Arkansas has been without a coach since Bret Bielema was fired on Nov. 24, shortly after falling to Missouri 48-45 to finish off a 4-8 (1-7 SEC) season. That vacancy remains open after the Hogs swung for the fences with a native son .
One day after coaching in the SEC Championship Game, Auburn coach and Arkansas native Gus Malzahn . What's next for Arkansas? Sources told CBS Sports that contingency plans have been in place for some time, and the program is likely to turn to either Memphis coach Mike Norvell or SMU coach Chad Morris as its next priority.
Norvell led Memphis to a 10-2 record, won the AAC West and took UCF to double overtime in an AAC Championship Game for the ages on Saturday. The No. 19 Tigers will play Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 30. Norvell's high-octane offense, success in the region and familiarity of the state of Arkansas during this time as a player (2001-05) and graduate assistant (2006) at Central Arkansas.
Morris has been the head coach at SMU since 2015 and has improved upon his win total every season -- going from two to five to seven this year. Known for his own version of a tempo-based spread offense and his work as a Texas high school coach, Morris would also check many of the boxes the Razorbacks -- who recruit the Lone Star State heavily -- are looking for on a new coach. The Mustangs will play Louisiana Tech in the inaugural Frisco Bowl in Frisco, Texas.
A source also indicated that an unnamed third candidate could be in the mix for the Razorbacks, but that the program wants to move very quickly in naming a successor after missing with Malzahn. For the first time ever, there will be an early signing period in college football that starts on Dec. 20.
It is also worth nothing that Arkansas native Charlie Strong, now the coach at South Florida, could be a potential candidate for the job. The former Central Arkansas defensive back was born and raised in the state but has never coached in the state since moving into the profession. Whether Strong would want to return home remains to be seen, of course.