach at USC (2011) and the NFL’s Oakland Raiders (2012-14).

Gilmore has also served as the receivers coach at Colorado (2003-04), Purdue (2001-02), Houston (2000) and Wyoming (1997-98).  In 1999, Gilmore was the tight ends coach at Kansas.  He played his college football at Wyoming, and began his coaching career at his alma mater as a graduate assistant (1994-96).

The hiring of Gilmore is the seventh officially announced by the Michigan State football program.

This past weekend, it was confirmed that Ron Burton and Mike Tressel would be retained.  Shortly thereafter, Chris Kapilovic officially followed Tucker to MSU from Colorado.  Wednesday, former first-team All-Big Ten wide receiver Courtney Hawkins returned to East Lansing to coach the same position he played for the Spartans.  A day later, Jay Johnson was confirmed as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Harlon Barnett was brought back as defensive backs coach.