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. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Razorback assistants more in demand
Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom, center, watches a stadium video monitor after Florida scored a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla. Odom was acting as the Razorbacks' interim head coach during the game. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
FAYETTEVILLE — After a period in which University of Arkansas assistant coaches were not in high demand the last few years, the trend has reversed this season under first-year Coach Sam Pittman.
New University of Texas Coach Steve Sarkisian is reportedly very interested in Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom, whose schemes drew praise this season, particularly after upset wins over Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported on Monday former South Carolina Coach Will Muschamp had turned down an offer to return to Texas as defensive coordinator and that Odom was on the “short list” for the Longhorns.
There is also a report from AL.com that LSU Coach Ed Orgeron is interested in Odom again for his vacant defensive coordinator’s position after making a run at Odom prior to last season.
Odom is the highest-paid football assistant at Arkansas at $1.3 million, minus a 10% reduction for a 10-month period due to staff-wide salary reductions, but it looks like the Razorbacks might have to raise his pay substantially to keep him.
The UA athletic department has taken a financial hit during the covid-19 pandemic like others in college athletics, but more flexibility is on the way. Former defensive coordinator John Chavis’ buyout, which amounted to around $1.5 million, will come off the books after a final monthly payment in February.
In addition to the interest in Odom, strength and conditioning coach Jamil Walker is reportedly in the running for the same position at South Carolina. New Gamecocks Coach Shane Beamer has already hired three-year UA receivers coach Justin Stepp onto his staff back in Stepp’s hometown of Columbia, S.C.
Stepp’s salary with the Gamecocks is $460,000 per year, $60,000 more than he made at Arkansas in 2020.
“Obviously, it’s a chance for me to get back home,” Stepp told reporters in South Carolina on Monday. “I grew up going to Gamecock games and it will be a dream come true to be able to coach on the sidelines at Williams-Brice Stadium alongside Coach Beamer.”
Pittman is set to hire Kenny Guiton, the former Ohio State quarterback and most recently the receivers coach at Colorado State, to fill that position.
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