If Jeff Long thought he was going to quiet any talk about possibilities for Arkansas' next head football coach, he thought wrong.

If Jeff Long thought he was going to quiet any talk about possibilities for Arkansasí next head football coach, he thought wrong.

But there was a little news to his short statement Friday about the coaching search: ďÖ the process remains outgoing and will extend beyond the spring game weekend.Ē

So, itís that much longer that Taver Johnson has to wait.

Yes, Taver Johnson. Not Paul Haynes, Paul Petrino or Tim Horton, and surely not Gus Malzahn.

For Long, Iím not sure which decision is harder ó whether to fire Bobby Petrino in the first place or picking the next head coach at least for 2012. Picking the 2012 coach seems easy to me, but I guess Long is trying to do what heís done a lot of as Arkansasí athletic director ó go for the home run. (Or touchdown, however you want to put it.)

Granted, Long has a powerful swing. He hit a home run by saying to the whole state Bobby Petrinoís immoralities have no place in Arkansas football. He did it by combining the menís and womenís athletic departments and making every athlete a Razorback. He did it by leading a project that raised $28.4 million for a new football center and practice facility.

The thing about home runs is that they donít come at every swing. Long is going to strike out if he thinks hiring someone permanently this time of the year is best.

The man doesnít need to hit for power right now. Arkansas has finished its spring camp and hasnít even reached first base by naming a head coach, any type of head coach.

Ohio State didnít keep anyone guessing when Jim Tressel resigned last May 30. Luke Fickell took over the team for the 2011 season and led the Buckeyes to a bowl game. No one said Fickell had to be the permanent head coach.

If Bobby Petrino did one thing right other than win football games, itís name an assistant head coach. Why that title doesnít seem to mean anything right now in naming the 2012 coach boggles my mind.

Johnsonís in charge, right? Heís doing his job. The fans showed up at Reynolds Razorback Stadium and saw what his team ó if only for the time being ó did all spring. Itís darn near May and the Hogs canít practice again until August.

Yet, everything is in limbo. Thatís how Long is keeping things with the fate of every Razorback coach in his hands with less than five months left before the season begins.

Longís process in naming a permanent head coach should extend well beyond this weekend. It should extend to November at the earliest because the players shouldnít have to face abrupt changes. Neither should the coaches.

The time to name the 2012 head coach is now. Itís not like Petrino threw a wicked curveball at Long.

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I.C. Murrell is the sports editor of The Commercial. Email him at imurrell@pbcommercial.com.