Posted: Thursday December 15, 2005 2:03PM; Updated: Thursday December 15, 2005 3:46PM
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"Obviously Arkansas has been one of the better running teams in the country, and it would be foolish to get away from something you do so strongly," said Malzahn, who mixes two-back, one-back and empty-backfield sets. "My goal is to provide balance and stretch the field. My reputation is for throwing the ball down field, which we'll do, but at the same time we've run the ball more than we've passed the last couple seasons."
Malzahn inherits a pair of promising freshmen in the backfield, quarterback Casey Dick and tailback Darren McFadden. Razorbacks fans, understandably, hope he'll have another signal-caller at his disposal come fall.
Mustain, the Gatorade Player of the Year, threw for 3,817 yards and 47 touchdowns as a senior. His announcement last August that he would be staying close to home for college -- along with his best friend, Springdale receiver Anthony Norman -- touched off a state-wide celebration and was the single biggest reason for Hogs fans' optimism during an otherwise forgettable 2005 season.
Earlier this week, however, Mustain confirmed to The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas that he was rethinking his decision, citing the dismissal of Arkansas quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke, the man who recruited him most heavily and the guy whom his high school coach replaced.
"I knew that if Coach Nutt was going to hire an offensive coordinator, regardless of who he chose, it would likely mean the firing of Coach Wittke," Mustain told the paper. Asked if Nutt's choice of Malzahn as the offensive coordinator would sway him, Mustain said, "I knew a long time ago that Coach Malzahn was probably going to be hired, but I didn't know what role he would have. Before he told me what his position would be, I had already made my decision [to reopen the recruitment]."
Mustain didn't specify which schools he's now considering, but Notre Dame, one of his original finalists, and Tennessee, whose newly hired offensive coordinator, David Cutcliffe, is a renowned quarterbacks guru, are believed to be among the candidates. And then there's Arkansas, located less than 20 minutes from his home and now sporting a familiar offensive coordinator.
"There's got to be unbelievable pressure for him to stay in state," said Scout.com recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg. "This [Malzahn's hiring] just adds more pressure."