Who will replace Morris?
The University of Arkansas rightfully called an end to Chad Morris’ Reign of Error on Sunday, less than 24 hours after — just when you thought Razorback football couldn’t possibly get any worse — the Hogs were blown off the field by a Western Kentucky team that couldn’t beat Central Arkansas this season.
Morris and his defenders can talk until they’re blue in the face about the Razorbacks being young and inexperienced, but no one can seriously believe that Western Kentucky is three touchdowns better on talent.
Now, the talk will inevitably turn to speculation over who will replace Morris. For now, it’s Barry Lunney Jr., who started 40 games at quarterback for Arkansas in the mid-’90s and has been a longtime assistant. I recall interviewing Lunney several times back then, and I think he’s a forthright guy who will do everything he can to restore some stability. But I don’t believe he’s a serious candidate to win the job on a permanent basis.
Of course, the most successful Razorback coach in recent memory is Bobby Petrino. I’ve even heard some speculation that he might be a candidate to return. Don’t bet the chicken farm on that.
In my opinion, Arkansas needs a coach with an offensive philosophy similar to Petrino’s. Bret Bielema came to Fayetteville with a plan to assemble a huge offensive line and pound the football with big running backs. It was not without some success, but I don’t believe you’ll ever beat the likes of Alabama and LSU that way.
Petrino had the luxury of having Ryan Mallett at quarterback for his two most successful seasons. For my money, the 2010 team that finished 10-3 and lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl is the best Arkansas team of the past 40 years. The Hogs’ other losses that season came to No. 1 Alabama (24-20 in Fayetteville) and No. 6 Auburn (65-43 on The Plains).
It also would be nice to hire a coach who has some head coaching experience in the SEC. The last time the Arkansas job was open, Gus Malzahn parlayed it into a fat raise at Auburn. I can’t see him moving now.
Lane Kiffin is intriguing, but comes with some baggage.
Mike Leach has the right offensive mindset and a proven track record, albeit not in the SEC. Butch Davis has SEC experience, but not the good kind.
Skip Holtz is a veteran coach but doesn’t have the major-college experience.
Mike Norvell has done really good things at Memphis, but he doesn’t feel right to me.
Two dark-horse candidates: SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, a Springdale native who learned from Malzahn at Auburn; and New York Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, a former Razorback who is well-regarded in the NFL.
It could be any one of those guys, or it could be somebody from completely off the radar. Remember, no one linked Bielema to the UA job before he was hired.
Whoever it is, they’ll be hard-pressed to post poorer results than Morris.