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.
UA staff 2 shy of completion
Taver Johnson was retained as the Razorbacks' cornerbacks coach, it was announced Wednesday
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema’s first coaching staff is two hires away from completion, and the group is long on recruiting expertise but short on previous Razorbacks experience.
Bielema appears to have one coach left to announce on each side of the ball, likely an assistant to help in the secondary with defensive coordinator Chris Ash and a fifth offensive assistant. None of the seven assistant coaches already named has worked previously at Arkansas, but Bielema has said that Tim Horton and Taver Johnson from John L. Smith’s 2012 staff still have a shot at remaining with the program.
Johnson, who came on board last January with the assistant head coach title, has previous experience with defensive backs, having coached cornerbacks at Ohio State for five years (2007-2011). At least one Arkansas player has suggested through social media that Johnson will coach cornerbacks for the Razorbacks, but the move has not been announced.
Horton, who is reportedly in the running for assistant coach jobs at Auburn and Texas, is a former Arkansas player who has coached running backs for the Hogs the past six years and served as recruiting coordinator for the past five years. Bielema’s background on defense makes it seem likely he’ll have five assistants on offense.
He hasn’t indicated what position a fifth offensive coach would handle, though tight ends seems the most plausible spot. Horton has coached tight ends, as well as receivers and backs, during his 22-year career.
Bobby Allen, a 15-year Arkansas defensive assistant, has accepted the position of director of high school relations.
On offense, Bielema has hired coordinator Jim Chaney, receivers coach George Mc-Donald, line coach Sam Pittman and running backs coach Joel Thomas. On defense, Ash has come on board along with line coach Charlie Partridge and linebackers coach Randy Shannon.
The group’s recruiting prowess has been hailed, and their contacts in Florida and Texas, two of the recruiting hotbeds of the South, are solid.
Ash and Partridge, both Bielema assistants at Wisconsin, worked the Badgers’ Rose Bowl game against Stanford on Tuesday.
Bielema and his staff are scheduled to be back in Fayetteville today and return to work Thursday. Bielema spent time in Madison, Wis., and his hometown of Prophetstown, Ill., during the holidays.
In other Arkansas football news, defensive end Chris Smith announced late Sunday through his Twitter account that he will return to the Razorbacks for his senior season and will not make himself available for the NFL Draft.
Smith led Arkansas and ranked fourth in the SEC with 91/2 sacks last season. A native of Mount Ulla, N.C., Smith tied Trey Flowers for the team lead with 13 tackles for loss, good for fifth in the SEC.
Arkansas juniors Knile Davis and Alvin Bailey have announced plans to declare for the NFL Draft. Center Travis Swanson, defensive tackle Byran Jones and others have not announced their intentions yet.
Meanwhile, former Arkansas and Kentucky assistant coach Mike Summers, who had spent seven years as an assistant under Bobby Petrino, joined Petrino’s Western Kentucky staff Tuesday as the offensive line coach.
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/02/2013