Razorback Coach Watch: Arkansas’s search appears to be down to 2-3 candidates

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Fans await word...

Update:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — 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.

Update:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It appears that Arkansas’ hiring of Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin may have hit a snag on Thursday night.

According to a source it goes beyond Ole Miss trying to make a push for Kiffin. According to the source, there’s been some concern from some on the Board of Trustees hiring Kiffin and a new issue may have given them more ammunition Thursday night.

There’s been some reports on Friday morning that Kiffin was out, but this source didn’t go that far. He did admit that’s a possibility. Kiffin and FAU will host UAB on Saturday in the Conference USA Championship Game. The game will kickoff at 12:30 a.m. on CBSSN.

Chad Morris was fired on Nov. 10 and just four days short of a month it appears Arkansas may be in scramble mode. Hunter Yurachek has made no secret of this being a very important hire.

While some speculation pointed to Florida International’s Butch Davis on Thursday, the source indicates that a couple of others are probably more likely.

If truly no Kiffin, then Arkansas may turn to interim head coach Barry Lunney Jr. or Appalachian State’s Eliah Drinkwitz. Lunney coached Arkansas following Morris’ firing. Though the team lost to LSU and Missouri, they played much harder than in the previous games.

Drinkwitz is 11-1 in his first season at Appalachian State. The only loss was to Georgia State 24-21 on Oct. 31 at home. Drinkwitz and his squad did beat North Carolina 34-31 and South Carolina 20-15 this season. They won the Sun Belt East and will face Louisiana at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday in the title game. The game will be played at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C., and be televised on ESPN.

In addition to Lunney, Drinkwitz, Kiffin and Davis, Arkansas has been linked to Washington State’s Mike Leach, Tulane’s Willie Fritz, Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente and several others.

It might be worth mentioning that some reports surfaced the Saturday before Eric Musselman was hired that he was out as a possibility for Arkansas. He was was hired shortly after that.

Update:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.- Thursday afternoon, Mike Leach signed an extension with Washington State.

But it’s been pointed out, his contract calls for a rollover, so Leach might still be in play.

What about Lane Kiffin?

Reports out of Boca Raton say Ole Miss is interested in Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin was not on his weekly coaches show, but just the players.

Kiffin was on Fox Sports 640 with Andy Slater in south Florida.

Slater asked the coach, “Lastly, I’ve got to ask, are you going to be the FAU head coach next year?”

“I hope they still want me here,” Kiffin replies.

Slater says, “So if they want you there, which I’m sure they do, that means you’re going to be coming back.”

Kiffin replies, “Well, like I said, I’ve never commented on searches, but that’s what I plan on,”

Kiffin is staying pretty quiet about anything if he is going to leave Florida Atlantic.

Update:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – You can take Mike Leach’s name off the list of possibles for the Razorback head football coach job.

Washington State Football tweeted on Thursday morning that Leach’s contract has been extended with the Cougars through 2024.

Update:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.- As anticipation builds for the announcement of a new Razorbacks head football coach, many are speculating Lane Kiffin.

According to the Pig Trail Nation, Kiffin met with the Arkansas Search Team Sunday in Boca Raton.

His team plays in the Conference USA title game on Saturday.

Some question how much longer will he coach the Owls?

Kiffin is in his third season at Florida Atlantic University, where’s he’s led the team to a 9-3 record and the Conference USA East Division Championship this season.

Football Scoop reported that FAU is preparing an offer to keep Kiffin.

Kiffin addressed the coaching rumors by saying, “I don’t comment on job searches. Never have and what’s going on with them so not going to start now. We’ve dealt with this before, and so to me, it’s just a product of your assistant coaches and your players performing really well. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be having these conversations.”

Original Story:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – All has been quiet from the University of Arkansas since a Monday morning tweet got fans excited about the possible naming of a new head football coach.

UA Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek posted a GIF on Twitter that said “#OneRazorback #Hog1.”

Many took the tweet has a hint that a coach hiring was imminent.

Two days later, there’s been no announcement.

Many people tweeted what they thought the post meant, and most of them are all aboard the Kiffin Train (Lane Kiffin is head coach at Florida Atlantic).

The Palm Beach Post reported that Kiffin has been linked to the Arkansas coaching vacancy and said he “could be headed back to the Southeastern Conference.” Other media outlets have made similar reports.

HawgSports.com did a write up on Kiffin Tuesday morning focused on what his hiring could mean for the Razorbacks.

Football Scoop has reported that Mike Leach (Washington State) has also been approached by UA.

Chad Morris (4-18 in less than two seasons) was fired as head coach last month and Barry Lunney, Jr. was named interim coach.

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