Clifton Ealy met with the media Tuesday afternoon, just minutes after he was announced as Arkansas' new tight ends coach.
It didn't take long for him to get to the reason he left as an assistant three years ago, although he didn't go into much detail.
"When I was here before, I left because of personal problems," Ealy said. "It was the best thing to happen to me. It gave me a chance to work at Fayetteville High School as a coach and a worker at the Juvenile Detention Center ... and the last three months as interim head coach. It was a joy and pleasure to work there."
Ealy didn't go into details about his personal problems, but he has since been divorced of his marriage.
Ealy, product of Conway High School and the University of Central Arkansas, rejoins Houston Nutt's staff, but this time on the offensive side of the ball. He coached bandits and strong safeties in earlier stints with Nutt at both Boise State and Arkansas.
"I'm excited about being back," Ealy said. "I'm looking forward to coaching on offense and working with the tight ends. I came back to help the Razorbacks achieve the national championship ... that's our ultimate goal.
"I believe we are right on the verge of being where we want to be and I say that looking at the staff here and the players here. We have a lot of speed and athletic ability here.
"As far as my relationship with Coach Nutt over the past three years, it's been very positive. I've been in touch with Coach Nutt and the staff during that time. There have been no negatives. My heart has always been with the Razorbacks."
Asked if he thought he could return as coach, Ealy said, "I never ruled anything out. I knew if the opportunity presented itself, it could happen. He had told me he might hire me back."
Ealy played tight end at Conway High School, and was used as both a tight end and wide receiver during his college career. He said he feels comfortable coaching tight ends.
"If you look at where I've coached on defense, it was bandits and safeties, and the job is to try to stop the tight end," Ealy said. "So, I know the tricks the defense uses and how to solve them.
"We have already talked about ways to use the tight end in the coming year. I've visited with Coach Nutt and Coach Roy Wittke about the plans for the tight end. The tight end is an invaluable asset to the offense. We want to get the tight end the ball four to six times a game. It's a challenge to get the tight end more involved and that will take pressure off the running game and the wide receivers."
Ealy said he expects to recruit Arkansas, Louisiana and the Houston area in Texas.
"We've talked a little about that already," Ealy said. "I've worked those areas before and feel like that's where I'll concentrate again."
In 1998, Zac Painter earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors at rover under Ealy's tutelage. Painter tallied 74 tackles and five interceptions in the Hogs SEC Western Division Championship season. Bandit Jeromy Flowers posted back-to-back brilliant seasons under Ealy racking up a combined 126 stops including 16 tackles for loss (-56).
"I'm excited to have the opportunity for Clifton to rejoin our staff," Nutt said. "I've always had the utmost confidence in his ability, his work ethic and his loyalty to the Razorbacks. Based on my previous experiences with him, I know he is fully committed to helping us put another championship team on the field this season as well as in the years to come. We are excited to have him back aboard."
Ealy rejoins the Razorback staff after serving as the outside linebackers and free safeties coach at Fayetteville (Ark.) High School for the past three seasons. He also has been employed at the Fayetteville Juvenile Detention Center during his hiatus from the Razorback football program.
Ealy was two-time honorable mention All-America and all-conference wide receiver at the University of Central Arkansas before injuries prevented him from finishing his collegiate career. After earning his bachelor's degree in physical education from UCA in 1982, Ealy began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Plumerville (Ark.) Junior High School (1982), Morrilton (Ark.) Intermediate High School (1983) and Morrilton (Ark.) High School (1984).
He then returned to his alma mater as a graduate assistant working with wide receivers from 1985-86. In 1985, the Bears won a share of the NAIA national championship. Ealy also completed his master's in secondary administration of supervision and leadership at UCA in 1987.
Ealy's first stint with the Razorbacks came in 1987 when he served as a graduate assistant under then UA head coach Ken Hatfield. He worked primarily with the Hogs' secondary on a team that finished 9-4 and played in the Liberty Bowl. Ealy went on to serve two seasons at Delta State (Miss.) University as the secondary coach (1988-89) and then the defensive coordinator (1989).
Ealy returned to UCA in a full-time coaching capacity in 1990. He spent seven seasons in Conway with stints as the secondary coach (1990-94), linebackers coach (1995-96) and defensive coordinator (1990-96). In his first three years at the school, the Bears won three conference titles and the 1991 NAIA national championship.
Ealy joined Nutt's coaching staff at Boise State in time for the 1997 season. He worked with defensive backs with the Broncos before accompanying Nutt to Arkansas in 1998.