Clemson assistant coach Brent Venables says UA has made contact

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Clemson assistant coach Brent Venables speaks after winning the Broyles Award on Tuesday, Dec. 2016, in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MITCHELL PE MASILUN)
Photo by Associated Press
Clemson assistant coach Brent Venables speaks after winning the Broyles Award on Tuesday, Dec. 2016, in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MITCHELL PE MASILUN)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Clemson assistant coach Brent Venables made a splash Monday in Little Rock on the eve of his anniversary of winning the Broyles Award.

Venables said during an appearance on the radio show Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly that his representatives have been contacted by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville during its search for a head coach.

Mattingly asked Venables whether he was a candidate for the job, which was vacated Nov. 24 when UA interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples fired Bret Bielema.

"Yeah, that's a tough thing to answer," Venables said. "I have not spoken to anybody, but my representatives have, and I'll leave it at that."

When Venables was introduced at a reception Monday night by former Arkansas linebacker and Broyles Award creator David Bazzel, the crowd performed a Hog call.

"Thank you, David," Venables said as many in the crowd laughed. "The setup of all setups. The first one happened when I got off the plane today."

Venables, who will turn 47 in two weeks, has been regarded as one of college football's top defensive minds since being named a co-defensive coordinator at the University of Oklahoma in 1999 at the age of 28. He became the lone defensive coordinator for the Sooners in 2004 and served in that capacity for eight years until joining Dabo Swinney's staff at Clemson.

The Tigers amassed a school-record 49 sacks and 130 tackles for loss in 2016 en route to the College Football Playoff national championship, and Venables received the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country.

Venables is thought to be one of several candidates at Arkansas, which named Hunter Yurachek as its athletic director on Monday. Yurachek's impact on the coaching search was not immediately known late Monday. Cromer Peoples has been leading the coaching search with help from advisers and the executive search firm DHR International.

SMU Coach Chad Morris, who was Clemson's offensive coordinator from 2011-2014, is still in the mix for the Razorbacks.

However, Arkansas could have competition if its search zeroes in on Morris or Venables.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reported Monday that people close to new Tennessee Athletic Director Phil Fulmer are "big believers" in Morris and Venables.

A plane registered to the Razorback Foundation, the fundraising arm for the UA athletic department, flew to New York City on Monday morning and came back Monday night. The annual National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame activities are taking place in New York, and it is a common venue for coaching interviews.

Former athletic director Jeff Long met with then-Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema in New York in early December 2012 and sealed the deal for him to become the Arkansas head coach there.

A source with knowledge of the Arkansas coaching search said Cromer Peoples and her team have talked to multiple candidates.

The Razorbacks made a big pitch to lure Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn back to Northwest Arkansas over the weekend before Malzahn signed a hefty new deal and contract extension to stay with the Tigers.

Other potential candidates at Arkansas, according to industry sources, include Memphis Coach Mike Norvell, Florida Atlantic Coach Lane Kiffin, South Florida Coach Charlie Strong and Washington State Coach Mike Leach.


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Sports on 12/05/2017


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