Coaching Carousel

FAYETTEVILLE -- After another busy round of the coaching carousel, the Southeastern Conference will have an unusually large number of faces (both old and new) in different places next season.

In fact, one-third of the SEC's 12 teams have introduced new coaches this winter.

Former Florida coach Steve Spurrier, who took a two-year sabbatical from college football, returns to take over at South Carolina after Lou Holtz retired. LSU plucked Les Miles from Oklahoma State to replace Nick Saban, who has moved on to test his abilities in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. Urban Meyer replaces the fired Ron Zook in Gainesville, Fla., after a successful stint at Utah. Southern Cal assistant Ed Orgeron takes over for David Cutcliffe, who was fired by Ole Miss.

"The profession that we're in right now, it looks like there's always a lot of change," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "That's what makes it tough. The guys that are coming in, once they start studying film of the SEC, they're going to learn to grow an awesome respect for the league and the athleticism of each team."

The conference has had at least one coaching change every season since expanding to 12 teams in 1992. The SEC introduced three new coaches before the 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001 season, but hasn't had four changes since expansion.

The last time there were four changes among the 12 programs came in 1990, when Spurrier was hired at Florida, Bill Curry left his post at Alabama and headed for Kentucky and Gene Stallings took over the Crimson Tide. Jack Crowe also began his first season at Arkansas, but the Razorbacks hadn't joined the SEC.

Nutt said most of the changes are attributed to a "win now" mentality in college football.

"It's very volatile," Nutt said. "Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to go to a bowl game, (Bowl Championship Series), those things. That's what makes it tough. It seems like there's more money each year as far as assistants and head coaches. It just puts more pressure on everyone."

Nutt, who is entering his eighth season on campus, will remain the second-longest tenured coach in the SEC next season behind Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer (14th season). But Nutt will be fourth on the list of coaches with SEC experience behind Fulmer, Spurrier (13 seasons at Florida and South Carolina) and Auburn's Tommy Tuberville (11 at Auburn and Ole Miss).

The Razorbacks will get a close look at three of the new coaches in action with games against South Carolina, Ole Miss and LSU scheduled next November. Nutt hasn't coached against Spurrier, Orgeron or Miles, but said there are advantages and disadvantages in facing an opponent under new leadership.

"It depends on where you catch them, which part of the year," Nutt said. "You have more film on them the end of the year, it may be a little bit easier. Not easier as far as the game, but easier because you get to know what their philosophy is and what they're doing. It's a little different any time someone comes in new.

"Like when we came in (1998), people don't really know us and it's a little harder."

Leinart Stays

Arkansas caught a bad break Friday when Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart announced his decision to stay with the Trojans for his senior season.

The Razorbacks face the unenviable task of traveling to Los Angeles to battle Leinart and the defending national champions on Sept. 17. Leinart, who won the 2004 Heisman Trophy and guided the Trojans to a 55-19 win against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4, will lead a USC team that is the heavy favorite to win its third consecutive national title.

Leinart is 25-1 as a starter and has guided the Trojans to 22 straight wins.

"USC was the most impressive team (during the bowl season) by far," said Nutt, who paid close attention to the national title game. "They made (Oklahoma) like it in every facet of the game. They were phenomenal. USC, Matt Leinart and those guys were just awesome."

Leinart is staying, but USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu announced his decision to enter the NFL Draft on Friday. He becomes one of seven juniors Arkansas won't have to prepare for next season.

South Carolina receiver Troy Williamson, Georgia safety Thomas Davis and linebacker Odell Thurman, Vanderbilt fullback Michael Tant and defensive end Jovan Haye and Ole Miss center Chris Spencer also have declared for the draft.

Former Hog Sightings

Former Arkansas fullback Mark Pierce, whose three-year career was loaded with off-the-field problems, is in training camp with the Dallas Desperados of the Arena Football League. Pierce left the Razorbacks after Arkansas' 55-24 loss to LSU in the 2003 regular season finale, but was undrafted and unsigned by NFL teams.

The Weatherford, Texas, native signed with the Desperados earlier this month and joins former Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner on the squad. Stoerner is vying for a starting job and Pierce is one of five fullback/linebacker's listed on the roster.

"I'm always hoping for the best for him," said Nutt, who got a call from the Desperados. "I'm hoping he has his life in order and know that, if he has his life in order he'll be fine on the field."

Also, former receiver Sparky Hamilton was signed by the Green Bay Packers after spending the past two years playing arena football.

Pay Day

Former Arkansas defensive coordinators John Thompson and Dave Wommack were taken care of financially by South Carolina, according to The State newspaper.

Thompson, who was hired as Spurrier's defensive coordinator signed a three-year contract worth a guaranteed $175,000 annually. The State also reported that it is the most lucrative contract ever for a South Carolina assistant in terms of salary.

Wommack inked a two-year deal that will pay him $150,000 this season and $156,000 in 2006.

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