But the seventh-year coach quickly found Wommack's successor in the man behind the nation's top-ranked defense.
Nutt announced Saturday that longtime friend and North Carolina State defensive coordinator Reggie Herring has joined his staff after a one-year stint with the Wolfpack. The 45-year-old transformed a Wolfpack defense that struggled in 2003, turning them into a unit that led the nation in total defense (221.4 yards) this year.
"We are extremely excited to add Reggie Herring to our staff," Nutt said in a statement released by the university Saturday afternoon. "He brings a wealth of experience and impressive credentials to the job. He has been successful in some of the top leagues in the country, including six years in the Southeastern Conference.
"What he was able to do at North Carolina State this season was truly remarkable in transforming his unit into the top defense in the country. I know it was a very difficult decision to leave North Carolina State, but he is excited to be a Razorback. I have known Reggie since we were graduate assistants together at Oklahoma State.
"I am confident that he will be a tremendous asset to our program."
The terms of Herring's contract weren't released and Nutt declined to comment on specifics when contacted Saturday. However, a source close to the situation said Herring has agreed to a three-year deal that will pay him around $200,000 annually.
The Raleigh News and Observer reported Herring's annual salary at North Carolina State was $194,500, placing him among the 15 highest-paid defensive coordinators in the country.
Herring has eight years of experience as a defensive coordinator, including his final five seasons at Clemson. He coached at Clemson from 1994-01 and his first three years were as linebackers coach before being promoted in 1997. Herring also was defensive coordinator at Texas Christian (1992-93).
He earned NFL experience as the linebackers coach for the Houston Texans (2002-03) before taking the job at North Carolina State last winter. Herring coached linebackers at Auburn (1986-91) and Oklahoma State (1982-85).
Nutt and Herring began their careers as graduate assistants at Oklahoma State in 1981 and were roommates in Stillwater, Okla. Nutt took a graduate assistant job at Arkansas in 1983, but coached with Herring in 1981-82 and 1984-85.
"I tried to hire him two different times," Nutt said. "We've always said we wanted to coach together again, but the timing has been bad. Every time I had an opening he was at Clemson, Texas Christian or somewhere else.
"I first called and didn't think there would be any shot. They just moved (to Raleigh) and the last thing they wanted to do was move again. But we got it done."
Nutt hoped Herring would agree to terms Friday night, but the defensive coordinator was encouraged to stay in Raleigh. North Carolina State athletic director Lee Fowler told the Raleigh News and Observer the Wolfpack let Herring know "we want to keep him, whatever it takes."
In addition to its No.1 ranking in total defense, North Carolina State was second in pass defense (119 yards) and 25th in scoring defense (19.8 points) in 2004. It was a dramatic difference from 2003, when the Wolfpack ranked 89th in total (421 yards), 81st in scoring (29.6 points) and 116th in pass defense (284 yards).
Nutt said he stayed in contact with Herring late Friday night. They finally reached an agreement Saturday morning.
"We'll certainly miss Reggie," North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato said in a statement released Saturday. "He did a great job for us and we wish him well. He was presented with a great opportunity with his old friend."
Herring arrives in Fayetteville today and will be officially introduced during a news conference this afternoon. He is regarded as an energetic coach that'll bring an aggressive, zone-blitzing defense to the Razorbacks.
Nutt and Herring also will discuss the rest of Arkansas' defensive staff -- defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, linebackers coach Chris Vaughn and secondary coach Bobby Allen -- in the next few days. Earlier this week, Nutt admitted the status of his defensive assistants wouldn't be determined until the new coordinator was in place.
Nutt declined to comment on his staff Saturday, but Herring has coached linebackers his entire career and will likely handle those duties with the Razorbacks.
"I think if you look at his past, it's just, everywhere he has proven himself," said Nutt, who admitted he was elated with Herring's addition to the staff. "I'm real excited that we've got him here because he's a proven coach."
Herring Hired As Defensive Coordinator
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