Malzahn named OC at Arkansas

Houston Nutt introduced Gus Malzahn as his new offensive coordinator at a press conference Friday in the Broyles Center. The former Springdale High coach will call the Hogs' plays, perhaps from the sideline. Whether he will coach quarterbacks or wide receivers will be be determined after the Hogs fill their final vancancy.

Gus Malzahn said it won't be hard to implement his system and it can be done this spring after taking the job as offensive coordinator at Arkansas. He promises that he'll add screens, vertical passing and the no-huddle offense. All facets of his innovative spread offense will be picked up easily, he said.

Best quote of the news conference came from Malzahn after he was asked if he had watched SEC defenses at the seven or eight Arkansas games he attended this year and what he thought about calling plays against them:

"I went to those games as a fan, but the coach in me always came out," Malzahn said. "Let me just say that I think God has blessed me with the ability to recognize defenses and call plays."

This writer followed up on that theme a little later and Gus came right back with the same kind of comment.

"I told myself I wasn't going to watch the defenses and just enjoy the games, but I couldn't do it," Gus said. "I will say that I'm not real good at a lot of things, but the Lord has blessed me with the ability to read and recognize defenses and call plays."

I asked both Houston Nutt and Frank Broyles about those comments and they agreed with their new hire.

"I've seen his teams play eight or nine times," Frank Broyles said. "I had to get permission from the NCAA, but it was okayed since I have two grandchildren who are cheerleaders at Springdale. I saw his teams play at Shiloh Christian years ago. I could tell then he would be a college coach some day.

"Yes, he has the gift. Some have it, most don't. He has it. He has a brilliant mind.

"I would compare him to Wilson Matthews in that he was beyond what you see in high school with certain things. Wilson had a great gift of organization and motivation. Gus has the gift of organization, teaching and innovation. Same time of gift. It gives them the ability to do extra ordinary things. Wilson was ahead of his time in those areas and so is Gus Malzahn. So they are similar."

Houston Nutt said, "It's his ability to teach and organize that make him special. Yes, he can call plays. But he can get it taught in a short period of time. I've seen him at work in all-star camps. He shows it to them, keeps it simple and they can go out and do it. He can be simple and complex at the same time. I think he has the ability to put things in from week to week and do it quickly and his players do it well.

"I've been fortunate to see his practices and how they are organized. I've seen high school practices across our state, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama ... you name it. I see what he does and don't see it anywhere else as far as time management in practice. The players move on the whistle. They get from one drill to the next in rapid fashion. They get a lot done and get a lot of repetitions of it. That's what this is all about, repetitions. His teams are well taught."

Nutt explained that the way things are set up on staff right now that both Chris Vaughn and Clifton Ealy, both of whom will soon move to administrative posts, will be left on the road to finish their recruiting duties past signing day. That probably means that Louis Campbell, who will oversee the secondary, won't recruit on the road. And, it may mean that the last slot on the staff, perhaps a quarterback coach, but more likely a wide receiver coach, won't be named for some time.

I asked Houston Nutt afterwards about the report linking him to the Colorado opening in today's Denver Post. Asked if he was at all interested, Nutt said, "No way. There is too much at stake right now. I've worked through a tough two years here. I'd hate to ever even think about leaving this team to someone else. I'm here. I'm staying."

Both Nutt and Malzahn mentioned that there were strong initial talks about the offensive coordinator post on Sunday, but Malzahn asked for some time to complete some duties with Springdale, including a trip to New York city with some of his players.

"Houston had to take some heat," Malzahn said. "We probably could have gotten it done sooner, but I asked if I could complete these things first. I appreciate that opportunity."

As far as Louis Campbell's responsibilities, Nutt said that defensive coordinator Reggie Herring "loved everyone in that room by the end of the season," but that it was decided that Campbell would coach the safeties and lead the secondary meetings. Bobby Allen will continue to coach the cornerbacks.

Campbell and Herring worked together at Oklahoma State. Initially, both were position coaches under Jimmy Johnson with Campbell coaching the secondary and Herring the linebackers. Eventually, Campbell was promoted to defensive coordinator. Their roles are reversed now.

Campbell was not introduced. He spent the afternoon in the Student Union with the rest of the staff where the Hogs were playing host to "12 or 13" recruits, according to Nutt. He was to be available for interviews later today.

Nutt said he will miss calling the plays. He said he very much enjoyed the "competitive nature of that role. It will be hard, yes. I loved it. But it is probably time. I've done it for eight years. I will still be in the room planning. I will be there for Gus to bounce things off of."

As far as being a CEO coach, Nutt said, "I will not be in a golf cart or a tower. But I will spend more time with special teams with James Shibest. I will be able to go sit in th back of the defensive team room sometimes. I've heard from the defensive guys that they don't see me much. I don't want them to be able to say that anymore. I have tried to go up on campus, visit the dorm and see some of those defensive guys that way, but I can do some things now I couldn't do before as far as the defense."

Asked about the way Malzahn will work with the present staff, Nutt said it would not be a problem.

"We won't have any egos in the room," he said. "One thing I know, Mike Markuson, Danny Nutt and James Shibest are good coaches. They will be utilized. Gus wants to utilize them. We will all work together on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. But on game day, Gus will call the plays."

Gus said he wanted to be on the sideline, but would wait until the final hire to make that determination. He said he will make that decision on whether to go to the press box after the final offensive hire.

"The sideline is the plan right now," Gus said. "Once we make that last hire I'll feel more confident in saying sideline or not."

Nutt said he knew Malzahn was interested in becoming a college coach from a conversation three years ago when Roy Wittke was hired as quarterback coach.

"I had already made the offer to someone else when Gus called me," Nutt said. "He asked if he could come see me real quick. We met in the parking lot. He told me it was his dream to be a college coach. The timing was just off."

As far as coaching the quarterbacks or wide receivers, Malzahn said he'd coordinated his high school offenses as both a wide receiver coach and the quarterback coach. So, either should still work.

"We'll just look for the best fit as far as that last hire," he said. "I would be comfortable either way. I've seen the wide receivers here. James Shibest has them ready. I wouldn't have to do much there."

Other UA Staff Changes

Houston Nutt announced that Chris Vaughn would move from secondary coach to director of on-campus recruiting. Tight end coach Clifton Ealy would move to director of high school relations. Rob Taylor would be named director of football operations. Louis Campbell takes Vaughn's spot as safeties coach and will coordinate the secondary with cornerback coach Bobby Allen.

Quarterback coach Roy Wittke was not retained. All other members of the UA staff were retained.

Nutt said he is still looking for one final coach on his staff, but wasn't sure when it would be filled. It could come from the NFL or college ranks. Several candidates might be still on staff of teams with remaining games on the schedule.

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