With Gus Malzahn staying at Auburn, an new AD Hunter Yurachek in place, the Arkansas coaching search is about to heat up.
The Razorbacks targeted Malzahn, an Arkansas native and former assistant, but he is reportedly closing in on a huge new deal to stay at Auburn.
With the state’s favorite son out of the picture, four coaches are believed to be strong contenders according to Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel.
In his new report on coaching searches across the country, Dana Holgorsen and Mike Leach are connected to the job, as are two AAC head coaches that Yurachek, who comes to Arkansas from Houston, should be very familiar with.
Yurachek is expected to target SMU coach Chad Morris, who has been a popular name in this coaching cycle. Yurachek’s AAC familiarity should also keep Memphis coach Mike Norvell’s name in the mix.
Washington State’s Mike Leach has a better chance at this job than Tennessee. West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen has been a popular name here as well.
Holgorsen has been a solid head coach at West Virginia, going 53-36 since taking the job in 2011, but there’s an argument that the Mountaineers have been spinning their wheels a bit. 2016’s 10-3 season and third place finish in the Big 12 was the only time that WVU has finished higher than a tie for fourth in the league.
Leach has been connected to Tennessee as well, and could be looking to get out of Washington State, which he has transformed into an upper-tier Pac-12 program from one of the Power Five’s worst. He is close to athletic director Bill Moos, who recently left for the job at Nebraska. Leach is 122-80 overall in stops at Texas Tech and Wazzu, with a 38-37 record with the Cougars. Before Leach, the team went 9-40 in four years under Paul Wulff, and hadn’t gone to a bowl since 2003. He has a chance to lead Washington State to 10 wins for the first time since that year.
Morris took over a similarly moribund program, SMU, after helping build Clemson into an offensive juggernaut. In 2014, the year before Morris took over, SMU was 1-11, and ranked among the worst teams in the nation in both offense and defense. This year, they are 7-5 and bowl bound.
Norvell took over Memphis after Justin Fuente’s transformative tenure, and hasn’t skipped a beat. The Tigers are 18-7 in two years under the former Arizona State head coach. He played wide receiver at Central Arkansas.