After the Arkansas Razorbacks finished the 2011 season ranked fifth in the AP Poll with an 11-2 record and victory in the Cotton Bowl, off-the-field issues have left their successors reeling in 2012.
Though Arkansas named a replacement in John L. Smith, the move was only temporary. Now, the Hogs are a struggling 3-4 in 2012, and it is expected that the search for a replacement will intensify in the next month.
At the end of it all, here are five potential coaches who could help set Arkansas back on track to repeat their success from 2011.
Louisiana Tech has been one of the fun, upstart teams to watch during the 2012 NCAA football season so far. At 6-1 on the year, LA-Tech leads the WAC after winning the conference in 2011. Impressively, their sole loss on the season came in a high-scoring, 59-57 loss to SEC contender Texas A&M.
The maestro of this success in Louisiana has been head coach Sonny Dykes. Halfway through his pivotal third year at the helm, Dykes has accumulated a 19-13 record as a head coach.
Likely, should LA-Tech continue to run the table on the remainder of their schedule, Dykes will be destined for upward mobility in the collegiate ranks come bowl season, which is right around the time Arkansas should be seriously narrowing their search for a new head coach.
Although he is a bit more offensively minded, perhaps Dykes’ greatest value comes from his personal and professional background.
A Texas native, Dykes began his coaching career as a high school baseball coach in Texas before rising to the rank of co-offensive coordinator with Texas Tech nearly a decade later.
His knowledge of, and connections with, a Texas high school culture saturated with recruiting talent should prove invaluable should he be saddled with the task of rebuilding and developing a winning tradition at Arkansas.
Despite affirming his commitment to the Louisville football program earlier this month, potentially the best fit to assume control of the Razorbacks’ football program is Louisville head coach Charlie Strong.
An Arkansas native himself, Strong is no stranger to coaching in the SEC. Multiple stints with the University of Florida Gators and the South Carolina Gamecocks earned Strong his first head coaching position in 2010 with the Cardinals. Currently, Strong has the Cardinals atop the Big East at a perfect 7-0.
For an Arkansas defense that has allowed an average of 31.0 points per game in 2012, Strong’s defensive background as a defensive line and linebacker coach could help to solidify the Razorback front seven.
Consistency up front will be crucial given that Arkansas’s only three victories have come when allowing scores beneath this average.
Hard to say anything bad about the defensive coordinator of the reigning national champions and current No. 1 team in the country, particularly when that championship was won in a shutout effort.
Although Smart has the red flag of never having been a head coach, he is a product of Nick Saban both at the collegiate and NFL level. Moreover, not only has Smart worked in the SEC as a defensive coach and coordinator, but he has also spent time as the Georgia Bulldogs’ running back coach before joining Saban with the Miami Dolphins.
Such a well-rounded resume could go a long way toward helping resurrect the Arkansas program.
Another Arkansas native, Tommy Tuberville has enjoyed a good deal of success in the NCAA, the majority of which came between 1999 and 2008 as the head coach of the Auburn Tigers.
Perhaps one of the most prolific collegiate rivalries, Auburn versus Alabama is a matchup that epitomizes the SEC. It is also a contest that Auburn dominated during Tuberville’s tenure.
Having been a defensive coordinator with Texas A&M in the mid-90s, Tuberville’s Texas Tech defense currently has allowed an average 21.6 points per game. Not to be overlooked is the Red Raiders’ fourth-ranked pass offense, a testament to Tuberville’s versatility.
In 2012 Texas Tech is 6-1 losing only to Oklahoma—currently ranked eighth in the BCS—and has put up more than 40 points in every game this season except the Oklahoma loss and a victory over Iowa State. Certainly that is the well-rounded team infrastructure Arkansas is looking for and can find in Tommy Tuberville.
It’s a long shot, sure, but debatably Pete Carroll was one of the most successful college coaches of the last decade.
In nine seasons with the USC Trojans, Carroll accumulated an 83-19 record, including two controversial national championship titles: a shared title in 2003 and again in 2004, a title which was ultimately vacated due to NCAA rules violations.
Conversely, Carroll’s professional head coaching career has been anything but stellar. Seven seasons between the Jets, Patriots and Seahawks has earned him a 51-52 total record.
His only two playoff appearances came in 1997 with an inherited Patriots team that had reached the Super Bowl the year before, and then again in 2010 with a 7-9 Seahawks team. It was the first team below .500 to reach the playoffs.
In the weeks that followed the Bobby Petrino firing, Carroll had tweeted a message that hinted at perhaps having refused the opening, but nothing specific ever came of it.
Though the Seahawks are in the thick of the NFC West currently, another down season could send Carroll looking for the college ranks once more. Arkansas’s current 3-4 record heading into a tough SEC schedule down the stretch will likely present a similar situation that Carroll entered with USC in 2001, a situation in which, one way or another, Carroll thrived.