Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
State coaches have names for UA
There's a good chunk of Arkansas high school football coaches who have seen the University of Arkansas hire five head coaches and will now see a sixth hired soon.
Houston Nutt coached at Arkansas from 1998-2007 and was replaced by Bobby Petrino, who coached the Hogs from 2008-11. John L. Smith served as interim coach in 2012 before Bret Bielema took over in 2013. Chad Morris replaced Bielema for the 2018 season and made it through 10 games in 2019 before being fired.
Seven highly respected high school head coaches in the state have seen what works at Arkansas and what doesn't after watching the Hogs go through the five coaching changes and have their opinions on who might be the best fit for the Razorbacks.
Eleven coaches were asked who they thought would be the best fit for the Arkansas job and why. Seven coaches from different parts of the state responded and requested to remain anonymous.
Those seven have won a combined 1,201 games and have 132 years of head coaching experience. Four of the coaches see former Texas Tech and current Washington State Coach Mike Leach being the best option at Arkansas.
"Mike Leach by far, not even close," said one coach "He can win with less talent immediately. Arkansas has the receivers. His system is simple to put in and people can run it immediately."
That high school coach also is high on Carolina Panthers quarterback coach Jake Peetz, whom he sees as a long shot. Peetz has worked with Alabama Coach Nick Saban and Los Angles Rams Coach Sean McVay.
One high school believes Baylor's Matt Rhule is the best available that could win with less, but doesn't seem him being available, so his pick would be Leach.
"Wins with less, genius offensively," he said of Leach. "Knows how to build a program his way. He finds and develops players that are overlooked. Will beat the big boys occasionally, and probably lose to some lesser schools as well. Texas Tech was and Washington State is a tough out for whoever they play. Fayetteville is a lot better place to recruit than Pullman and Lubbock."
One coach is high on Memphis Coach Mike Norvell, who was a record-setting receiver at the University of Central Arkansas and started his coaching career there.
"I like Norvell, great guy," the coach said. "He's done super things at Memphis.
"Young, aggressive recruiter, great offensive mind. I think they have done a great job evaluating talent."
Norvell has a 36-15 record in four seasons at Memphis. The Tigers are ranked No. 18 in the nation and have a 10-1 record going in today's game against Cincinnati
Another state high school coach has two coaches in mind who he believes Arkansas would be wise to pursue with Norvell being his top choice.
"Mike is a proven winner and an innovative play-caller," the coach said. "He knows the state, the West Coast and Texas, the Memphis area. He can hire a staff. He should be a home run hire."
His second choice is first year Appalachian State Coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who attended Arkansas Tech and began his coaching career at Alma in 2005 before going to Springdale from 2006-09. He's had numerous college stops and was the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State before being named the coach of the Mountaineers who are 10-1 on the season.
"Eli knows the state and the East Coast, very smart play caller and is a developer ," the coach said. "Proven winner and an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks."
One coach in the northern part of the state is also a Leach fan. Leach has the Cougars bowl eligible for the sixth time in eight seasons. Prior to his arrival, Washington State had been to 10 bowl games in the history of the program.
"I think Mike Leach is the perfect fit because he has had success at programs similar to Arkansas within the structure of its conference, and turned those programs into, not only conference championship contenders, but viable players on the national level," the coach said. "That's something we haven't had yet at Arkansas since 2011. And, let's be honest, Arkansas football needs a leader with some juice that's not manufactured or created. Mike Leach is who he is ... comfortable with himself and doesn't have to win people over with slogans and one-liners."
Another veteran coach is fond of Drinkwitz and believes he could get Arkansas back on track.
"I think Eli would be the best fit," the coach said. "He understands Arkansas, he knows every high school coach. He knows the SEC. He coached at Auburn when they won the national championship. He wins everywhere he goes."
A central Arkansas high school coach is another believer in Leach.
"We need some one with a personality that can coach, recruit, bring pride for Razorback football back to the state and we need him to get the business leaders to invest into the football facilities and programs in Little Rock," the coach said. "Arkansas needs must produce more Division I players and it starts in Little Rock."
E-mail Richard Davenport at [email protected]
Sports on 11/29/2019
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