Barry Odom was in place as Arkansas' defensive coordinator on Friday and formally announced on Monday, so now Sam Pittman's attention -- when he's not with recruits, of course -- can turn to finding the Hogs' new offensive coordinator.
Sources told FootballScoop that former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long, former Florida State offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and former Houston head coach Major Applewhite are among the candidates that have or will interview for the position. Other candidates could emerge as the search progresses; though, with Signing Day tomorrow, Pittman would presumably want to announce his new offensive coordinator as soon as he feels he's found his man.
Long was just let go after three successful years in South Bend, however, sources said his candidacy is not expected to move beyond the interview stage.
Briles is on the market after Willie Taggart's firing at Florida State. When his former boss Lane Kiffin left Florida Atlantic for Ole Miss, Briles became a candidate at both places, either as head coach at FAU or as Kiffin's offensive coordinator at Oxford. However, Taggart took the FAU job and Kiffin has since hired Briles' brother-in-law Jeff Lebby as offensive coordinator and his longtime collaborator Randy Clements to be the Rebels' offensive line coach.
Applewhite has served previous coordinator stints at Rice, Alabama, Texas and Houston and spent 2019 as an analyst at Alabama after he was let go as Houston's head coach in 2018.
While those three coaches have or will interview -- we understand Long interviewed over the weekend, Briles on Monday and Applewhite later today -- the search has extended beyond those three. Pittman is well-known and well-liked in the business, and there is no lack of interest in the position.
No matter the choice, the new offensive coordinator will not get to choose his entire staff. Brad Davis has already been hired as offensive line coach -- and, as one of the most respected o-line coaches in the business, Pittman will have a say in what happens up front as well -- and Pittman wisely retained Justin Stepp from Chad Morris's staff as wide receivers coach. Stepp is widely considered one of the better receivers coaches (and recruiters of that position) in the business.
Assuming the OC hire also coaches quarterbacks, the new coordinator will have a say in who Arkansas hires to coach running backs and tight ends, as both spots remain open at this time.
The new offensive coordinator will have his work cut out for him. The 2019 Razorbacks ranked last or second to last in the SEC in scoring, total offense and passing efficiency. Rising senior quarterback Nick Starkel has announced his intent to transfer, leaving KJ Jefferson, John Stephen Jones and Jack Lindsey -- combined 2019 stats: 40-of-87 for 424 yards -- as the only scholarship quarterbacks presently on the roster.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.