1.18.2007

Leaving the Razorbacks

The Razorback Nation is reeling this week after the announcements that Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn and Freshman Quarterback Mitch Mustain are both leaving the University of Arkansas.


Malzahn announced on Monday that he would be leaving the Razorbacks to go to the University of Tulsa, where he will be Co-Offensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach. More importantly, he will be able to implement the hurry-up, no huddle offense that he is famous for, yet wasn’t allowed to use at Arkansas. It was also reported that Arkansas Head Coach Houston Nutt was planning on demoting Malzahn to Co-Offensive Coordinator at UA, and after a season where Malzahn was named the National Offensive Coordinator of the Year by Rivals.com, it seems like that was the last straw.

One day after his former high school coach decided to leave, Mustain, the former Parade Magazine High School Player of the Year, was granted a release from the program as well. After compiling an 8-0 record as a starter, Mustain was replaced at QB by Casey Dick (2-3 as a starter this season), and was reportedly very upset when Malzahn, his mentor, decided to leave. At this point, Mustain hasn’t announced where he will transfer, but he won’t be suiting up for the Hogs next fall.

Both Malzahn and Mustain have been very diplomatic about their departures, and have had absolutely nothing negative to say about Houston Nutt, but that speaks more for their character than his.

What has become abundantly clear is this: in December 2005, when Nutt hired Malzahn as Offensive Coordinator, he didn’t do it to help out the Razorback offense; he did it to lure the prized Springdale recruits and ultimately, to save his job.

Once he succeeded in saving that job, he couldn’t have cared less about Malzahn and Mustain, and in fact, seemed to resent their presence as a constant reminder of how they had saved his job.

I wish the best to Malzahn and Mustain, and hope they succeed at their new schools.

On the other hand, Nutt has proved himself (time and time again) to be a petty and dishonest man (as well as a pretty mediocre coach), and he needs to be fired.

• • •


As the third piece of a staggering hat-trick to the U of A, I also have decided to leave school.

This might come as somewhat of a surprise since it wasn’t that long ago that I got accepted, but believe me when I say that no one is more surprised about this than me.

I went to class for the first time on Tuesday, met with my adviser, and then began my reading assignments. It became very clear to me that the program was going to be very difficult, but it being difficult was not the reason for my decision. However, because it was going to be difficult, it made me stop to consider the reasons why I decided to begin the program in the first place, and I discovered that they weren’t very good.

There are certainly several good reasons to go to graduate school, including:

1. You are really interested in what you’re studying.
2. You need to have a graduate degree to get the job that you really want.
3. You really like being in school in general.

There are also several bad reasons for deciding to go to grad school, such as:

1. You don’t know what you want to do in life and are just putting off figuring it out.
2. Your brother and sister went to grad school and it just seems like the thing to do.
3. You don’t want to grow up.
4. You want to continue your college ultimate frisbee career.

When I was honest with myself, I realized that I didn’t really have any good reasons for being in grad school, and that (as you probably surmised) my main reasons were the bad ones listed above.

I really think it was the right decision, but it was certainly a very difficult one. It’s a little scary when you change the plans that you made without having a new plan to replace it. But it will be okay.

So, my defection from the University of Arkansas might be more surprising than those of Gus Malzahn and Mitch Mustain, but at least it wasn’t caused by Houston Nutt. Though, he certainly didn’t help. And he should still be fired.

6 comments:

Kenny Simpson 1/19/07, 8:14 AM  

Hope all works out for you. What is your major?

As to U of A, I am not a Mustain fan or the offensive coordinator. They managed to have 10 wins running the ball with a QB (both) that would have a hard time starting for HU. I know the no-huddle is fun and can be successful, but how do you complain when:
1) You go from a high school coach to a Division 1 offensive coordinator (in the SEC)
2) Every time you ran "your style" offense, nothing good happened.

Sorry to rant.

Luke 1/19/07, 9:01 AM  

Kenny,

Thanks. I'm sure things will be fine, it's just strange when you think you have things planned out for the next couple of years and then you completely change it.

I was studying Spanish. In undergrad, I was a double major in Spanish and International Business.

As to the Razorbacks, I think there are some things that have happened which you might not be aware of:

1) The move to hire Malzahn as OC was widely criticized across the country (him being a high school coach with no college experience), but in NW Arkansas, it got everyone excited (Malzahn is considered to be somewhat of a boy wonder), and UNDOUBTEDLY saved Houston Nutt's job.

2) When Malzahn was hired, he was told, or at least given the strong impression, that he'd be able to implement his offense Heck, he wrote a book on it; it's what he does. If they're not going to let him use it, they should've hired someone else. It's like signing Roger Clemens, and then telling him that you're not interested in him being a power pitcher.

This is not widely realized, but Malzahn's offense was actually only really used on TWO drives all season, both against USC in the season opener. In the first, the Hogs were moving the ball, but then fumbled it, and in the second, Mustain led the team on an 80 yard drive in under two minutes.

However, because UA got killed 50-14, Nutt once again came under fire, reportedly panicked, and tightened his hold on the offense. From that moment on, Malzahn's offense was no longer used, and a heavy focus was put on running the ball. That being said, Malzahn did implement the "Wildcat" package, where McFadden would line up as QB and then dominate defenses.

Summary: Malzahn was not really allowed to run the offense as he was told, but he made the best of it, adjusted his offense, had turned McFadden into Superman.

3) Mitch Mustain was NOT ready for D-I, SEC play; how many freshmen really are? The problem was that Nutt panicked against USC, pulled the starting QB, and burned Mustain's redshirt to play him (Casey Dick was injured at the time). I repeat that Mustain wasn't ready, but he did make the most of the situation, and despite having ups and downs, he was 8-0 as a starter, including the Hogs' biggest win of the season at Auburn.

When you consider that Mustain re-committed to UA only after Malzahn was hired, it is apparent that he too was expecting to get to run an offense similar to what he did in high school; the fact that he still was undefeated as a starter running an offense that was new to him says a lot about his leadership, at least to me.

Sorry my response was so long; there's a lot more I could say, but I'll wait for your comments, opinions.

Kenny Simpson 1/19/07, 9:40 AM  

The only point I would make is that the Hogs went 10-3. Mcfadden would have been a stud in a junior high offense. The parade all-american QB was not ready (yet Tebow seemed to do alright). And the coach is still a high school coach (that is what I am).

Luke 1/19/07, 10:21 AM  

I guess I'm not understanding all of your points:

"The only point I would make is that the Hogs went 10-3."

10-4 actually. I'm not sure what your point is though. If anything, I would think this would be in Malzahn's favor. We won 4 games last year, he comes, we win 10, our offense improves, and he is told he is going to be demoted. How would you feel?

"Mcfadden would have been a stud in a junior high offense."

That is true. McFadden is one in a million. He's outstanding. But he wouldn't have put up as big as numbers without taking the direct snap as often as he does. DMac is a great player, but he wasn't getting Heisman talk until he started running the wildcat.

"The parade all-american QB was not ready (yet Tebow seemed to do alright)."

Tebow basically came in an ran the ball. He did that well, but that's not exactly the same as adjusting to the speed of an SEC secondary. And all that aside, Mustain went 8-0 as a starter! He didn't put up huge numbers, but it's hard to do that when you're not allowed to pass. The guy has lost two games as a starter since 8th grade. He's a winner.

"And the coach is still a high school coach (that is what I am)."

That's true, but I don't really get your point here either. I understand the doubts that people had in him being hired in the first place, but just because he had only coached High School in the past doesn't mean he wasn't a big talent.

I would think the fact that he was named the National Coordinator of the year by Rivals.com would indicate that he made the most of the chance he was given and proved that he belonged?

Kenny Simpson 1/19/07, 11:23 AM  

From what your first comments are: Nutt seemed to run the offense, so giving offensive coordinator of the year to Malzahn is sort of ironic.

Mcfadden was in the running for Heisman before the "wildcat" formation (which I did think was the best thing they did on offense this season).

Their are plenty of QB's that could be undefeated if they throw the ball under 15 times a game. My point being that just because he is a freshmen is not an excuse. He would not have started for many schools teams. Maybe he can start for Tulsa now though.

I am not a Houston Nutt fan, the man I think is an idiot. That being said: Arkansas went 10-4 with an offense in which they couldn't throw the ball (no matter which of the three Qb's were in). They won with Nutt's offense, so to me it looks like Malzahn is upset with a team that was almost in a BCS game.

Luke 1/19/07, 12:29 PM  

Kenny,

Thanks for clarifying; I understand your argument now.

I think after the USC game, Nutt basically told Malzahn that he couldn't run the No Huddle, and that they were going to run the ball.

Not being able to use his offense, Malzahn adapted the Wildcat, and turned McFadden, already an outstanding running back, into a more versatile and often unstoppable player.

So, Nutt basically said, "You can't run your offense because we're going to be running the ball. Figure out how to make it work." And Malzahn did.

So just because Nutt told Malzahn he had to change his plans doesn't take away from what Malzahn did, and he was still deserving of the award he got. I just wish we could've seen a little more of his No Huddle, because then things might've been real exciting.

Mustain did not have an outstanding year, but his talent was clear multiple times. The thing is, Nutt was saying all along that Mustain would likely redshirt, and then he was suddenly thrown into the mix. I think under the circumstances, he did pretty well.

I can understand the argument of "Hey, you had a good season, and you're returning lots of players, so why transfer?"

I think it comes down to the fact that Malzahn and Mustain felt like they were told one thing when they agreed to come to the U of A, and then when they got here, that didn't happen.

On top of that, when you have Nutt telling Malzahn that he was going to be demoted to Co-Offensive Coordinator, I think Gus deciding to leave is more understandable.

With Mustain, it will be interesting to see how he performs somewhere else (and if not at Tulsa), if he is good outside of Malzahn's system.

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