FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ coaching staff is in limbo as athletic director Jeff Long continues his search for a new head coach.
But it hasn’t kept them from continuing their work on the recruiting trail this week.
Most of Arkansas’ staff is operating with a business-as-usual-approach as the program waits for the new head Hog. Each coach remains under contract and Arkansas has made it clear they will be considered for positions on the next coaching staff. So they’ve spent time on the road visiting Arkansas’ 16 commitments.
One of them, Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage High quarterback Tyler Cogswell, said he still talks to offensive coordinator Paul Petrino every week and got to sit down and talk to linebackers coach Taver Johnson at his school Thursday.
“It just shows their dedication to the program,” Cogswell said. “And I really think some of the coaches can still be there because it’s a great coaching staff. So, I mean, I’m still trying to develop a better relationship with them every week.”
Most of the assistants won’t be back next season. It’s the reality of the coaching profession. But there are examples where it has happened at Arkansas.
Two current assistants — running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Tim Horton and defensive assistant Bobby Allen — were retained by former coach Bobby Petrino after Houston Nutt’s departure in 2008.
Both coaches played a role in helping Arkansas keep its signing class intact during that transition. Arkansas’ message to prospects since April, when Petrino was fired and Smith was hired, was to make a commitment to the school and not a coach.
“When we sat down with this staff last April, when we put it together, we made some commitments to each other,” Long said in October. “They are recruiting for the University of Arkansas. I have no question they are on the right kind of student-athletes. And they’re continuing to recruit. Obviously there are prospects out there that are going to wait to see what happens. Everybody gets concerned about recruiting and frankly so, but I think if everything goes like we expect we’ll have our new coach named and we’ll be able to make up a lot of ground in December.”
It’s a plan Cogswell understands as the current assistants remain in touch with he and the rest of Arkansas’ commitments in the interim. He said the uncertainty hasn’t changed his plans of signing with the Razorbacks in February.
“I’m still 100 percent committed,” Cogswell said. “I’m just really excited to see who the next coach is going to be. I’m not too worried about it. I just talk to the coaches that are there and I know when they know something they’re going to tell me.”
Cost analysis for stadium expansion
Arkansas may be searching for a new coach, but the program announced Thursday it also plans to examine the feasibility of expanding Razorback Stadium.
Arkansas, in a press release, said it was issuing a request for contractors and architects to submit proposals as part of a cost analysis project. The analysis is to examine every variable associated with a stadium expansion, which was originally estimated to include 5,000 new seats at a cost of $75 to $95 million.
“It is important we have sound information from which to make a decision,” Long said in a statement. “The analysis will help us have a clearer understanding of the many variables that must be thoroughly examined before making a decision to move forward. It is important that we continue to strive to accommodate the current and future seating demands of Razorback fans.”
If the analysis shows the project is viable, further approval would be needed from the Board of Trustees to being construction.
Paul Petrino in Idaho mix
Former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino remains an intriguing possibility for programs searching for a coach this offseason. But he’s not the only Petrino being considered for a head coaching position this month.
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino is among five finalists for the Idaho position, according to the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. The newspaper, in fact, reported that Petrino was scheduled to interview for the position Thursday.
The other candidates, according to the newspaper, are Central Washington’s Blaine Bennett, San Jose State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren, Wyoming defensive coordinator Chris Tormey and Idaho interim coach Jason Gesser.
Petrino was in charge of the Arkansas offense last season after his older brother was fired in April. The Razorbacks averaged 23.5 points and 420.2 yards a game in 2012.
Allen named player of the year
Fayetteville High quarterback Austin Allen, who has verbally committed to Arkansas, was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year on Thursday.
Allen is the younger brother of Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen. His father, Bobby Allen, has been a defensive assistant with the Razorbacks since 1998.
Allen is rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com. His Fayetteville High team will play Bentonville for the 7A state championship tonight in War Memorial Stadium. Allen led Fayetteville to a win against Bentonville in the title game last season.