Arkansas will be playing for more than a win at the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Jan. 2. The Razorbacks will also be fighting to earn graduate assistant Eric Mateos a job.
Mateos is a third-year assistant who has served the maximum tenure as a grad assistant and must leave Arkansas after the Liberty Bowl, according to Nate Allen of WholeHogSports. But Mateos isn’t just an ordinary graduate assistant. Head coach Bret Bielema promoted Mateos to offensive line coach for the game following the departure of former line coach Sam Pittman, who took the same position at UGA.
The Liberty Bowl will be Mateos’ showcase for prospective programs looking for coaches. Mateos has forged a great relationship with his players and even had a role in recruiting some of them, according to Allen. Junior right tackle Dan Skipper told Allen that the Razorbacks trenchmen want to put out a great effort against Kansas State to help Mateos earn another job.
As for Mateos, he just hopes he can make his linemen better on game day.
“Skipper came in my office yesterday and was talking about how he was giving me some pub and all that.” Mateos told Allen. “You know they are good kids. More than anything, they want to be good. They have an expectation that they are going to be good on Saturdays. And they want to be good every day in practice.”
Graduate assistants have translated similar opportunities in bowl games to future success in the past. Former UGA coach Mark Richt called upon two graduate assistants to replace several dismissed assistants and help prepare his defense for the 2009 Independence Bowl. Todd Hartley was assigned to the defensive backs, while Mitch Doolittle coached the linebackers.
The Bulldogs beat Texas A&M, 44-20, and that victory helped propel Hartley and Doolittle to the next level. Hartley currently serves as the Director of Football Operations at UGA, while Doolittle is in his third season as the secondary coach at Mercer.
A good performance from the Hogs along the line of scrimmage could earn Arkansas a bowl victory and could send their temporary coach off with a full-time job.