My Picks to be new Arkansas Razorback Football Coach (Eli Drinkwitz and Gus Malzahn are two of my favorite ones and both coached at Springdale High!!!)

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My picks are similar to Steven Lassan below with a few changes.

Examining who could replace Chad Morris at Arkansas

Arkansas fired head coach Chad Morris on Sunday after a 2-8 start to the 2019 season. Morris was hired after working as SMU’s coach from 2015-17 but went 4-18 in his 22 games in Fayetteville and did not record a victory in SEC play. Barry Lunney Jr. will serve as interim coach for the final two games of the season. Morris and his staff inherited a rebuilding project from former coach Bret Bielema, but there was very little progress over the last two seasons. The next coach will inherit similar challenges and some roster fixes will only be attained through recruiting over the next couple of years.

Who could replace Morris at Arkansas? Here are 10 names to watch in the coaching search:

10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Chad Morris at Arkansas

Bill Clark, Head Coach, UAB

Clark seems entrenched at UAB, but Arkansas should at least inquire to see if he’s interested in the job. The Alabama native has spent his entire coaching career in the state at the high school level or as South Alabama’s defensive coordinator (2008-12) before taking the head-coaching job at Jacksonville State in 2013. The Gamecocks went 11-4 and earned a trip to the FCS Playoffs in Clark’s only year at the helm. UAB went 6-6 in Clark’s first season, but the program was disbanded from 2015-16. Clark rebuilt the program from scratch and guided the Blazers to a Conference USA title in 2018. UAB is 31-17 under Clark’s watch.

Eli Drinkwitz, Head Coach, Appalachian State

Drinkwitz is in his first year as Appalachian State’s coach, so he’s a longshot to get the job. The Oklahoma native has ties to the state from stints at Springdale High School and later as an assistant at Arkansas State (2012-13). Drinkwitz also spent time as an assistant at Arkansas State, Boise State and NC State before taking over in Boone prior to the 2019 season. The Mountaineers are 8-1 and have defeated two Power 5 teams in Drinkwitz’s first year.

Hugh Freeze, Head Coach, Liberty

Freeze is probably a longshot candidate, but he had a lot of success in a previous stint at Ole Miss from 2012-16. The Rebels went 39-25 over five years and played in four consecutive bowl games. Additionally, Freeze went 20-5 as a head coach at Lambuth (2008-09) and finished 10-2 at Arkansas State in 2011. Freeze is 6-4 in his first year at Liberty. There’s no question Freeze has baggage based upon his resignation from Ole Miss prior to the 2017 season. However, he’s a proven winner in the SEC and is regarded for his work in developing offenses.

Willie Fritz, Head Coach, Tulane

Fritz has won at every stop during his coaching career and has brought significant improvement to Tulane – one of the AAC’s most difficult jobs – since arriving in 2016. The Green Wave are 22-24 over the last four years and earned a bowl trip in 2018. After a 9-15 start in New Orleans, Tulane is 13-9 over the last two years with Fritz at the helm. He previously went 17-7 in two years at Georgia Southern (2014-15), 40-15 at Sam Houston State (2010-13) and 97-47 at Central Missouri (1997-09). Fritz is 176-93 overall as a head coach.

Lane Kiffin, Head Coach, FAU

Kiffin was reportedly close to becoming the head coach at Arkansas after the 2007 season. Could there be interest once again in the job? Kiffin is quietly doing an outstanding job at FAU, as he’s recorded a 23-13 record since 2007. Prior to taking over in Boca Raton, Kiffin had a successful three-year run as Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2014-16. Kiffin went 7-6 in his only season at Tennessee (2009) and finished 28-15 before his dismissal at USC during the 2013 season. However, Kiffin has a good track record in developing offenses and his overall record as a collegiate coach is 57-34.

Seth Littrell, Head Coach, North Texas

Littrell is a coach on the rise since taking over at North Texas prior to the 2016 season. The Mean Green are 27-23 under Littrell’s direction and played in three consecutive bowl games (2016-18) with a chance to get eligible in 2019. Littrell is regarded for his work on the offensive side of the ball and also has stops as an assistant from Texas Tech, Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina on his resume.

Gus Malzahn, Head Coach, Auburn

Malzahn’s name popped up in the last coaching search at Arkansas. Will that happen again or is Malzahn content at Auburn? It’s no secret the Texas native has ties to the state of Arkansas. He started his collegiate career in Fayetteville (1984-85) and worked in the state as a high school coach from 1991-05. He joined Houston Nutt’s staff at Arkansas in 2006 but left after one season. Malzahn spent two years as Tulsa’s offensive coordinator (2007-08) before taking over as Auburn’s play-caller (2009-11). Malzahn spent one year as the head coach at Arkansas State and went 9-3 during the 2012 campaign. He was hired at Auburn prior to 2013 and is 60-29 in his tenure. However, while the Tigers have experienced some highs (an appearance in the 2013 national championship), Malzahn’s seat was a little warm after a disappointing 8-5 mark in 2018.

Billy Napier, Head Coach, Louisiana

Napier has pieced together an impressive resume since his playing career ended at Furman in 2002. The Georgia native spent time as an assistant at Clemson working under Dabo Swinney (2008-10) and later at Alabama under Nick Saban (2013-16). Napier also worked at Colorado State (2012) and Arizona State (2017) before taking over as Louisiana’s head coach in 2018. The Ragin’ Cajuns finished 7-7 with a Sun Belt West Division title in Napier’s debut last fall. Louisiana is 7-2 through nine games in 2019 and is favored to win the division once again.

PHOTO BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning calls a play during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

I have read a lot about Peyton Manning in the past and I got to see him play when he was the Vol quarterback and I was excited to hear that he will be speaking in Little Rock on June 1, 2013.

LIKE IT IS

One of NFL’s best will honor state’s best

LITTLE ROCK — Peyton Manning is coming to the Rock.

Manning, perhaps the most prolific quarterback in NFL history (he currently holds 19 records), does only a handful of speeches each year, but Tabitha Cunningham, events manager for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, zeroed in on him from the very start and managed to get him as the keynote speaker for the first All-Arkansas Preps sports banquet.

In all honesty, his fee isn’t cheap, but you wouldn’t expect a Super Bowl MVP to be a bargain.

The banquet, which will be June 1 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, may be one of the hardest tickets to come by in the history of sports banquets. Not just because of Manning, but because there will be approximately 300 athletes named to the All-Arkansas Preps teams as well as an outstanding player of the year, male and female, for the eight sports.

The awards include first-, second- and all-sophomore teams for football, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball, boys soccer, girls soccer and softball. Boys and girls in golf, tennis and track and field will come from championship events or the Meet of Champs.

Coaches also will be honored in the sports, and there will be three athletic/ academic/community awards.

St. Vincent Health System is the main sponsor, and it was fitting that Tuesday’s announcement was at its partner, D1 Sports.

Keith Jackson, who has agreed to be the master of ceremonies, was on hand for the news conference. So was Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee, who is part owner and works out at D1, and he really liked the idea of an allencompassing celebration of so many athletes.

For decades, football and basketball players have been named to the Democrat-Gazette’s All-Arkansas teams, but this is the first time to embrace eight different sports.

Some of the All-Arkansas athletes have already been announced in the newspaper, and among the outstanding players of the year on handfor the announcement were Central Arkansas Christian’s Landon Hearnes (boys golf), Conway’s Summar Roachell (girls golf), Pulaski Academy’s Julio Olaya (boys tennis) and Conway’s Janet Taylor (golf coach of the year).

Others who have already been named winners but were unable to make the trip Tuesday were Hot Springs Lakeside’s Mary Wright (girls tennis) and Shawny Green (tennis coach of the year) and Greenwood’s Drew Morgan (football) and Rick Jones (football coach of the year).

The honorees are chosen by a committee of coaches and sportswriters.

“I still remember opening the Arkansas Democrat to see who made the All-Arkansas team. It was a thrill,” said Jackson, a two-time collegiate All-American who spentnine years in the NFL and is the founder of Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids. “An event such as this will take it to another level.”

Peter Banko, president and CEO of St. Vincent Health System, will present the St. Vincent Award to a studentathlete who overcame a health issue. The P.A.R.K. Education Award will go to an athlete who has made great achievements on the field and in the classroom. The Hussman Award will go to an athlete who has excelled on the field and in their community.

Nominations for those three awards are being accepted from coaches, teachers and the general public at allarkansaspreps@arkansasonline.com.

The athletes and coaches are why this newspaper decided to undertake such a major banquet, but the keynote speaker was also a major part of the planning.

“When we first started planning this event, the one name that kept coming up was Peyton Manning,” Cunningham said. “We are also thankful for our sponsors for joining us to make this event a great experience for everyone.”

Metropolitan National Bank, Academy Sports and Arkansas Select Buick GMC Dealers are also sponsoring the event, and the plan is for this to become an annual event.

More information on table sponsorships – and they won’t last long – can be obtained by calling (501) 378-3553.

Sports, Pages 17 on 01/23/2013

Print Headline: One of NFL’s best will honor state’s best

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