FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas AD Jeff Long dropped his most serious hint to date that the Hogs' vacated football job will go to an in-house candidate.
Long and Arkansas remain in the national spotlight as the AD prepares to name a replacement for Bobby Petrino who was fired on April 10.
“It is difficult in this respect,” Long told CBSSports.com Saturday during Arkansas' spring game, "if you're going to bring in a permanent coach, they have no time to install the system. That's wearing on me because the young men and program have really prepared themselves for an excellent year.
“The thought of changing the system that it took all spring practice to install has impacted my decision.”
If that's the case say goodbye to the much-speculated candidacies of former college coaches Steve Mariucci, Pete Carroll, Phil Fulmer, Tommy Bowden and former Arkansas assistant Garrick McGee.
It would also seemingly leave Long's choice between the most frequently-mentioned in-house candidates. Current interim head coach Taver Johnson was elevated after Petrino's hiring. Johnson coaches linebackers and also had the title of associate head coach under Petrino. This is the second time in a year he has been through this, having been on the Ohio State staff when Jim Tressel was fired.
Johnson said he is due to fly out on a recruiting trip at 6 Monday morning. Logic would dictate that he would know something to tell recruits before then.
Arkansas running backs coach Tim Horton is favored by tailback Knile Davis and others. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino may have been the favorite except for his last name.
“I think it's baloney,” he told CBSSports.com when presented with that prospect. “I'm going to support the administration in anything they do. [But] the football program wasn't broken …
Paul Petrino's offense – at least the Hogs' No. 1 offense – put up 698 yards playing against backups in the spring game.
“I don't think that's really the scenario but I know it could be,” he said of possibly being left out of the running because of Bobby being his brother. I'm just going to do a great job as offensive coordinator and people will understand I am a great candidate.”
Paul Petrino's offense under his brother has been praised for being a big part of Arkansas' best two-year run (21 wins, BCS bowl) since 1964-65.
Long seemed upbeat in watching the Red defeat the White 65-0 in that spring game. It may be that all his heavy lifting is done. He has his new coach, at least in his mind.
“It's not weeks,” Long said of the timing of the decision. “I'm hoping to make this decision in days rather than weeks at this point.”