LITTLE ROCK — Courtesy of David Bazzel and a highly qualified panel of critics, there are new names available to plug into the Arkansas coaching search.
Ten extremely successful former coaches, including the likes of Barry Switzer and Bobby Bowden, form the selection committee that came up with the five finalists for the Broyles Award, which goes to the top assistant coach in the country.
They know what it takes to be a winning college football coach and their conference call debate is sometimes heated.
Naming coordinators with a future makes more sense than the rumor that went around last Friday that Arkansas recruits had been told that Boise State’s Chris Peterson was on his way. Imagine, breaking the news of a hire with national interest by spreading the word through 18-year-olds.
Occasional humor provides a needed break from the constant pursuit of the next Arkansas coach, and a friend came through in an email. He suggested that LSU coach Les Miles will not be available because he will be the choice for secretary of state once President Obama realizes that Susan Rice can’t be confirmed.
“The top foreign policy spokesman for the U.S. needs to able to talk in code,” he wrote. “Miles would be perfect.”
Refreshed by the yucks, it’s back to the Broyles Award, conceived by Bazzel and so well thought of that finalists proudly include that notation on their resumes. If the four coaches known to be on Jeff Long’s list — Gary Patterson, Mike Gundy, James Franklin and Paul Rhoads — aren’t available, how about the Broyles finalists?
Defensive guys Bob Diaco of Notre Dame, Dan Quinn of Florida and Derek Mason of Stanford, and play-callers Kliff Kingsbury of Texas A&M and Mike Bobo of Georgia, sport glittering resumes. They are the cream this year, recognized from almost 30 nominees.
Others who came close to making the final cut include Louisiana Tech offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, and South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward.
Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops might have been a finalist if the Seminoles had beaten Florida last week, but that loss did not prevent Kentucky from hiring him as its head coach Tuesday.
Since one of the coordinators involved in Florida 37, Florida State 26 already has a head coaching job, it is worth mentioning Gators’ offensive coordinator Brent Pease. Anybody who watched Florida run off 24 straight points against a defense that was supposed to be one of the best can appreciate Peace’s aggressiveness and imagination, including a fake fumble by the quarterback.
Kingsbury has a major role in A&M’s 552-yards-per-game, but the presence of Johnny Manziel helps the Aggies as much as Cam Newton helped Auburn.
A former standout quarterback at Georgia, Bobo has coached three future NFL quarterbacks, including Matthew Stafford, and current Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray is completing two thirds of his passes with 30 TD tosses and only seven interceptions.
A Broyles Award winner in 2009, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has been mentioned for the Arkansas job for months and he is still available. Year after year under Smart, the Alabama defense has been a national leader.
With him, the recurring question is whether this is his defense or whether he is Nick Saban’s pawn. There is also the thought that he might be angling for the Alabama job down the line and that putting in a few so-so years at Arkansas would not pave the road back to Tuscaloosa.
More than two dozen of the 70-plus Broyles Award finalists have become head coaches, including Patterson, Peterson, David Cutcliffe, Mark Dantonio, Will Muschamp, Dana Holgorsen, Charlie Strong, Gus Malzahn, Jimbo Fisher, Gene Chizik, Randy Shannon, Garrick McGee, Ralph Friedgen, Norm Chow and Paul Chryst. Seventeen are still head coaches.
Long could do worse than try and identify the next up-and-comer.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is email@example.com.