Ripple Effect from Alabama Turnover May Finally Hit Arkansas Shores

Scott Fountain, Arkansas football, South Carolina football, Alabama
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

Alabama isn’t on the 2024 Arkansas football schedule, but the ripples created by Nick Saban’s retirement might be felt in Fayetteville sooner rather than later.

The Razorbacks haven’t benefited from all of the movement it caused in the transfer portal, but one of their assistant coaches could be poached by a team who was poached by a team who was poached by the Crimson Tide.

Got it? No? Let us explain…

One of new Alabama football coach Kalen DeBoer’s hires was Buffalo head coach Maurice Linguist, who will be a co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach for the Crimson Tide. The Buffalo Bulls then turned around and hired South Carolina special teams coordinator Pete Lembo as their next head coach.

That has created an opening in the SEC and Scott Fountain’s name has already been floated as a possibility for the Gamecocks.

In fact, he is the first person mentioned by Gamecock Digest — the Sports Illustrated South Carolina site — on its list of potential candidates . Plus, Chris Clark of GamecockCentral in the On3 network also brought him up in their latest GC Live.

“Here’s another one that I’m keeping an eye on — and don’t get it (twisted), ‘Chris Clark said this guy’s the favorite.’ I’m not saying that,” Clark said. “But someone that I expect to draw some level of consideration is Scott Fountain.”

The Razorbacks have already made three staff changes this offseason. The latest — the hire of Ronnie Fouch as wide receivers coach — seemingly solidifies the 10-man on-field staff for 2024.

For reasons discussed below, the move would make sense for both Fountain and South Carolina while continuing what has developed into an unlikely pipeline.

Despite what some fans believe, losing Fountain would be a significant blow to Pittman and the Arkansas football program — in more ways than one.

Why it Makes Sense for Scott Fountain & South Carolina

It’s still very early in the process and it’s not even known if either side has reached out to the other, but there is a reason those covering South Carolina football have mentioned Scott Fountain as a possibility.

South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer is the son of legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer and he has continued the tradition of “Beamer Ball” with the Gamecocks.

Special teams are especially important in the South Carolina football program and Shane Beamer even coached that unit at previous stops. One of those was at Georgia, where Fountain actually worked with him as an analyst in 2017.

There’s no guarantee that the Gamecocks would hire a full-time, dedicated special teams coordinator to replace Pete Lembo, but Beamer’s history indicates that it’s likely — especially if he could get someone like Fountain, who has spent the last 15 seasons in the SEC at four different schools (Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State and Arkansas).

From Fountain’s perspective, South Carolina would be another school that clearly places a significant value on special teams.

Making such a move would also likely result in a pay raise. Fountain is making $515,000 annually at Arkansas, while Lembo’s pay at South Carolina was bumped up to $725,000 before last season. That means Lembo was making 40.8% more than Fountain.

At least on paper, this is one of those hires that’d make sense for both the school and the coach.

What it’d Mean for Arkansas Football

There is a segment of the Arkansas football fanbase that would be happy to see Scott Fountain move on. That likely stems from numerous special teams breakdowns during his first season at Arkansas.

The Razorbacks’ special teams certainly were terrible in 2020, finishing at No. 107 in the SP+ rankings created by ESPN’s Bill Connelly, but Fountain deserves credit for the improvement made since then.

The unit was much better in 2021 (No. 36), took a step back in 2022 (No. 65) and was among the country’s best this past season, finishing at No. 6 nationally in the SP+.

In 2023, Arkansas’ special teams was led by the top kicker prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft (Cam Little) according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., the sixth-best punter in the country (Max Fletcher) according to Pro Football Focus and a dangerous return man (Isaiah Sategna). That doesn’t even mention the fact that Arkansas has had a different kickoff specialist inside the top five nationally in touchback percentage each of the last three years.

Sure, the Razorbacks could be better at limiting long returns, but when looking at their special teams as a whole, the unit is well above average in college football.

However, the impact of losing Fountain would be felt beyond the sometimes forgotten third phase of the game.

He is an ace recruiter for the Razorbacks and not just when it comes to punters and kickers, although he’d been solid landing those. With Fountain’s help, Arkansas has developed new in-roads to Alabama.

In fact, the Razorbacks have signed seven players from Yellowhammer State in the past two recruiting cycles. That’s tied with Georgia Tech for the most by an out-of-state Power Four program over that span.

They aren’t all Auburn or Alabama castoffs, either.

Defensive end Kavion Henderson is a legit four-star prospect who the Crimson Tide offered a couple months before he committed to Arkansas. Linebacker Bradley Shaw spurned both Auburn and Alabama prior to picking the Razorbacks over Clemson. Last year, TJ Metcalf was a four-star prospect who immediately contributed as a true freshman.

Without Fountain, many of those players would have signed elsewhere.

It would also hurt to lose an assistant coach to a team many fans would like to think is below Arkansas in the SEC pecking order.

When Justin Stepp made a lateral move to South Carolina, it was understood that he was just returning home. When Dowell Loggains joined the Gamecocks, he was being promoted to offensive coordinator. Former strength coach Jamil Walker is also now in the South Carolina football program, but he was fired from his position in Fayetteville.

Even former tight end Trey Knox was leaving to play for a pair of his former position coaches when he transferred to South Carolina last offseason and former running back Rocket Sanders also had extenuating circumstances at play when he made the same move in December.

For Fountain, it would be a lateral move where the only connection is one year with Shane Beamer in Georgia. On the surface, that shouldn’t top his relationship with Pittman, whom he worked with for two seasons at Georgia before following him to Fayetteville. Pittman has said in the past that the two were neighbors in Athens, Ga., and very close.

This would be a situation where the Razorbacks were either out-bid or ditched for greener pastures. Neither would feel very special to Arkansas football fans.

The Nick Saban Dominoes

The retirement of Nick Saban as the Alabama football coach started a ripple effect across college football that still hasn’t ended.

Head Coaches

  • Kalen DeBoer: Washington —> Alabama
  • Jedd Fisch: Arizona —> Washington
  • Brent Brennan: San Jose State —> Arizona
  • Ken Niumatalolo: UCLA (TEs) —> San Jose State

New Alabama Assistants

  • Ryan Grubb: Washington (OC) —> Alabama (OC)
  • Scott Huff: Washington (OL) —> Alabama (OL)
  • Nick Sheridan: Washington (TEs) —> Alabama (TEs)
  • JaMarcus Shephard: Washington (WRs) —> Alabama (WRs)
  • Kane Wommack: South Alabama (HC) —> Alabama (DC)
    • Major Applewhite: South Alabama (OC) —> South Alabama (HC)
    • Rob Ezell: South Alabama (TEs) —> South Alabama (OC/QBs)
  • Colin Hitschler: Wisconsin (Co-DC/S) —> Alabama (TBA)
  • Maurice Linguist: Buffalo (HC) —> Alabama (Co-DC/DBs)
    • Pete Lembo: South Carolina (STC) —> Buffalo (HC)

Former Alabama Assistants

  • Tommy Rees: Alabama (OC/QBs) —> Cleveland Browns (TEs)
  • Kevin Steele: Alabama (DC) —> retired
  • Robert Bala: Alabama (ILBs) —> ???
  • Joe Cox: Alabama (TEs) —> ???
  • Travaris Robinson: Alabama (CBs) —> Georgia (Co-DC/S)
  • Eric Wolford: Alabama (OL) —> ???

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