The hiring of Charlie Strong as head coach at South Florida on Sunday made a lot of Arkansas fans sigh.
Not all of them. Some of them. The ones that hope Arkansas makes some changes in its defensive staff were disappointed the former Texas coach was off the board. Strong, an Arkansas native and Central Arkansas graduate, was at the top of the wish list, even among those who are ambivalent about a change.
It’s unclear whether Arkansas will actually make a change. Defensive coordinator Robb Smith, defensive line coach Rory Segrest and linebackers Vernon Hargreaves are all on hot seats after the Razorbacks finished the season 94th in rushing defense and 75th in total defense. Coach Bret Bielema said he wasn’t planning on making any staff changes immediately after the Razorbacks lost to Missouri in the season finale. But shortly thereafter, he adjusted the statement to say he would take everything into consideration in the offseason.
But we’re not to the offseason just yet. It’s that weird time of year: the “Silly Season” of coaching changes. And Arkansas is in a tough spot if Bielema does decide to switch some coaching personnel.
Arkansas plays Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29. Making any change before then would be awkward. Plus, Bielema isn’t the type to outright let someone go. He hasn’t, officially, fired anyone from his staff in his four years at Arkansas. The coaches who have gone have left with a wink and taken other jobs. If none of them take any other jobs between now and the bowl, but they decide to after the bowl — which seems likely — Arkansas will have missed out on a few weeks’ worth of vacancies and available coaches.
Obviously, Bielema knows this. And maybe nothing happens. Perhaps Smith, Segrest and Hargreaves return (don’t count on all three of them doing so). That leaves the Razorbacks in a tenuous position with their fan base in 2017.
And they’re already disappointed in missing their best possible candidate.
To stay or go?
The possibility of Arkansas losing center Frank Ragnow to the NFL Draft was brought up over the weekend to offensive line coach Kurt Anderson. Anderson hopes he gets his commander back next year but realizes Ragnow is maybe the best center in the country. If Ragnow were to turn pro, Arkansas would be in a world of trouble in replacing him.
Can't wait to be home, miss my family so much
— Frank Ragnow (@KNARFWONGAR) December 12, 2016
Jake Raulerson was a center at Texas two seasons ago, but when he was thrust into the starting lineup for Arkansas this year, he wasn’t ready. Raulerson lost his job midway through the year and never got it back. Zach Rogers could be another option in the middle. He has had limited playing time in his two seasons at Arkansas, and although coaches love his work ethic, there is concern that Rogers is a bit short for the position.
Arkansas is also losing left tackle Dan Skipper, who was named first-team All-SEC last week. That would leave walk-on Johnny Gibson, former defensive tackle Hjalte Froholdt and Brian Wallace’s handful of career starts as the returning core of the offensive line.
Anderson isn’t the only one hoping Ragnow returns.
Cornerback Kevin Richardson is back at practice after missing all but one game this season because of injury. Unfortunately for 2016, the practices are for 2017, as Richardson still won’t be available for the Belk Bowl.
Jared Cornelius is another Arkansas underclassman who could test the draft waters. Bielema mentioned a few weeks ago the two had spoken about the possibility. But Cornelius told wide receivers coach Michael Smith he planned to return.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Wally Hall writes how the increase in assistant coaching salaries is changing the face of college football.
- Travis Swanson, Detroit center
- Denver Kirkland, Oakland offensive line
DNP in 21-13 loss to Kansas City on Thursday.
- Alex Collins, Seattle running back
7 carries for 23 yards, 3 catches for 33 yards, a tackle and a lost fumble in a 38-10 loss to Packers.
- Knile Davis, Kansas City running back
- Trey Flowers, New England defensive end
Patriots play Ravens in Monday Night Football.
- Hunter Henry, San Diego tight end
2 catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in 28-16 loss to the Panthers. Henry is tied for second in the NFL in TD grabs by a rookie with 6.
- Darius Philon, San Diego defensive tackle
No stats in loss to Panthers.
- Ryan Mallett, Baltimore quarterback
Ravens play Patriots in Monday Night Football.
- Brett Goode, Green Bay long snapper
No stats in a 38-10 win over Seahawks.
- Jason Peters, Philadelphia offensive line
Started for Eagles in a 27-22 loss to Redskins. Also went to bat for kick returner Darren Sproles after Sproles took a brutal hit on a punt return.
— John Clark CSN (@JClarkCSN) December 11, 2016
- AJ Derby, Denver tight end
5 catches for 55 yards and a lost fumble in a 13-10 loss to Titans. The fumble came at a bad time — the last Broncos drive of the game. Tennessee recovered and ran out the clock.
Tip: Don’t check his mentions.
- Chris Smith, Jacksonville defensive end
No stats in a 25-16 loss to Vikings.
- Martrell Spaight, Washington linebacker
3 tackles in a 27-22 win over the Eagles.
- Robert Thomas, New York Giants defensive tackle
1 tackle in a 10-7 win over the Cowboys.
- Jonathan Williams, Buffalo running back
- Jarius Wright, Minnesota wide receiver
No stats in a 25-16 win over the Jaguars.
- Brandon Allen, Jacksonville quarterback
- Sebastian Tretola, Tennessee offensive line
- Cobi Hamilton, Pittsburgh wide receiver
1 catch for 15 yards in a 27-20 win over the Bills.