I’ve said there’s no exact formula to the “Coaching Poll”, right?
Good, because it’s hard to explain the volume of changes this week. You do more research on coaches. You see reports about others. You look at results. You realize there are some that should’ve been ranked early on, but weren’t.
Then you shuffle the deck, so to speak.
That’s exactly what has taken place in the third week of the “Coaching Poll.” There are changes galore as we move into October. But before we dive into this week’s top 10 “Coaching Poll,” here are the standard reminders:
• Like I said above, there is no exact formula. I’m ranking guys weekly based on a bit of opinion, a dash of facts, and a little common sense. How a coach would fit in at Arkansas will weigh into the poll. So will impressive wins and bad losses. Public statements (whenever they come) about being “happy” at their current school and other coaching search key phrases like “right now” and “at this point” will be analyzed and monitored. All of it will go into how the top 10 is compiled each week.
• This poll is comprised of college head coaches and assistants only. We’re not going down the road of NFL coaches, NFL assistants or coaches currently unemployed in the profession at this point. We won’t unless or until it’s warranted.
• Feel free to join in on the conversation. Let me know if I’m an idiot for leaving someone out. Tell me what your own top 10 poll of candidates Arkansas would look like. We’re trying to inspire some conversation and have a little fun combing through potential candidates before Jeff Long’s search truly heats up.
With that, here is this week’s Coaching Poll:
1. Charlie Strong (Louisville) – We know what Strong said on the Jim Rome Show this week (he’s loyal to Louisville). We know what Louisville’s athletic director told CBSSports.com (He will match any offer to keep Strong). But we also know coaching searches can be unusual (see Nick Saban). Let’s make this clear: We’re not discounting Strong’s honesty or integrity in any way. We’re just going to keep Strong, who has Louisville off to a 5-0 start, on top of our poll … for now.
2. Butch Jones (Cincinnati) – How does a guy go from being unranked and unmentioned to No. 2? That’s the beauty of the coaching poll. Anything goes. Jones has gained plenty of respect for his five-plus years at Central Michigan and Cincinnati (44-24 overall). He just enjoyed a big moment, too, leading the Bearcats to a win against Virginia Tech. Jones doesn’t have any notable ties to the area, but bigger programs will take a long look at him. Arkansas should be one of them.
3. Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia) – Curious what Holgorsen’s offense would look like in the SEC on a weekly basis? We are too after the Mountaineers hung 70 on the scoreboard against Baylor (on the flip side his defense did allow 63 points in the win). Holgorsen has done well on the field at West Virginia (14-3) and now is coaching a quarterback (Geno Smith) in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race. So Holgorsen should remain a central figure in the coaching spotlight.
4. Art Briles (Baylor) – We like Briles’ success rate at programs like Houston and Baylor. We like the way he has produced and developed quarterbacks at the college level. We don’t like his defenses. Baylor was ripped to shreds by West Virginia over the weekend, causing him dropping from No. 2 to No. 4 this week. Consider this: Baylor’s pass defense is ranked last in the nation (400.3 yards a game).
5. Paul Rhoads (Iowa State) – We moved Paul Rhoads to No. 3 in our poll last week. Then Iowa State lost to Texas Tech. Nothing changes our opinion that Rhoads is doing a great job at a difficult place to win. Wins and losses aren’t the end-all when it comes to the poll, either. But the reality is it would be very, very hard for Long to sell a hire like Rhoads if Iowa State – now 3-1 - went .500 or worse this season.
6. Gary Patterson (TCU) – Patterson still has everything Arkansas could want in a candidate. There are key Texas ties. He has built TCU into a winner. His teams are sound defensively. But two questions to consider: Does Patterson have any interest in leaving a program thriving with his success? Do player troubles (QB Casey Pachall is now suspended after a DWI arrest) alter Long’s opinion of the coach?
7. Chris Petersen (Boise State) – First, the necessary disclaimer. Peterson deserves to be much higher on the list if he is truly interested in leaving Boise State. It’s still hard to see it happening because of his history of saying “thanks, but no thanks” to other opportunities the past several years. The Boise State offense is struggling this season, but it shouldn’t keep Peterson from being a hot commodity for ADs.
8. Al Golden (Miami) – It’s funny how things happen. Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel writes a great column about the job Al Golden is doing at Miami under difficult circumstances and wonders if a program like Arkansas or Tennessee will try to lure him away. A day later, Golden loses another athletic director when Miami’s is announced as Tom Osborne’s replacement at Nebraska. The latter really makes Golden a coach worth watching on the job scene later this year.
9. Kirby Smart (Alabama DC) – We’re still not convinced Arkansas will target an assistant coach for its position when the season ends. But we’re still convinced Alabama’s Kirby Smart is the guy that makes the most sense if it happens.
10. Tommy Tuberville (Texas Tech) – Tuberville rumors and the Arkansas job just seem to go hand-in-hand. So why not put him in the conversation? Tuberville is 59, but has had well-known success in the SEC. He knows how to put a solid defense on the field as well. If Long decides he wants a defensive-minded guy to run the program, the Arkansas native should be part of the conversation … once again.
Others Receiving votes: James Franklin (Vanderbilt), Willie Taggart (Western Kentucky), Sonny Dykes (Louisiana Tech), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Mark Hudspeth (Louisiana-Lafayette), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), Gus Malzahn (Arkansas State), Chad Morris (Clemson offensive coordinator), Manny Diaz (Texas defensive coordinator), Skip Holtz (South Florida) and Mario Cristobal (FIU).