Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Coaches hit road, long for decision
Arkansas’ acting head coach Taver Johnson (shown) and six other Razorbacks assistants will hit the road this week, while back on campus Athletic Director Jeff Long is expected to be closing in on his choice for the next Arkansas head coach.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas’ acting head coach Taver Johnson will be up well before light this morning to start the next phase of the college football calendar: Spring recruiting.
Johnson and six other Razorbacks assistants will hit the road this week, while back on campus Athletic Director Jeff Long is expected to be closing in on his choice for the next Arkansas head coach. Long said Saturday evening his decision on who would replace Bobby Petrino would likely come in“days rather than weeks.”
Johnson was asked after Arkansas’ Red-White game on Saturday if he expected to know who would be named head coach before his flight.
“Not sure,” Johnson replied. “The only thing I do know is I have a 6 a.m. flight and I’ll be on it.”
Long sounded Saturday as if he might be leaning toward promoting a current assistant to the top spot.
“It is difficult in this respect, if you’re going to bring in a permanent coach,they have no time to install a system,” Long told CBSsports.com. “That’s wearing on me because I think the young men in the program have really prepared themselves for an excellent year coming up.
“The thought of trying to change the system without a spring practice to install really has impacted my decision.”
Defensive end Chris Smith echoed the sentiments of the Razorbacks who have spoken publicly about the situation on Saturday.
“Obviously we want to keep the same coaching staff,” Smith said. “Some of the players let Jeff Long know we want to keep the same coaching staff, just keep everything in house.”
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said he was leaving town on Sunday in pursuit of players to begin building Arkansas’ signing class of 2013.
“You just approach it like I approached the last two weeks,” Petrino said. “You do your best, you know? Work as hard as you can, get as many guys as you can fired up about the program.
“I’ve been Facebooking back and forth with a lot of recruits and there’s a lot of recruits interested. You just go out and do your job, do it the best you can.”
Long said he would like to have the head coach in place soon to give the Razorbacks some certainty to sell at their head coaching position. The Hogs’ had two oral commitments on April 10, when Long fired Bobby Petrino with cause for his actions in hiring Jessica Dorrell, with whom he admitted having had an inappropriate relationship, and for not disclosing Dorrell had been his passenger in an April 1 motorcycle accident.
Both of those nonbinding commitments - running back Jamel James and receiver Austin Bennett, both from Texas - have re-opened their recruitment.
Arkansas recruiting coordinator Tim Horton and defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell are scheduled to stay in-state this week, handling office duties and picking up Razorback Club speaking engagements at Pine Bluff tonight and in Forrest City on Thursday.
The Razorbacks players, who attended a previously scheduled meeting on Sunday, are now left to hope their schemes and coaches remain intact for the fall.
“That’s the one thing I think we’ve got going for us, if we can pull this thing together and make it about the team, then we’ve got a great chance,” quarterback Tyler Wilson said Saturday. “I think we saw a little bit of that during the spring, and we’ll continue that throughout the summer.”
Sports, Pages 13 on 04/23/2012