Who will be the next head football coach at Arkansas?

April 1, 2012 is a day that all Razorbacks fans want to forget because on that day their quest for a SEC Championship was ruined.  Bobby Petrino’s scandal, and subsequent dismissal from the university, left a gapping void that interim coach John L. Smith has been unable to fill so far this year.  Arkansas has gone from BCS Title contender to maybe managing to get bowl eligible in a matter of three weeks.  The Razorbacks have lost three straight games including a 52-0 home loss to SEC West rival Alabama.  Even if Arkansas can turn things around it is highly doubtful that Coach Smith will return as head coach next year.  So, who should Arkansas hire as their next head coach?  Maybe Arkansas will steal Mike Smith from the Falcons the way they stole Petrino.  Or maybe they go out there and hire Jody Sears, the interim coach at Weber State.  While these are two unlikely candidates, there are several strong coaches that Arkansas should seriously consider hiring, and here is a short list of possible future Razorbacks coaches.

Phillip Fulmer
It was rumored that Coach Fulmer would be the next head coach at Arkansas after Petrino was fired.  Sadly for Razorbacks fans it was just a rumor, but maybe the two sides can work something out in time for next year.  Fulmer spent 17 years at the University of Tennessee and is one of the most accomplished coaches in SEC history.  He has two SEC titles, five SEC Championship game appearances, and a SEC record of 92-34.  His teams almost always finished the year nationally ranked (ranked in the AP top 25 13 of his 17 years) and he also has a National Championship.  Hiring a coach with the accomplishments and accolades of Fulmer would ensure the Razorbacks stay nationally relevant, and help them as far as recruiting is concerned.

Skip Holtz
Son of former Arkansas head coach Lou Holtz, Skip Holtz was another name rumored to be in the mix for the head coaching job at Arkansas when Petrino was let go of.  Holtz is familiar with the area spending his middle and high school days in Fayetteville while his dad was the head coach of the Razorbacks.   Hiring Holtz would certainly rejuvenate the Razorbacks fan base and he is more than capable of getting Arkansas back to where it was when Petrino was coaching.  However, there is some cause for concern with Holtz.  While he does have 12 years of head coaching experience and a record of 87-64, he is struggling at South Florida going 4-11 in Big East play in his three year tenure at the school.

Kirby Smart
The one bad thing during Petrino’s tenure at Arkansas (other than the motorcycle accident) was the defense. Arkansas put up some spectacular offensive numbers during his tenure, but their defense was mediocre at best.  As the old saying goes “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships,” and right now there is not a better defensive mind in college football than Kirby Smart.  He has spent the last six seasons at Alabama learning (and winning) under Coach Nick Saban.  In his four years as the Crimson Tides defensive coordinator, his defenses have finished in the top five nationally in total defense and scoring defense three times.  Also, he is the 2009 Broyles Award winner for best coordinator in the nation.  Hiring somebody with knowledge about how the Alabama program works is another plus for Smart, especially since Arkansas is 0-5 against the Saban led Crimson Tide.

Mark Stoops
If Kirby Smart is the best defensive mind in college football, Mark Stoops is not too far behind.  Stoops has nine years of defensive coordinator experience, and he has spent the past three seasons at Florida State, transforming the ‘Noles defense into one of the nation’s best.  The Seminoles finished last year ranked fourth in the nation in total defense and first in the nation in rushing defense.  So far this year the Seminoles are the second best team in the nation in total defense, a credit to Stoops’ coaching ability.  While Stoops does not have any head coaching experience, it would be a mistake for Arkansas to not consider hiring a coach with the resume that he has.

Todd Berry
Few Arkansas fans knew who Todd Berry was before this season started, but they all know who he is now.  His Louisiana-Monroe squad upset the Razorbacks three weeks ago and started this Arkansas free fall.  Coach Berry is in his third year as the Warhawks head coach and has a record of 10-17 while there.  He has ten years of coaching experience at smaller schools (Illinois State, Army, and UL Monroe) amassing a woeful 39-77 career record, but do not let the record discourage you.  His team’s performance so far this year has been eye opening and he will garner significant attention this off season.   Last year the Warhawks finished eighth in the nation in rushing defense and 21st in total defense, an impressive feat considering the disparity in facilities and talent UL Monroe has when compared to bigger FBS schools. All Berry needs is an opportunity to coach at a school with the resources Arkansas has and he will be able to win games.

Bobby Petrino
Good luck with that one.

CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport.  Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from different college football games throughout the Mid-South.

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  1. Eric McGee says:

    Todd berry is beating teams with backyard football, not a good choice. Phillip Fulmer was mediocre at Tennessee his last few years( we need elite) we need someone defensive minded with a good offensive coordinator. Kirby Smart seems like the best choice and only one I would go with out of this article. Butch Davis, Pete Carroll, and Jon Gruden would be my other candidates. I know they’re all long shots, but trust me Jeff long is willing to spend the money to bring in the elite.

  2. Razorback414 says:

    i agree with Eric. the only logical coaches to me for the arkansas job are as follows.
    1. Kirby Smart
    2. Jon Gruden
    3. Mark Stoops
    4. Gary Patterson
    5. Butch Davis
    6. Pete Carroll

  3. Atomic Hog says:

    Provided Gruden, Cowher, Carroll are not an option (Which I don’t believe they are), here are some of my choices as the next coach for the Hogs:
    1.) Gary Patterson, TCU
    2.) Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
    3.) Chris Peterson, Boise State
    4.) Mike D’Antonio, Michigan State
    5.) Art Briles, Baylor
    6.) Dana Holgerson, West Virginia [Provided he hires a DC & turns the Defense over to him]
    7.) Mike Leach, Washington State

    I also think we will hear Tommy Tuberville’s name. I’m not sure that wouldn’t be too bad. He has turned Texas Tech around in 2 years, and has apparently hired an Offensive Coordinator that knows you are allowed to throw the ball down the field.

  4. Atomic Hog list is the best I have seen so far. I would put Chris Peterson at the top and Gary Patterson 2nd but the list itself is great. People who are talking about Pet Carroll are not being realistic, why would he leave Seattle? He is starting to have success and he has shown in the past a desire to coach on the Pro level. So why would he leave? I would also add Butch Davis to Atomic Hogs list at number 4. Personally I think Jeff Long needs to go to Boise and make a deal with Peterson. By far Peterson would be the best hire in Arkansas history, what he has done at Boise has been incredible.

    • Atomic Hog says:

      Colton, I really like Chris Peterson, and think he would likely be a fantastic coach here. However, whether it is relevant or not, here is some “food for thought” for hiring former Boise State coaches:

      1.) Houston Nutt: He had mild short-term success at both Arkansas & Ole Miss, but was never
      consistent, seemed to have “ego” problems and is out of coaching.

      2.) Dirk Koetter: He had great success at Boise, was then hired at Arizona State where he
      had very limited success for about 4 or 5 years bfore getting fired. I THINK he is
      now a Coordinator in the NFL.

      3.) Dan Hawkins: He had great success at Boise, was the hired by the University of Colorado.
      At Colorado, he had some terrible teams, and they still haven’t recovered. He is
      currently out of coaching.

      Again, I don’t know that this has a lot of bearing on hiring Chris Peterson, it just seems to be a pattern.

      A couple of other names we will hear either for Arkansas or at other schools this year are Paul Rhodes, Iowa State and James Franklin, Vanderbilt.

      • I think with Rhodes there has to be more time, see what he does in Iowa State. As for Nutt, I thought he was a good coach at Arkansas. We had some good teams and he sent a number of players to the NFL. He lacked a passing game but had some good D and great run game.

  5. This might be far fetched but offer Jimmy Johnson 7/8 million to leave TV and become the coach at Arkansas…But make a decision fast and quickly before all the other teams grabs the good recruits.. Time is running out on that!

  6. NM-HOGFAN says:

    Why would Tommy Tuberville not be on this list as he would be the only choice since he was left out of this process!

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