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Andy Hodges

Lone Razorback ‘family’ member takes over football for rest of year

It made sense athletics director Hunter Yurachek would put Barry Lunney, Jr., in charge after pulling the plug on Chad Morris’ two-year experiment Sunday morning … he is family, after all.

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It made sense athletics director Hunter Yurachek would put Barry Lunney, Jr., in charge of Arkansas football when he finally pulled the plug on Chad Morris’ two-year experiment Sunday morning.

We’ll find out from Lunney on Monday morning at noon how he feels about it, but the guess is he was fine with it.

It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Lunney included on whatever the new staff is in some capacity.

He’s a Razorback. There’s no doubting his pedigree going all the way back to his school days in Fort Smith as a left-handed quarterback at Southside.

In his seven years as the tight ends coach with the Hogs, Lunney coached a Mackey Award winner in Hunter Henry, now spending his time with the Los Angeles Chargers in the NFL.

Lunney has proven he can work with tight ends. You wonder how he would have done in the quarterback merry-go-round the last couple of years coaching that position. He DID quarterback the Hogs’ first SEC win back in 1992 over Tennessee.

Maybe more importantly, he knows about winning in the league. His first season as a graduate assistant on Houston Nutt’s staff in 1998 Arkansas won twice as many games in that one season than they did the last two seasons combined.

While being one of the best interviews of all the assistant coaches, time with him has been limited for a couple of seasons. That’s been to the detriment of fans.

Lunney is at ease with the media in Arkansas, many of us go back to when he was a freshman. It was an area where Morris was an abject failure, at times appearing to have very little regard for the most popular method to communicate with fans.

Here’s a look at his resumè:

• Started 40 games at quarterback from 1992-95 for the Hogs, including the SEC Championship Game in 1995.

• As a grad assistant for the Hogs during a two-year run where they were ranked in the Top 25 nationally and beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

• His first coaching position was with Tulsa as quarterbacks coach from 2000-02.

• Two seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks at San Jose State.

• As offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Bentonville from 2005-13 on his father’s staff. Barry Lunney, Sr., was a legendary coach in Arkansas high school ranks. The Tigers had two state titles, four title game appearances and six straight conference championships.

Of most importance, though, Lunney probably knows every high school coach in the state of Arkansas on a first-name basis that doesn’t include “coach.” It’s not a stretch to wonder how much the last two head coaches listened to him.

Now, for at least a few weeks, Lunney will guide a team through the remainder of a schedule that includes a bye week, a road game in Baton Rouge and finishing in Little Rock against Missouri the day after Thanksgiving.

But the most important part of his job is recruiting … the players on the current roster. The NCAA transfer portal has made that an important job.

And nobody can sell the Hogs better.

He is part of the family, after all.

 

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