- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long wants to hire a new coach for the Razorbacks shortly after the season ends in late November.
While speaking to the Touchdown Club in Little Rock, Ark., Long told Razorbacks fans that he wouldn't discuss coaching candidates, but didn't rule out considering current interim coach John L. Smith for the job. It's clear the coaching search is up and running and Long wants to move very quickly once the regular season is finished.
Sure, the Razorbacks have won back-to-back games and have new life, but chances are Smith is way down on Long's list. This team stumbled into the month of October with a 1-4 record and a defense that was gutted by just about everyone it faced. The team looked like it had checked out and its leader, quarterback Tyler Wilson, had criticzied his team for quitting against Alabama -- a game in which Wilson didn't play in because of a head injury.
This team looked lost and Smith was the guy in charge, so bringing him back is quite the long shot.
But he must be complimented for helping to get this team back together. The Razorbacks could have just shut it down and let the season play out. They didn't and ran over Auburn. They came to play and obliterated Kentucky before a rainstorm cut the game short. The offense is clicking again and this team has shown tremendous heart and character the last two weeks.
"I think we've seen in the last couple weeks a program that's starting to get better," Long said.
It is, and big-time coaches will see that. This is still a very attractive job to coaches, and don't forget that Long has a boatload of money to toss at a big-name coach's way.
Long is also looking for someone who has "discipline and accountability" and with "honesty and integrity on and off the field." Meaning: he doesn't want someone with the baggage, like former coach Bobby Petrino who was fired in April after his affair/motorcycle incident that began the destruction of Arkansas' 2012 season.
So those Razorbacks fans clamoring for Petrino to come back, don't hold your breathe. It's not worth it and it isn't happening. Long is above that, and he's ready to take this program in a better direction.
Long is looking for a winner and someone who won't be afraid to brush up against the SEC's best. He'll have a good chance to find him in the next couple of months.
2hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information