Arkansas fired head football coach Bret Bielema on Friday, barely waiting after a 48-45 loss to Missouri to end the five-year stint that produced a 29-34 record.
Bielema did an excellent job of pointing the program back in the right direction in the aftermath of Bobby Petrino’s unceremonious exit and John L. Smith’s disastrous one-year interim stint, but the Razorbacks never took the next step in the SEC West.
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That bottomed out in 2017. Now Bielema and athletic director Jeff Long are out , and Arkansas is searching for a new plan of attack. There’s one name that stands above the rest, and that’s a move that would shake up the entire conference. He’s at the top of this list.
Arkansas coaching candidates
Here are nine candidates for the Arkansas job worth keeping an eye on:
Here’s the power move, and it’s already been churning. Could Arkansas really pull Malzahn away from Auburn? Malzahn played at Arkansas for two years and coached high school football in the state before a successful stint at Arkansas State. It would be a move that shakes up the entire SEC West, and it would be costly. Does Arkansas have the power to do that? We’ll find out.
Kiffin’s success at Florida Atlantic can’t be understated. That’s going to land him a job in the SEC; it’s just a matter of which one. This would be a risky hire for Arkansas, but if he brings offensive coordinator Kendal Briles with him the Razorbacks will put up points right away. There’s a high-risk factor here, but Kiffin’s success can’t be ignored much longer.
Miles will be mentioned in every SEC coaching vacancy because of his successful track record, and Arkansas fans know him well from his days at LSU. Miles, however, was just 6-5 against Arkansas. Given his age, this doesn’t appear to be the right match.
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Arkansas had success with an innovative play-caller in Petrino. They could do the same with Leach, a brilliant offensive mind who could bring that pass-all-the-time-style to the SEC West. Leach will have a new athletic director no matter what – and this could be an interesting opportunity for something different – and fun – in Fayetteville.
Anderson led Arkansas State to three straight bowl appearances and is on the way to a fourth bowl game, and the Red Wolves hung in with a few Power 5 schools in some near upsets along the way. Anderson would be the easy hire, but it might not be a big enough splash for Razorbacks’ fans.
Strong played defensive back at Central Arkansas from 1980-93, and he served as an assistant coach at Texas A&M, Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina on his way up the coaching ladder. Strong bounced back in style at South Florida after a three-year stint at Texas. He’s an interesting candidate for this job.
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There’s no doubt Brown is an up-and-coming coach. He’s taken advantage of his first head coaching job at Troy. He also served as an offensive coordinator at Kentucky and Texas. Troy won 10 games last season, beat LSU this season and enjoyed another successful campaign in 2017.
Norvell played at Central Arkansas, and he’s built on what Justin Fuente started at Memphis. There has been no drop-off. Norvell is going to catch on to a bigger job at some point. Why not this one?