Remember the days when Arkansas Razorback fans called for Houston Nutt to be fired in the mid-2000s? The Arkansas team that had Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis in the backfield? 15 years later, those same Razorback fans would do anything to return to when Nutt had the team challenging in the SEC West.
Since the SEC expanded in 2012, Arkansas has won eight games once (2015) and has only qualified for a bowl game three times. Overall, the Razorbacks are 37-60, including a 13-49 record in SEC play. The Razorbacks won’t be bowling again this season, and fired Chad Morris after a 4-18 tenure. Since it’s been so long since Arkansas has been competitive in college football, can the Razorbacks become a relevant program once again?
Yes. Yes they can.
But only if Arkansas hires the right coach. Yes, it is a mess and Arkansas doesn’t have a strong local recruiting base. The Hogs do have some things going for them. First is their proximity to Texas. Arkansas has also taken advantage of its loyal fan base to build some of the best facilities in college football.
So who are some of the coaches the Razorbacks should take a look at?
It starts with Washington State head coach Mike Leach. The 58-year old made his living at finding gems in the Southeast and Texas specifically at Texas Tech. Leach’s naysayers would say he never won a Big 12 Championship while at Texas Tech and he has never won a Pac-12 title at Washington State. But the reality is that both the Red Raiders and Cougars were terrible situations before he arrived, similar to Arkansas. Leach would definitely be a good fit for the Razorbacks in their current situation. Otherwise, the Razorbacks could look at Memphis’ Mike Norvell and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, both of which would be good fits.
Whoever takes the job must improve the talent on the roster. With their resources and proximity to Texas, there’s no reason Arkansas shouldn’t go bowling on a consistent basis. The Razorbacks lack quality signal-callers and their defense hasn’t helped out – allowing almost 450 yards per game.
Are the Frank Broyles days of Arkansas football coming back? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean that the Hogs are consigned to the basement of the SEC West. If the Vanderbilt Commodores could compete in the James Franklin era, Arkansas can, too. It won’t be easy, but the Razorbacks can find their way in a crowded SEC West – they just have to identify the right man for the job.