Lee, Coker Considerd Leading Candidates

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt confirmed a previous report by The Morning News that he was considering bringing in a new coach to help coordinate the Razorbacks' offense next season. But Nutt said other reports that suggest former Arkansas assistant David Lee is the leading candidate to replace Gus Malzahn aren't entirely true.

Addressing the media Tuesday for the first time since Malzahn's sudden departure from the UA staff to take a position at Tulsa, Nutt said discussions had taken place between him and Lee concerning a possible co-coordinator position alongside Malzahn.

However, Nutt said the new coach would have been an addition to help the staff improve rather than a way to decrease Malzahn's role with the offense.

"It's not so much a diminish or taking away (from Gus)," Nutt said. "It's just you want to add to. That next person was going to be a guy we can lean on and talk to and really use his knowledge. That's all it is."

Immediately following Malzahn's departure, Lee's name was quickly mentioned as a possible replacement for the former Shiloh Christian and Springdale High coach. But Nutt -- while admitting there have been talks with Lee -- said the job of offensive coordinator is still up in the air.

"We're just trying to get the best person, and there are several names out there that we're still doing a little research on," Nutt said. "We'll hopefully know more by the end of the week."

Specifically, Nutt mentioned there are three candidates still being considered for the offensive coordinator position, including Lee. The others -- according to Nutt -- are former University of Miami coach Larry Coker and a third candidate whom Nutt refused to name.

Speculation Tuesday centered around current Miami Dolphins quarterback coach and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Jason Garrett as the possible third candidate.

Even with talk of several possible replacements for Malzahn, reports out of Dallas suggested Lee had already been offered the job.

Nutt, though, said the job is still open.

"Nothing is official," Nutt said. "(I'm) still waiting, still searching. What's been difficult is when you're recruiting and you're in homes and you're trying to make up some time there, it's hard to get everything aligned just right.

"So, it's not official yet. We still have a little bit more time before the decision is being made."

If he is hired, it would be Lee's third coaching stint with the Razorbacks. Previously, Lee worked as quarterbacks coach under both Ken Hatfield (1984-88) and Nutt (2001-02).

When contacted Tuesday, Lee -- who currently serves as the offensive quality control coach for the Cowboys -- said he has been in contact with Nutt regarding a position on his staff.

"There has not been a decision," Lee said.

Lee, who is credited with helping develop Tony Romo into a successful quarterback in Dallas, had a contract with the Cowboys through the 2006 season. But it has expired.

"He's a great fundamental coach," Nutt said. "He's a guy that's been here before. (I'm) very familiar with him, and he's taken Romo to another level.

"Like the other two guys that we're talking to, very, very good, (he's a) very knowledgeable guy."

Coker was fired at Miami following a 6-6 record through the regular season. A former national championship winning coach -- he led Miami to the title in 2001 -- Coker and Nutt have ties back to their time at Oklahoma State.

"Larry Coker is another guy that I've talked to," Nutt said. "Nothing has been offered. He still has some things in the fire, and he wants to be a head coach, too, again someday."

Whoever is hired could also send a ripple effect through the current staff. While all candidates appear to be in line for both the coordinator's spot and a role that includes coaching quarterbacks, that could leave current quarterbacks coach Alex Wood out in the cold.

Nutt admitted he's not exactly sure where Wood will fit in next year.

"Right now, he's back on the road recruiting for us," Nutt said. "(He) could be receiver coach. There is a lot of scenarios that you don't know yet, and you're just trying to get the best fit, the best coaches and you're always trying to better yourself."

Even with the hiring of a new offensive coordinator, if Wood does not return -- which could be the case regardless -- Arkansas will still be looking to fill one assistant's position.

That job could go to former Arkansas assistant and current director of on-campus recruiting Chris Vaughn.

When asked Tuesday if he had a chance to return as an on-field coach, Vaughn had no comment.

Staff Writer Alex Abrams contributed to this report

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