Nutt Turns To Former Assistant

FAYETTEVILLE -- It didn't take long for Arkansas coach Houston Nutt to find a new offensive coordinator. He simply turned to someone who had previously been on his coaching staff.

David Lee was hired Wednesday to replace Gus Malzahn as Arkansas' offensive coordinator, as well as take over as the quarterbacks coach. As part of his new job, Lee will also assume the play-calling responsibilities. Terms of Lee's contract were not available Wednesday.

"I don't have any doubt in my mind that I'm calling all the plays next year," Lee said in a teleconference with reporters on Wednesday evening. "Houston has got no problem with it. He's going to manage the ballgame."

Lee spent the past four seasons as an offensive assistant under Bill Parcells with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's no stranger to the Razorbacks.

And his familiarity with Nutt played a big role in Lee being named the offensive coordinator two days after Malzahn officially left Arkansas for a position at the University of Tulsa.

This is the third time that Lee will have served as an assistant with the Razorbacks. He was the quarterbacks and fullbacks coach under Ken Hatfield (1984-88), and then returned to be Nutt's quarterbacks coach in 2001-02.

"I think that's why I wanted to come back, because I'm comfortable with Houston," Lee said. "He's comfortable with me."

Coincidentally, Lee will soon be the father-in-law of current Arkansas backup quarterback Nathan Emert, who is engaged to Lee's daughter, Shannon.

Nutt's decision to hire Lee didn't come as a surprise.

Malzahn decided to leave Arkansas after he was told by Nutt on Saturday that there was a plan to bring Lee in to be a co-offensive coordinator and the quarterbacks coach.

That likely meant that Malzahn's role as offensive coordinator would have been reduced, and there was no guarantee that he would have continued to call the plays if he returned next season with the Razorbacks.

As a result, Malzahn decided Monday to accept a position as assistant head coach and co-offensive coordinator at the University of Tulsa. A day later, former Springdale High quarterback Mitch Mustain asked Nutt for a release from his scholarship.

"This is a good day," Nutt said when Lee's hiring was announced Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, wide receiver Marcus Monk called a news conference to give himself and several teammates -- including running back Darren McFadden -- the chance to publicly express their commitment to Arkansas' football program.

Lee was one of three candidates that Nutt mentioned Tuesday as a possible replacement for Malzahn.

Former University of Miami coach Larry Coker, who formed a relationship with Nutt during their time at Oklahoma State, was also mentioned as a possible candidate. But Nutt said Coker was still holding out for the chance to be a head coach, leaving Lee as the obvious choice for offensive coordinator.

It didn't hurt that Nutt also had a comfort level with Lee that was established during their first time working together on the same coaching staff at Arkansas.

"There is definitely a true, trusting relationship there," Nutt said of Lee. "It was a huge factor (in my decision)."

Alex Wood served as Arkansas' quarterbacks coach last season, but it remains uncertain what his role will be if he decides to stay with the Razorbacks.

A self-described "fundamental freak," Lee is regarded as a top coach when it comes to helping quarterbacks work on their fundamentals. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has credited Lee with turning him into a successful starter.

In fact, Lee worked with Mustain on his mechanics before his junior season at Springdale High. But Lee said he had no plans of trying to convince Mustain not to transfer to another school.

"As much as I would have enjoyed coaching Mitch, that opportunity is not going to be there," Lee said. "And no, I'm not going to go actively recruit him or anything like that because I respect the family too much."

Beck Campbell, Mustain's mother, did not return a message left on her cell phone Wednesday. It's still uncertain what school Mustain plans to transfer to, though Tulsa, Oklahoma and Louisville have been mentioned as possibilities.

Meanwhile, Rick Cleveland said Wednesday that his son, tight end Ben Cleveland, is committed to remaining with the Razorbacks. Nutt said he had a good talk when Ben returned from a funeral on Wednesday.

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