Speculation On Coaching Staff Continues

FAYETTEVILLE -- Speculation has run rampant in recent days about the future of the Arkansas football program, particularly the coaching staff.

Sources close to the program have been cited in most reports, but even those "in the know" have been having trouble keeping up with what appears to be an evolving process to change the Razorbacks' staff.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt is heading the search to find an offensive coordinator. He has been in charge of the offense during his first eight seasons, but two straight years without a bowl invitation has pressed Nutt to reevaluate that position.

Nutt isn't talking. He hasn't commented publicly on the situation since a press conference a week ago and told UA sports information director Kevin Trainor he would have no comments regarding the program until later this week.

The only other person qualified to comment publicly about any possible changes is athletic director Frank Broyles. He met with Nutt last weekend in an annual review of the program and said Tuesday that Nutt was in charge of any decisions about the staff. However, Broyles has veto power on anything before it's finalized.

Broyles isn't expected to comment on the situation until later this week. He's headed to New York City today with his new bride, Gen Whitehead. The couple wed Thursday night in Fort Smith and will spend four days in The Big Apple and attend the National Football and College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

They are scheduled to return to Fayetteville on Wednesday and Broyles will be back in his office Thursday. That's the day some sources expect an official announcement regarding any staff changes.

Until then, everything else regarding the program is pure speculation.

Shrine Irony

Nutt will coach former Arkansas quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in the 81st annual East-West Shrine Game in San Antonio on Jan. 21.

Jackson spent three seasons at Arkansas before transferring in the spring of 2003 to Alabama State, where Hogs cornerback Michael Coe's father, Charlie Coe, is head coach. The senior received an invitation this past week to play for the Nutt-coached East team, meaning his career will begin and end playing for Nutt.

"It's kind of crazy the way that's worked out," Jackson told the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser this week. "But I think it's good. You know, for some reason, all the (NFL) scouts I've talked to want to know what my relationship is with coach Nutt. I guess they'll get to see for themselves that it's a good one."

Jackson redshirted in 2000 and gained a medical hardship in 2001 because of a knee injury. He was beaten out by Matt   Jones for the starting quarterback spot in 2002. He did start once against Auburn, but only threw two passes in the game. He completed 14 of 39 passes for 143 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown before transferring at the end of the season.

"I had to do what was best for me," Jackson said. "Coach Nutt understood that. There was never any trouble between me and him."

In Alabama State's passing offense, Jackson's statistics dramatically improved. He has thrown for 7,839 yards and 67 touchdowns in three seasons. This fall, he passed for 2,941 yards and 29 touchdowns. He was intercepted only five times.

More Transfers

At least two players have asked for releases from Arkansas this week. They are reserve quarterback Cole Barthel and reserve cornerback Rick Culbert.

Barthel, who's from Decatur, Ala., played three snaps (all running plays) for Arkansas this season after coming in as a walk-on last spring. He originally signed with Arkansas in 2000 before spending time in the Atlanta Braves organization.

Culbert, who's from Vidor, Texas, has not seen the playing field at Arkansas. He redshirted last fall and missed this season after suffering a shoulder injury in preseason practices.

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