Chris Ash's Departure Could Pave the Way for Randy Shannon to Be Arkansas' DC

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 24, 2014

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The coaching carousel has slowed down a bit from earlier in the month, but it hasn't completely stopped spinning. 

It took more than a week, but former Arkansas Razorbacks defensive coordinator Chris Ash's departure to Ohio State finally became official on Thursday afternoon, when the Buckeyes named him their co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach.

"I was attracted to this position because it is Ohio State, and I had to wonder if I ever would have this opportunity again," Ash said in a release on Ohio State's official website. "This is one of the top five college football programs in the country. It has tremendous history and tradition, and it is a great academic institution."

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema
Arkansas head coach Bret BielemaJustin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The move isn't a surprise. Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated reported that Ash was making the jump to Columbus on Jan. 14, but it didn't become official until Thursday.

What is a surprise are the specifics surrounding the move.

According to Ohio State's student daily The Lantern, Ash will make $520,000 per year at his new position—a $30,000 per year pay cut from his previous position at Arkansas according to the USA Today coaches' salary database.

Is that a bad look for Arkansas? For now, yes.

One of the primary reasons head coach Bret Bielema made the move to Fayetteville last year was because it provided him the resources to hire and retain quality assistant coaches. Now one of the coaches he brought with him is bailing after one season for less money.

But that bad look may only be temporary.

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - APRIL 20:  Assistant Coach Randy Shannon of the Arkansas Razorback talks with his linebackers before the Spring Game at Razorback Stadium on April 20, 2013 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Ash's departure opens the door for Bielema to promote from within, and one candidate who's waiting in the wings is current linebackers coach and former Miami (Fla.) head coach Randy Shannon.

Shannon was the defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes from 2001-2006, during which time he posted five top-10 defenses and won a national title after the 2001 season. His defenses struggled a bit when he was elevated to the 'Canes head coach, but he wouldn't have head coaching responsibilities if he were promoted at Arkansas.

He turned down the Maryland defensive coordinator job in 2011 because it would cost him $1.5 million in Miami buyout money, according to The Baltimore Sun. The next year, he took the linebackers coaching job at TCU before joining Bielema's staff in Fayetteville in 2013.

Other coaches have been rumored for the position, including Memphis defensive coordinator Barry Odom according to

Heard some noise over past few weeks about Memphis DC Barry Odom being a hot target from other BCS programs. He’s staying & they are happy

— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) January 16, 2014

But the lack of movement on the defensive coordinator front from Bielema suggests two things: He's prioritizing recruiting, and he may have a candidate already in mind.

Coaching searches take time, and considering Arkansas is six players away from a full class of 25 in 2014 and currently ranked 11th in the conference, placing an emphasis on the "Jimmys and Joes" rather than the X's and O's is a good idea. 

It's an even better idea if those X's and O's aren't going to change much, and the new coordinator can step in without much of a transition period.

Ash taking less money to take a lesser title at Ohio State, coupled with the absence of a sense of urgency for Bielema to replace him, is a sign that Randy Shannon could become Arkansas' next defensive coordinator.

If that's the case, consider it a home run for Bielema and the Hogs.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report, and can be reached at All stats courtesy of and the University of Arkansas, and all recruiting information courtesy of