Arkansas’ Search Appears to be Down to 2-3 Candidates

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CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 21: Head coach Eliah Drinkwitz of the Appalachian State Mountaineers directs his team during the second half of their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium on September 21, 2019 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Mountaineers won 34-31. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

FAYETTEVILLE — According to multiple sources (yes that word again) the Arkansas coaching search is down to two or three coaches.

The confusion is on the status of Barry Lunney Jr. Some insist he is one of the finalists while others are just as certain it’s down to Appalachian State’s Eliah Drinkwitz and Boise State’s Bryan Harsin.

Lunney has served as Arkansas’ interim head coach since Nov. 10 when Chad Morris was fired. Drinkwitz and Harsin had their teams in the conference championship games today. Lunney’s history is known by all associated with Arkansas, but here’s a little more information on both Drinkwitz and Harsin.

Earlier on Saturday, No. 21 Appalachian State defeated Louisiana 45-38 in the Sun Belt Championship Game in Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C. Appalachian State did it by rushing for 267 yards. Quarterback Zac Thomas was 9 of 17 passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

Louisiana had more first downs, 31-20, total offense 513-416 and passing yards 354 to 149. But it was Drinkwitz’s squad that was able to put more points on the board and won the rushing battle giving up only 159 on the ground.

The win allows Appalachian State to move to 12-1 on the season. Among its 12 wins were a 34-31 victory over North Carolina on Sept. 21 and 20-15 over South Carolina Nov. 9. The lone loss came on Thursday, Oct. 31, when they fell to Georgia Southern 24-21 at home.

This was Drinkwitz’s first season as a head coach. The Arkansas Tech graduate has coached at Alma and Springdale High Schools. He was quality control for offense at Auburn 2011, coached running backs at Arkansas State in 2012 and then added co-offensive coordinator to his duties in 2013. In 2014, he went with Harsin to Boise State where he coached tight ends before getting promoted to offensive coordinator and in charge of the quarterbacks in 2015. He was offensive coordinator and coached the quarterbacks at North Carolina State in 2016-18.

Drinkwitz inherited a strong program from Scott Satterfield who left for Louisville. Satterfield led them to an 11-2 record in 2018 including a 45-38 overtime loss at Penn State. The previous three years they were 11-2 (2015), 10-3 (2016) and 9-4 (2017). So the one-loss season for Drinkwitz was the best of the past five years.

Harsin is in his seventh season as a head coach. In 2013 he was 7-5 at Arkansas State and tied for the conference title with a 5-2 mark in Sun Belt play. He left for Boise State prior to the bowl game.

When he went to Boise State he took Drinkwitz and current Arkansas assistant Steve Caldwell with him from Arkansas State. He has a record of 63-16 with Boise State, his alma mater.

Boise State when 12-2 in 2014, won the Fiesta Bowl and finished No. 16 in the nation. He has followed that with 9-4 (2015), 10-3 (2016), 11-3 (2017) and 10-3 (2018).

Harsin has led the team to an 11-1 record thus far. They are currently playing Hawai’i in the Mountain West Championship Game. No. 19 Boise State holds a 10-3 lead late in the second quarter.

Harsin has been an assistant at Eastern Oregon (RB-WR, 2000), Boise State (GA, 2001, TE, 2002-05, and OC-QB, 2006-10) and Texas (Co-OC, QB, 2011-12).

All three coaches are young. Drinkwitz is 36, Harsin 43 and Lunney 45.

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