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Jamie Varnell
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They will always remember one fantastic detail from a well told story.
They will always remember one fantastic detail from a well told story.

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My pictures from the Super Regional on ESPN Arkansas
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Arkansas a Long Shot to Get It Right

After the ouster of Athletic Director Jeff Long, Arkansas has little margin for error in the upcoming weeks. They are now on the clock, not for months, but literally a day by day re-evaluation as a busy season of coach hunting opens. With as many as five SEC teams facing possible transitions, Arkansas must be diligent to keep from falling down the food chain. With Florida and Tennessee both already available, Arkansas will likely be in a dogfight for the top candidates. Add in UCLA opening out west, and the market is unusually crowded.

What went wrong? For Long, it started with the John L. Smith debacle, though he was praised for his handling of Petrino nationally. Women’s basketball became another hot issue when team members took a knee during the national anthem sparking heated backlash and a short tenure for Jimmy Dykes. With football underperforming, most believe the board gave the ultimatum for a coaching change, and Long was unwilling to do so. To be fair, Long wasn’t perceived as warm to the fanbase, who felt his northern heritage didn’t blend with southern hospitality. He is a businessman at heart, as is evident by the faculty improvements made under his watch. He will land another job soon, and just as he was in his farewell letter, will be courteous in his reflections.

For Bielema and the football team, the Spring Game loss of Rawleigh Williams III tipped the scales against an already shorthanded offense. Add in the loss of an entire receiving corps and you get a stagnant offense. The defensive shift to the 3-4 has gone as most expect for a major transition. With losing the top corner in the season opener, true freshman Cameron Curl has been starting well before his time, but achieved and developed well. Close losses are still losses, and what many would like to think is an audition, Gus Mahlzahn and Auburn came in and ran up the score on the Hogs as fans emptied out by halftime. This week, multiple play calls seemed unexplainable, and in press meetings, the reasoning of just trying to get guys reps has lost credibility. Bielema had his guys playing for his coaching life, and they played well, but all too often were not put in a position to succeed.

Morale is low and a frustrated fan base are calling for no less than a coaching change. Interim AD Julie Cromer Peoples statement has led many to believe a change is already pending in her comments Saturday, stating there “are a lot of people who are weighing in on the decisions that they believe are pending.” If that is the case, who is next? Vegas actually has a line out on the hiring process, with Mike Leach leading the way. If you think Jeff Long is an eccentric Northerner, Leach will be even harder to tolerate. Often abrasive and likely unable to have much reach into Texas recruiting after his issues at Texas Tech, it could be a short lived success story much like Petrino. Mike Norvell and Gus Malzahn are both tied for second. Gus might be at the top of the list for many, but you have to wonder what all is in the fine print of his contract. If he ever considered a return to Arkansas, you would have to believe there is an exclusion to a non-compete clause to allow it to happen. From there, the list gets watered down with many more people who would divide the fan base further.

This much is certain, the process of change is already underway and most assume contract talks for buyouts are all but settled. Expect Arkansas to move fast in an ever changing college coaching landscape featuring top programs with availability.
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My takeaways from Spring Football.
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Paris Express Article: This is how you start out a season as defending champion.
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New Football article in the Express: Eagles Looking to Run!
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