by Chris Bahn
Posted 10/19/2012 09:30 am
Updated 7 months ago
Jeff Long is saying as much as he can about the Arkansas football coaching search at this point.
Which isn’t much besides offering a handful of details of what he would like from the Razorbacks' next head coach. What the Arkansas athletic director will say on record consists mostly of general descriptions — “strong leader,” committed to “discipline and accountability” — but there are some nuggets in there.
A number of times while speaking to the Little Rock Touchdown Club earlier this week, Long said he wants a coach who is “looking for a challenge.” That phrase was the thing that most stood out in his address to the folks who gathered for the weekly meeting.
A coach looking for competitive salary and facilities will like what Arkansas has to offer. As the last guy showed us, there are tools in place to succeed nationally.
Arkansas’ job also comes with some challenges, though, something Long noted to the crowd.
“Through these processes of recruiting coaches, head coaches in particular, you can learn who is looking for a challenge,” Long told the crowd. “Who is looking to compete and then who is looking to settle in and take a job?"
Long probably was referring to a coach embracing the idea of working in a conference that has produced six consecutive national champions. It is also possible Long was referencing some of the recruiting limitations within the state. Per capita, the number of recruits in Arkansas is fine, but the sheer volume of SEC-caliber players isn’t on par with Texas, Georgia, Alabama, etc. That makes things difficult.
Arkansas could make the right candidate one of the top 5-10 highest paid coaches in the sport, but he needs to be ready to earn his money. There is a bit of an uphill climb involved, especially next year when the Razorbacks face what could be the most difficult schedule in the SEC or nation.
Sure, the Razorbacks open with three consecutive non-conference games at home, including a Football Championship Subdivision opponent in Little Rock. From there it becomes a — to borrow Long’s word — challenge.
Current No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Florida, No. 6 LSU, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 12 Mississippi State, No. 15 Rutgers and No. 18 Texas A&M are included on the 2013 slate. There is a stretch that includes games at Rutgers, against Texas A&M, at Florida, against South Carolina and at Alabama.
Keep in mind the next coach inherits a team with no Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton, Dennis Johnson and possibly some underclassmen (Knile Davis) that might decide they’re ready to move on from college.
Of course he’ll also inherit a team full of underclassmen who played defense earlier than expected. That will come in handy in 2013.
National reaction to the schedule is much like what Ole Miss faced when its 2012 schedule was revealed. When this year’s schedule was announced, there was concern for first-year coach Hugh Freeze and the Rebels as they faced road games with Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU, plus a home non-conference game with Texas.
As we know firsthand from watching the Razorbacks, there is nothing that guarantees the teams performing well this season will be as good next year. Arkansas has taught us all how drastically things can change from season to season.
Even in an area where the Razorbacks seem to come out a winner on the schedule, they lose. After a few years of lobbying the SEC, the league agreed to move Alabama to later on the schedule. It’s something Bobby Petrino had talked publicly about wanting to do.
Finally, the league obliged. Arkansas gets the Crimson Tide later in the year, but that game happens to fall as part of a five-game stretch of currently ranked opponents.
This schedule is — say it with me — a challenge.
Long wasn’t speaking specifically to the 2013 games earlier this week. But he sure could have been and he’s right that the new coach won’t have it easy.
“If they’re interested in a challenge, if they’re a competitor, if they want to play and beat the very best, we’ve got a lot to offer,” Long said. “We’ve got the resources and the facilities around them and the team around them to be successful.”