FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — There’s a great chance Arkansas’ fans will know who their coach is by Saturday night, Sunday or Monday at the latest according to multiple sources.
That comes as no surprise considering the conference championship games are on Saturday with the exception of the Pac-12 Friday night. The game most Arkansas fans will be interested in is the Conference USA contest between Florida Atlantic and UAB which begins at 12:30 p.m. CT.
Lane Kiffin is the head coach at FAU and considered the leader to be the next coach at Arkansas. Some sources close to the situation insist Kiffin has agreed to become the coach at Arkansas.
The truth is until the coach is on campus and announced nothing is a done deal. Even then that may not indicate it’s a done deal. Creighton’s Dana Altman was named the basketball coach at Arkansas, introduced one day and then left the next.
Some have speculated it’s an issue that Kiffin hasn’t been announced if he’s coming. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Sources indicate that FAU prefers that Kiffin coach Saturday’s game with no announcement on where he will be coaching in 2020. The administration at FAU reportedly feels that’s a distraction they don’t deem necessary.
Thus the reason Kiffin wouldn’t have been announced and even introduced at Tuesday night’s basketball game. That was never gonna happen considering he’s preparing his team for Saturday’s game against UAB.
The likelihood is Arkansas’ new coach, whether it’s Kiffin or someone else, will have a press conference on Sunday or Monday. Then on Saturday, Dec. 14, he will be introduced to the fans at some point during the Tulsa game that tips at 12:30 p.m.
The new coach will host recruits the Dec. 13-15 weekend since the Early Signing Period is Dec. 18-20.
Sources close to the situation indicate that if Kiffin does come to Arkansas he may already have as many as seven assistants in mind. Included in the group is some talented recruiters. If true, that would leave three openings among the 10 full-time assistants.
One name to keep in mind if Kiffin is hired at Arkansas is the name Randy Clements to coach the offensive line. Clements is at Florida State now after previously being at the University of Houston. Clements has nearly three decades of experience coaching offensive line and has spent 10 years working alongside FSU offensive coordinator Kendal Briles. It’s believed Briles would the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. The two have a very good relationship with Houston quarterback D’Eriq King who could be playing for a new school in 2020.
Lance Thompson is the defensive line coach at FAU and also serves as recruiting coordinator. Sources indicate that Kiffin has a defensive coordinator in mind and it’s one who would please Arkansas’ fans. Randy Shannon is currently the defensive coordinator at the University of Central Florida.
Frank Wilson is a name to keep in mind at wide receiver. He was fired at UTSA recently and coached for Kiffin at Tennessee. He’s a widely respected coach and recruiter.
It would seem a natural fit for Kiffin or any new coach to keep Barry Lunney Jr. at the tight end’s coach. Charie Weis Jr. is the current offensive coordinator and despite the word that Briles would fill that role at Arkansas some sources indicate that both could be on the staff.
While Kiffin has been the focus of most in the past few days, Arkansas is known to have interviewed some other candidates. Among those interviewed or still linked to Arkansas are Washington State’s Mike Leach, Florida International’s Butch Davis, Appalachian State’s Eliah Drinkwitz, Tulane’s Willie Fritz, Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente, Memphis’ Mike Norvell and Boise State’s Bryan Harsin.
At one point Iowa State’s Matt Campbell and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn were thought to be on the wishlist. However, Campbell just signed an extension with the Cyclones and Auburn’s win over Alabama pretty much assured Malzahn isn’t going anywhere.
Florida State was the first to fire its coach and when they make their hire watch some of the other openings, including Arkansas, start falling into place. Florida State has been linked strongly to Norvell and others. Kiffin is getting some mention there as well, but not as much as Norvell.