BATON ROUGE, La. -- After a hardfought season-ending 19-17 loss at LSU, the wheels are now in motion to determine the next Arkansas coaching staff. It could be that we know who's out in the next 48 hours. The big news concerns the possibility that the desired offensive coordinator may still be available.
Tennessee is still the clear favorite to hire David Cutcliffe, but the former Ole Miss head coach is still entertaining offers to join Houston Nutt's staff in the Ozarks. Two sources confirmed Saturday that Cutcliffe is considering a multi-year Arkansas offer of $400,000 per season.
Presumably, the Volunteeers can and will do better. Where the bidding stops is unclear, but it may not take long to find out. Both the Hogs and Vols would like to have Cutcliffe in place by next weekend when both plan to host a big recruiting weekend.
How many new staff hires Arkansas has by next weekend is anyone's guess, but we may know the number, perhaps not the names, as early as Sunday. Nutt will meet with Frank Broyles on Saturday. It is believed he will tell his staff about their status as early as Sunday.
Cutcliffe is not the only coach the Hogs covet to retool the offense. Springdale High coach Gus Malzahn is also expected to get a UA offer, although that won't come until after the Bulldogs complete their season in another week.
The Hogs looked more in need of a placekicker than an offensive coordinator through three quarters at LSU. Chris Balseiro missed a 41-yard field goal to keep it scoreless at 7:17 of the first quarter and then had a 28-yarder bounce off the right upright at 10:03 of the third quarter.
Balseiro never got a chance at what could have been the game winner when the Hogs failed on downs with 57 seconds to play. Slumped over, he left the field with both hands atop his helmet.
"I'm pretty torn up," Balseiro said after his shower. "It didn't end the way I wanted it to end. A few things went the wrong way for me. My focus was wrong all day. I'm sorry for the misses. A lot of guys did their job. I didn't do mine. I'm sorry."
Neither miss seemed important until Casey Dick passed the Hogs 68 yards in seven plays for their first touchdown with 4:16 left in the third quarter. The Hogs cut it to 19-11 when Darren McFadden rolled around LSU's left flank for a two-point possession.
It was another kicking game mistake to end the first half that cost the Hogs a safety. Deep snapper Brett Goode's center snap from the 6-yard line bounced to Jacob Skinner. The punter found the handle on the loose ball and stepped across the back line for a safety with 12 seconds left in the half. Skinner was kicking with the wind and probably would have kicked the Tigers out of field goal range since they were out of timeouts.
It ruined an otherwise stellar game by Skinner. He booted seven mostly towering punts for a 40.6-yard average, not a one of them returnable when LSU had flashy Skyler Green deep.
Skinner, the holder on placements, felt for his buddy Balseiro. They've shared ups and downs over the last three seasons, including Skinner's muff on a center snap two years ago also in Tiger Stadium.
"Our punt group, me and Goode, talked about that play this morning," Skinner said. "Yes, the last time I did muff one. I've come a long way since then. Our team has come a long way, and so have I personally. This is a tough place, very hostile with 93,000 screaming at you and with a great team on the other side.
"It's tough for Chris, being his last game, to go out like this. I hurt for him. He's taking it hard and it's a blow to him. But I told him it's not the way it looks. I could have and should have gotten the snap. We are taught to get low snaps and get them out of there and I didn't. That's two points. What did we lose by? We practice bad snaps. I take the fall for that. It's not just Chris. I want to be clear on that."
Those two didn't show any tears, but there were plenty in the UA locker room. Marcus Harrison had bloodshot eyes from tears when the media finally got close. So did Reggie Herring, the oh-so-tough defensive coordinator who yelled and disciplined this defense into a unit that gave the Tigers all they wanted.
"The coaches and trainers talked to me about redshirting this season in two-a-days when they found the stress fracture in my leg," Harrison said. "I'm so glad I didn't. I would have missed a special season, a year when we came together and grew up as a team. Coach Herring got after me, but he knew I was playing with pain and all he did was get me to playing better and better. I thank him for letting me be a part of this."
Herring teared up when he started naming the seniors. He was asked about Vickiel Vaughn, but he didn't leave out his two senior linebackers, Pierre Brown and Clarke Moore.
"Those are special people," Herring said. "I can't hardly talk about them now. They gave me everything they had. Can't ask for more. Kinda like today. We fought our guts off. They all did. I'm just so proud of them, and Clarke, too. There were times this year that these guys could have folded the tent, but they never did, not once."
Kyle Roper would be in that group, too. With about 10 rolls of tape wrapped around two bad knees, the senior moved to left guard for his final game. The Hogs squeezed out some tough rushing yards behind him in the first half, but the Hogs had to turn to tricks in the second half.
"They had pretty much an iron curtain with that defense and we knew it," said line coach Mike Markuson. "But I'm glad he got to play today. We wanted to finish it with him on the left side and he gave it everything he had.
"We were a couple of breaks away, kinda like this season. What a fight today. We have a great young team coming back."
With the makeup of the coaching staff up in the air, Roper shook his head in disbelief when a reporter wondered aloud why some questioned the Hogs' ability to stay with the Tigers.
"I knew people didn't think we could, but they aren't taking into account the heart of this team," Roper said. "I knew the heart. I knew we had a quarterback who was going to play his butt off and he did. We kept getting better. I'm done, but I sure wish I could come back and play with these guys. They are going to win alot."
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