(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
Was anyone really shocked last week when news broke that Springdale quarterback Mitch Mustain’s commitment to the Arkansas Razorbacks was in limbo? Wasn’t the question not if, but when, Mustain would try to find a better place to train for the NFL?
Before I go any further, I want to go on the record as saying I wish Mustain would honor his commitment and suit up for the Hogs next year. Even though I’m an Auburn fan, I don’t dislike the Razorbacks and I root for them unless they are playing my Tigers.
But I’ve never been totally sold on Houston Nutt’s coaching ability. He’s a great motivator, and there’s no denying that he knows the game of football. I can’t say that he’s a great recruiter when most of the state’s Division 1 prospects usually sign with other programs.
The knock on Nutt though, has been his reluctance to hire an offensive coordinator. He is in charge of the play calling, and we’ve seen what a disaster that can sometimes be. It worked pretty well when he had Matt Jones, who could turn a busted play call into a long gain. But last year it wasn’t so pretty.
In the argument for an offensive coordinator, I point to the prettiest village on the plains. When Tommy Tuberville hired Al Borgess to run his offense, the Tigers took off and have only lost two games in two years. Tuberville has a great football mind – mostly for defense and special teams – and realized that maybe he should hand the offense over to someone better suited for it.
So, what does Nutt do? On the cusp of signing possibly the most important football recruit in the state of Arkansas’ history, it becomes public knowledge that the man (Roy Wittke) mostly responsible for bringing Mustain to Fayetteville would be looking for a new gig.
Apparently that blow was supposed to be softened by the hiring of Mustain’s high school coach, Gus Malzahn, as the Hogs’ new offensive coordinator. Not so fast. Mustain said publicly last week that it didn’t matter who the new coach was going to be, and ESPN.com reported Monday that the recruiting process has been reopened.
My question is: If Nutt was going to fire Wittke, why not wait until after Mustain is already on campus? February 1st isn’t that long to wait. Some people will say it’s so Malzahn can start recruiting. But the most important recruit is Mustain. As far as the Hogs are concerned, he’s the only player they should be trying to sign.
If Mustain winds up signing elsewhere, the fan base won’t be happy with anything less than 8 wins next year. But is that possible with Casey Dick? We’ll see.