Arkansas fired head coach Chad Morris after less than two years. What candidates might be the right fit?
The Chad Morris hire was a wee bit questionable to begin with.
He was supposed to bring a high-octane offense to Arkansas, but as a head coach he had one decent year at SMU, his teams never played any defense, and he didn’t quite seem to be that differentiating-factor type of coach who could give the Alabamas and LSUs of the world a fight.
I wrote at the time that it was basically a “fine, whatever” hire, and it turned out to be less than that.
Morris went 4-18 in his two years, 0-14 in the SEC, and worst of all, his offenses didn’t work.
It would’ve been fine to take on all of those losses if it seemed like the program was building into something big. If his teams were losing – even to the WKU’s of the world – in 55-52 shootouts, and the attack was throwing a scare into everyone week-in-and-week-out, this the rough start could’ve been excused.
But the Hogs are averaging just 353 yards per game, they have the fourth-least efficient passing game in the country, they’re 108th in scoring offense 91st in passing offense, and …
There just weren’t any wins.
Portland State and Colorado State this year, and Eastern Illinois and Tulsa last year. That’s it.
Arkansas lost to a bad Colorado State team last season, got annihilated by North Texas, was blown out by Vanderbilt, and this year lost to San Jose State and just lost to WKU 45-19.
It was time, even just 24 games in.
And now Arkansas needs someone who can throw a curveball into the mix.
I really thought Bret Bielema was going to be the perfect hire at the time. Arkansas was going to have an attitude, it was going to counter-balance Bama and LSU with brute force, and it was going to be Wisconsin-like in the way it was going to be one of those teams that no one really wanted to face, but that obviously didn’t work out.
Even so, that’s what this program needs. It’s not going to get the five-star talents of the big boys in the SEC West, so it needs to have an identity with something that scares the hell out of everyone.
It also needs a head coach who’s willing to come in and be able to live life running into a wall in a division with Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M.
You’re not getting Urban Meyer if you’re Arkansas.
This is all total speculation, but five guys who at least have to get a phone call of some sort are …
5. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
He’s always been the white whale for Arkansas. The former Hog wide receiver – at least for a bit – and offensive coordinator might not be able to get the same talent to Fayetteville that he’s been landing at Auburn, but he’s proving to be adaptable. Considering he’s always a two-game losing streak away from being on everyone’s hot seat, and with four of the previous five years with five losses or more, he might be open for a change of scenery.
4. Sonny Dykes, SMU head coach
Yeah … OKAY. So it didn’t work out so great with the last SMU head coach, but Arkansas can get it right this time around. Dykes took what Chad Morris put in place to a whole other level, tweaking things just enough to create one of the nation’s most dynamic offenses in just one season. Unlike Morris, Dykes has done it before. He won a conference title at Louisiana Tech, he put together some big offenses at Cal, and at the very least, he’d bring a high-powered attack to the Fayetteville.
3. Josh Heupel, UCF head coach
Get past the three losses of this year’s UCF team. Heupel proved over his 23 games that he can crank up an offense – he’s starting, essentially, a fourth-option quarterback this year – no matter what. He would be what Morris was supposed to be for the Hogs – his teams would bring something to make SEC defensive coordinators worry.
2. Billy Napier, Louisiana head coach
I’ve been stumping so much for him I should get a cut. If he had any head coaching experience a few years ago, the former Arizona State offensive coordinator would’ve been the right guy for the program. He got the Ragin’ Cajuns to the Sun Belt title game last year, he’s going to do it again this season, and he’s the young – he’s just 40 – rising star who has Next REALLY Big Thing potential.
1. Mike Leach, Washington State head coach
No, he’s not the right guy for Florida State, and he’s definitely not the right call for USC. Arkansas needs a head coach who 1) brings a devastating offense, 2) is used to coaching programs that have work uphill against the big boys in a division.
No, he’s never won a conference championship, and yeah he’s overrated and overblown, and yeah, you’d have to deal with everything he’s about, but …
He’s the kickstarter. Just 58, he’s your forever coach, Arkansas, and your identity guy who’d make life very, very difficult for the rest of the SEC.