Arkansas Football: Top 5 Potential Candidates to Replace Chris Ash at DC
As if the Arkansas Razorbacks defense didn’t have enough problems already.
On Thursday afternoon, it was officially announced that Ohio State had hired Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash as co-defensive coordinator, via the school's athletic department's official Twitter. The news comes almost a month after the Razorbacks lost defensive line coach Charlie Partridge to Florida Atlantic, per ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.
Now, a defense that ranked just No. 76 in total defense in 2013 will be looking to fill some large holes on the coaching staff.
Luckily for Arkansas, there are plenty of names flying around out there.
Join B/R as we take a look at the top five candidates to fill the void at defensive coordinator.
The name might not be popular among the fan base, but former embattled Auburn head coach Gene Chizik is a name to consider.
The 52-year-old is most commonly remembered for running the Tigers football program into the ground. He also was less than impressive in two seasons as head coach for Iowa State, compiling a 5-19 record.
However, Chizik had success with Auburn from 2002-04 as defensive coordinator. In fact, he won the Broyles Award in 2004, which is given to the best assistant coach in college football.
If you can put aside his recent shortcomings, Chizik would be a pretty solid hire for the Razorbacks.
Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson should also be a name up for consideration for defensive coordinator.
Before joining the Razorbacks staff, Johnson spent five seasons with Ohio State as cornerbacks coach. Under his tutelage, Malcolm Jenkins went on to win the 2008 Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top cornerback. Furthermore, the Buckeyes had a total of three cornerbacks selected in the NFL draft between 2008-12.
With Arkansas, Johnson helped true freshman A.J. Turner and Otha Peters get named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2012.
Although he may not have as much experience as some of the other potential candidates, Johnson is certainly deserving of the role.
Another hot name in the search to replace Chris Ash comes from fellow in-state school Arkansas State.
On Jan. 5, defensive coordinator John Thompson led the Red Wolves to an impressive 23-20 victory over Ball State in the GoDaddy Bowl in an interim role. That moves his career record as an interim head coach to 2-0.
With new Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson not retaining Thompson, via Al.com’s Tommy Hicks, the 58-year-old is now searching for a new job.
Given his 32 years of experience under his belt, Thompson would be an ideal candidate for the Razorbacks. In fact, it would be somewhat of a return for the El Paso, Texas, native, as he served as the Arkansas defensive coordinator from 2000-01.
He may not be the top name on the list, but the Razorbacks would be taking a step in the right direction with Thompson.
After leading a remarkable turnaround at USC as interim head coach, Ed Orgeron’s name has cooled down quite some bit.
It might be a long shot, but the Razorbacks lose nothing by reaching out to Orgeron to gauge his interest. The worst thing he could say is no.
As a former defensive lineman during his playing days, Orgeron has gained a ton of experience for the job. In fact, the 52-year-old has spent 22 years with Miami, Nicholls State, Syracuse, USC, Tennessee and even the New Orleans Saints as a defensive assistant coach.
Orgeron would certainly be a big-name hire and could be the spark needed to help turn around Arkansas’ woes on defense.
At the same time, if he succeeded in turning around the unit, you can bet Orgeron’s stock as a head coach will only increase.
The most popular name being thrown around as a replacement for Chris Ash is current Razorbacks linebackers coach Randy Shannon.
The 47-year-old is most commonly remembered for serving as the head coach for the Miami Hurricanes from 2007-10. Furthermore, he worked as an assistant coach for the team for 13 seasons.
Although his career as a head coach wasn’t anything to brag about—28-22 and 0-2 in bowls—Shannon did exceptionally well in six seasons as the defensive coordinator for Miami.
Shannon’s units finished in the top 10 in total defense in all but one season. The Hurricanes ranked as high as No. 2 in 2003.
For an Arkansas defense that ranked just No. 76 in total defense last season, Shannon could be just the spark the unit needs.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.