Next step is a doozy

- By Erick Smith USA TODAY

A little more than a week ago, Bobby Petrino was taking his team through spring practice and thinking of contending for a national title.

Now he is out as coach of Arkansas and the school is left trying to find a new leader less than four months before fall practice.

So where do the Razorbacks turn?

Athletics director Jeff Long suggested no decision had been made about whether to look at other schools or choose a route similar to the one Ohio State took last season when Jim Tressel resigned in May; the Buckeyes chose an assistant, Luke Fickell, as interim head coach.

The problem with the latter option is the lead positions at Arkansas are held by coaches recently hired by the school.

Paul Petrino just returned to the coaching staff as offensive coordinato­r after two seasons at Illinois. His status as brother of the fired coach could work against him.

Defensive coordinato­r Paul Haynes spent the last seven seasons at Ohio State. Interim coach Taver Johnson also arrived from Ohio State this winter to coach linebacker­s.

If Long decides to go outside of the current staff, two attractive choices just became head coaches.

Gus Malzahn was hired at Arkansas State after three seasons as offensive coordinato­r at Auburn. He was offensive coordinato­r at Arkansas in 2006 and a successful high school coach in the state before that.

Another option is Garrick Mcgee, an assistant at Arkansas for the last four seasons, including the last two as offensive coordinato­r.

Unfortunat­ely for Arkansas, he just took over at Alabama at Birmingham.

Long succinctly summed up the challenge facing the school at Tuesday’s news conference.

“It’s a difficult time to be looking for a new head coach, that’s for sure,” he said.

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