FAYETTEVILLE — New Arkansas linebackers coach Randy Shannon most likely could’ve landed other positions this offseason.
But, two years removed from his stint as Miami’s head coach, Shannon said there’s a reason he is joining Bret Bielema’s staff with the Razorbacks.
“It’s a chance to win championships and a chance to be with a great head football coach and have the opportunity to do great things,” Shannon said.
Shannon, who left his position as Texas Christian’s linebackers coach after one season, spoke about his new role with the Razorbacks during a teleconference on Monday morning. He became the seventh assistant officially hired by Bielema, who continues to make good on his promise of putting together a top-notch staff.
Shannon is the biggest surprise of all. The 46-year-old went 28-22 in four seasons as Miami’s coach from 2007-10. He was the program’s defensive coordinator for six years (2001-06) before earning the promotion to head coach.
But Shannon — who was rumored to be in consideration for defensive coordinator jobs — called his new position with the Hogs a “unique and special situation.”
“The staff that he has assembled is going to be unbelievable,” Shannon said. “There are a couple of guys on his staff that I have had the opportunity to know throughout these years of recruiting and coaching. I think we have got a unique situation and a great staff that has a lot of great things to accomplish.”
Shannon will certainly add to the group because of his experience. He was part of three national championship teams at Miami (1987, 1991 and 2001) as a player and coach. He won the Broyles Award in 2001 because of his work with the Hurricanes and was named defensive coordinator of the year by Rivals.com in 2005.
But Shannon made it clear Monday he is not stepping in to run the Arkansas defense in his new role. That job belongs to defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who followed Bielema from Wisconsin and was the first assistant hired last month.
“My deal is to make sure everybody understands I am just here to assist and be one of the greatest linebackers coaches that Arkansas ever had and also have one of the greatest defenses that Coach Ash is going to run,” Shannon said. “He is running the defense and whatever he says, that’s what we are going to do.”
Shannon has coached 14 defensive players who were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. The list includes Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who played for the Hurricanes when Shannon was the program’s linebackers coach.
His work with TCU last season was impressive. Shannon said TCU coach Gary Patterson told him the Horned Frogs didn’t have much talent at the position when he joined the staff in August. But linebacker Kenny Cain was a second-team All-Big 12 pick this season after being a second-team All Mountain West Conference player in 2011. Redshirt sophomore Joel Hasley earned Big 12 honorable mention honors.
Shannon will get a chance to work with sophomores Otha Peters and AJ Turner at Arkansas in 2013. Both players were pressed into action as true freshmen because of Arkansas’ depth issues at linebacker last season and showed promise.
“You just want guys that really want to work, and the guys that we have on the football team, it’s my job to get them to play hard and be the best that they can be,” Shannon said. “That’s what Coach Bielema hired me to do.”
Shannon also was hired to bring even more clout to Arkansas’ recruiting efforts after spending nearly every year of his coaching career in South Florida.
Shannon has obvious ties to recruiting in the state along with Bielema, defensive line coach Charlie Partridge and receivers coach George McDonald. But Shannon said he’s comfortable recruiting other regions as well.
He mentioned recruiting experience in places like Memphis, California, New Jersey, Chicago, St. Louis and Texas in addition to Florida during his career.
“I’ve been kind of a universal national recruiter for most of my time being at Miami,” Shannon said. “I’ve kind of got a background in recruiting everywhere.”
Shannon said he and Bielema met at a high school several years ago when both were assistant coaches. They’ve kept in contact since, speaking a couple times of year.
Bielema asked Shannon if he would join him at Arkansas after the coach was hired in early December. Shannon accepted the offer and said he’s looking forward to his new job working with Arkansas’ linebackers.
“Being with him and working at Arkansas was something unique, and working in the Southeastern Conference,” Shannon said of his move to Arkansas. “Any chance you have of working in the Southeastern Conference and working at Arkansas with a great head football coach, that’s something you have in mind that you want to do.”