John L. Smith Fired: Who's Next for Arkansas?
It had been expected for months, but on Saturday morning, it became official.
Arkansas head coach John L. Smith was dismissed by the Razorbacks, according to a release from the Arkansas athletic department.
"I have great respect for Coach Smith and I thank him for the sincere commitment he has shown our program," Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long said in a statement. "He made a difficult decision in uncertain times to return from his alma mater to guide the young men in our football program, and I will always be grateful for his efforts."
According to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, the Hogs will have a new head coach within 10 days.
But who will it be?
The annual Jon Gruden rumor has made its way to Fayetteville this season, complete with a YouTube video from three Arkansas fans. The Chris Petersen watch is also in effect in Fayetteville, according to CoachingSearch.com.
Tommy Tuberville, Charlie Strong and Gary Patterson are much more likely candidates, though.
Tuberville would fit everything Arkansas needs as a program.
He's an Arkansas native, he played at Southern Arkansas, has 14 years of experience as a head coach in the SEC, is a defensive-minded coach and has developed ties to the state of Texas over the last three years as the head coach of Texas Tech.
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With 21 players on this year's Razorbacks roster from the state of Texas, keeping the recruiting pipeline to the Lone Star State healthy is crucial for the next Arkansas head coach, especially with Texas A&M in the SEC West now.
Strong would provide most of the same benefits that Tuberville would, minus the SEC head-coaching experience. He's a defensive-minded head coach who served as the defensive coordinator of the Florida Gators during the 2000s.
Strong has transformed Louisville from Big East anonymity into a contender for the conference title, and he coached in the SEC for 18 of the previous 22 years prior to taking the job at Louisville.
Patterson may be more of a long shot, but don't discount the possibility of swaying the TCU head coach to Fayetteville.
Will Arkansas have a head coach within the next 10 days?
He has a good gig going in Fort Worth. He's helped guide the program into the Big 12, which is a much easier path than the one that would be in front of him in the SEC.
But if the deal is right, he would bring a loaded resume. His Horned Frogs have posted the nation's top defense in three of the last five years, and they haven't finished worse than 32nd in total defense in five years.
Arkansas joins Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC offseason coaching market and should be joined by Auburn in the not-too-distant future. If Arkansas is going to name its head coach within 10 days, Long probably already knows who it is.
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