The “Coaching Poll” enters its second week.
With it comes a little movement.
The most notable drop came from Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, who slipped from No. 2 to No. 5 after his team’s 48-3 loss to Georgia. It wasn’t a good showing for the second-year coach, who is trying to prove Vanderbilt can compete in the SEC.
There are a couple of new coaches to enter the poll as well in Louisiana-Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth and Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes. While Louisiana-Monroe’s Todd Berry is the one who actually beat Arkansas, the coaches at the other two Louisiana schools warrant some consideration by athletic director Jeff Long.
Before we dive into this week’s top 10 “Coaching Poll,” a few reminders:
• There is no exact formula to the “Coaching Poll.” 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.
• This poll is comprised of college head coaches and assistants. We’re not going down road of NFL coaches, NFL assistants or coaches currently unemployed in the profession at this point. We won’t unless 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 Arkansas candidates would look like. We’re trying to have a little fun here before the search truly heats up.
With that, here is this week’s Coaching Poll:
1. Charlie Strong (Louisville) – Louisville didn’t impress with a road win at FIU last week (28-21), but Strong remains atop the poll. In fact, his defensive background sounds more enticing each week amid Arkansas’ struggles. The Cardinals are off to a 4-0 start, ranked No. 19 and among the favorites to win the Big East. So Strong should be a candidate for several openings if the success continues this season.
2. Art Briles (Baylor) – Briles has long-standing Texas ties. His offense is exciting and high powered. The Bears also picked up a pretty impressive win last week, going on the road to beat Arkansas-killer ULM. But how well would Arkansas play defense under Briles? It hasn’t been a staple of his teams at Baylor and Houston and is something to consider, especially with Arkansas’ struggles on that side of the ball.
3. Paul Rhoads (Iowa State) – Iowa State is off to a 3-0 start with wins against Tulsa and Iowa. Rhoads, as we’ve mentioned several times, has ties to Arkansas AD Jeff Long dating back to his days as Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator. His Iowa State team has not allowed a touchdown in two straight games, holding Iowa and Western Illinois to 9 points. Can you imagine that considering the current state of the Hogs?
4. Mark Hudspeth (Louisiana-Lafayette) – There’s something very intriguing about Hudspeth, who should’ve been in the Coaching Poll last week (Can’t believe I left him out). He has worked in the state (at Central Arkansas). He has SEC ties (worked at Mississippi State). And has been in the Southeast throughout most of his coaching career (was 66-21 as the head coach at North Alabama). Hudspeth is regarded as an up-and-comer who is likely to land somewhere soon. Is it Arkansas
5. James Franklin (Vanderbilt) – Franklin has done a good job of promoting Vanderbilt football the past two years. But the 48-3 loss to Georgia is proof the Commodores are still a ways off on the field against the SEC’s best. So Long would be hard pressed to sell Franklin - who is impressive - to the fanbase if similar struggles continue this season.
6. Kirby Smart (Alabama DC) – Long said last week he isn’t ruling any type of coach out. While we have reservations about whether a current assistant will land the job, Smart may just be at the top of that list because of his work with Alabama Nick Saban. Alabama’s defense has been filthy the past couple of seasons and if there’s any chance Smart could replicate it at Arkansas he’d be worth a long, long look.
7. Chris Petersen (Boise State) – Peterson has no ties to the region, but would be an intriguing candidate because of his tremendous success at Boise State. Could Peterson be lured away to coach at Arkansas? It’s hard to imagine, considering he seemingly has turned down several other opportunities to remain at Boise State.
8. Gary Patterson (TCU) – Very similar to Peterson in the fact he has garnered plenty of notoriety nationally for turning TCU into a strong program. Patterson is deserving of a long look, too, if he showed interest. That doesn’t sound likely at this point.
9. Sonny Dykes (Louisiana Tech) – Another "Coaching Poll" debut. Dykes — whose father, Spike, is the winningest coach in Texas Tech’s history - has deep Texas ties. We know how valuable that would be at a place like Arkansas. Dykes is 16-12 in his tenure at Louisiana Tech, getting the program to a bowl game in his second season in 2011. The spotlight will be on Dykes in mid-October, when La Tech plays Texas A&M.
10. Gus Malzhan (Arkansas State) – It’s hard to take Malzahn out of the poll, although it doesn’t seem likely he would seek out and/or land the job at this point in his career. Malzahn state ties and complete understanding of the Arkansas program are obvious benefits, though. He is 2-2 (with losses at Oregon and Nebraska) in 2012.
Others Receiving votes: Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Chad Morris (Clemson offensive coordinator), Willie Taggart (Western Kentucky), Manny Diaz (Texas defensive coordinator), Skip Holtz (South Florida) and Mario Cristobal (FIU).