Understanding Arkansas' Choice of Paul Haynes over Randy Shannon

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Understanding Arkansas' Choice of Paul Haynes over Randy Shannon
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Petrino hires Haynes off of Tressel's old staff.

On Tuesday December 6, Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino announced Willy Robinson was resigning from his position as defensive coordinator with the Razorbacks. The following day, sources close to the Razorback program said that Randy Shannon, the former head coach at the University of Miami, was in line to be the next defensive coordinator for the Hogs, pending financial agreements.

Then, on Saturday, the Razorbacks hired Paul Haynes as defensive coordinator.

Razorback fans are now led to believe that Paul Haynes was Petrino’s top choice for defensive coordinator all along? Haynes hiring raises more questions than it provides answers. Something is amiss with this story.

The spin on the Haynes selection as defensive coordinator is one of the best to come out of Arkansas in some time. To cope with the decision, Razorback fans are now supposed to believe that it took Petrino four days to hire Paul Haynes as the new defensive coordinator at Arkansas.

Haynes had a nice title before leaving Ohio State, co-defensive coordinator. Haynes was promoted to co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State before the 2011 season after Luke Fickell left his co-defensive coordinator position to become the interim head coach for the Buckeyes.

Haynes shared co-defensive coordinators duties with Jim Heacock this season. Between the two new co-defensive coordinators, Heacock was the defensive play caller during the 2011 season, not Haynes.

Haynes worked under Fickell and Jim Heacock during the past six years, primarily coaching the secondary for the Buckeyes.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Haynes coached the Buckeyes secondary for OSU.

The next question to ask regarding Haynes hire at Arkansas is, “How great of a coach was Jim Tressel?” Or maybe the better question to ask is, “How bad was the staff under Tressel?”

This year could prove to be one of the worst football seasons in Columbus, Ohio, since 1999 when the Buckeyes finished 6-6. OSU finished the 2011 regular season 6-6 with a chance to finish with either a winning or losing record after they face off against the Florida Gators in the Gator Bowl January 2.

Should OSU lose to the Gators their season record would be the worst finish for the program since 1988 when they finished 4-6-1.

An argument in support of the Buckeye’s coaching staff could be made because five of their players were suspended for the first five games of the season or left the program before the season started. The big headline loss for the team was former starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Arkansas fans do not need to be reminded that the Razorbacks lost starting quarterback Ryan Mallett, Mackey Award winning tight end D.J. Williams, and three starting offensive linemen after the 2010 season to graduation or the NFL.

The Hogs also lost All-SEC running back Knile Davis to injury before the season began. Two more running backs would miss significant game time, as well due to injuries—Dennis Johnson and Broderick Green.

The Razorbacks losses did not stop with those players on offense as four starters on defense missed games due to injury in 2011- Jake Bequette, Darius Winston, Tank Wright, and Isaac Madison.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Knile Davis had a 100-yard rushing game vs. OSU in the Sugar Bowl last year.

Petrino managed to lead Arkansas to a 10-2 regular season record, in arguably the toughest conference in college football, despite all of the adversity he faced due to player injuries.

Looking closer at the two program’s defensive numbers, Ohio State’s defense was No. 24 in total defense this season allowing an average of 328.58 yards per game. The Buckeyes scoring defense finished No. 26 giving up 20.75 per game.

Arkansas’ scoring defense was No. 37 allowing 22.75 points per game. The Hogs total defense was No. 51 giving up 371.42 yards per game. There is not a major difference between the team defenses statistically.

Arkansas faced two opponents, Texas A&M and Alabama, ranked in the Top 30 in total offense. Ohio State faced one—Wisconsin.

What recruiting help can Haynes bring to Petrino’s staff?

Ohio State is a school that recruits itself on a national level. According to Rivals.com, OSU is currently ranked No. 15 in recruiting. Arkansas is No. 25.

Of the 16 recruits that have orally committed to the Buckeyes, 14 are in-state recruits. In 2011, 14 of the 24 OSU recruits were from Ohio, which led to a No. 14 national recruiting ranking. Will Haynes be able to parlay his time in Ohio with top recruits for Arkansas?

Arkansas fans also do not need to be reminded that in last year’s Sugar Bowl, Petrino’s offense racked up 402 yards of total offense against the Buckeyes. Ryan Mallett threw for 277 yards with two touchdowns against Haynes’ secondary.

Next question: If Randy Shannon was not at the top of Petrino’s list, why wasn’t he?

Shannon was the head coach at University of Miami from 2007-2010. He was the defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes from 2001-2006.

During his tenure as defensive coordinator Miami’s defense ranked No. 7 or better in 5 out of 6 years. Arkansas’ defense finished 2010 ranked No. 36 and No. 51 in 2011.

For his defensive coaching efforts, Shannon won the 2001 Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in college football. That same year, Miami won the BCS National Championship Game as the Big East Conference Champions over Nebraska in the 2002 Rose Bowl.

Shannon had Top 20 recruiting classes every year he was a either the defensive coordinator or the head coach at the University of Miami.

Shannon would have been able to help open new doors for the Razorback program in the state of Florida with top recruits.

Most SEC recruits want to know that their coaches can help them “make it” to the NFL once their collegiate career is finished. Shannon was an assistant with the Miami Dolphins from 1998-1999 and their linebackers coach in 2000. He would have brought extra credibility to the Razorback staff with his NFL background.

Another area Shannon could have helped in recruiting is the state of Texas. Shannon played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1989-1990. Although his playing career was short-lived, he was still part of “America’s Team,” which carries a lot of weight in Texas.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Randy Shannon would have opened recruiting doors for the Hogs in Florida.

If his resume was not impressive enough, Shannon was one of the starting linebackers for Jimmy Johnson’s 1987 University of Miami’s national championship team.

Still, we are supposed to believe that Paul Haynes was the top choice for Petrino over Shannon?

Leaked information from sources close to the Razorback program said Shannon’s hire was hinging on money. Regardless of the current spin centering on Haynes over Shannon, this seems credible. Bottom line, Arkansas does not pay their assistants on the level of other SEC teams. If Shannon wanted a top coordinator’s salary, why didn’t the Razorbacks pay him?

Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn makes $1.3 million per year as Auburn’s offensive coordinator. Auburn’s football assistants will make a total of $4,085,000 for the 2011 season.

Charlie Weis, the former offensive coordinator for the University of Florida, former head coach at Notre Dame, and offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots was set to make $765,000 this season and a total of $2.6 million over three years, including a $100,000 signing bonus to join the Gator’s staff.

Weis was hired as the head coach at University of Kansas over the weekend after one year in Gainesville.

Paul Petrino was hired back as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator at $425,000 per year plus $50,000 for appearance fees, the same salary Garrick McGee was receiving before he took the head coaching job at University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Gus Malzahn will make $1.3 million at Auburn for the 2011 season.

Arkansas already has one of the best offensive minds in college football on staff in Bobby Petrino. What they do not have is the defensive coordinator to match Petrino’s offense.

Will Haynes be the answer for Arkansas’ defensive woes? Time will tell. On paper, Arkansas did not necessarily improve their defense by letting Willy Robinson resign and hiring Haynes. The truth is the Razorbacks hired the co-defensive coordinator for the sixth best defense in the Big Ten.

Would Petrino add more confusion to Arkansas’ staff after the loss of Garrick McGee and John L. Smith if he did not already have a new coordinator in mind?

If the new coordinator was Haynes, again why did it take four days to hire him?

Another truth is Haynes worked with John L. Smith at Louisville in 2002 and at Michigan State in 2003-2004. Petrino, it seems, shook the coaching family tree he loyally supports after talks with Shannon stopped.

One more puzzling question, why would Haynes take four days to accept the job at Arkansas when a demotion of some sort was sure to come his way at Ohio State? This is assuming new OSU head coach Urban Meyer was even planning on keeping Haynes on his staff after the end of the season.

Luke Fickell and Jim Heacock were co-defensive coordinators before this season. Assuming Meyer kept all three defensive coaches on staff, one would expect that Fickell and Heacock would resume their previous roles as co-coordinators, right?

That means that even if Haynes kept the title of co-defensive coordinator, his role on the staff would be diminished in game planning at the very least; thus a demotion.

If Randy Shannon was not on the top of Arkansas’ list in favor of Paul Haynes because of money, Arkansas has showed that they talk-the-talk about wanting to win but don’t walk-the-walk when it comes time to pay for experienced coordinators like the other winning programs in the SEC. This only makes Petrino’s task more difficult.

Petrino has taken Arkansas to new heights over the past two seasons not seen since the 1980s. He has proven his desire and dedication to making Arkansas an elite program. With Petrino on the sidelines Arkansas will always have a shot at winning.

If Petrino feels Haynes is a good hire for the team, then Haynes deserves the support of Razorback Nation.

As fans, we may never know the truth about how Paul Haynes came to be the new defensive coordinator for the Razorbacks other than one positive spin article in hopes of rallying support around the new hire.

Should the Hogs defense falter in upcoming seasons, perhaps the Razorbacks will pay for what they want next time, a complete coaching staff that can help them win a BCS National Championship. 

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