The maxim “out with the old and in with the new” applies as much to the college football coaching profession as it does anywhere else, but it doesn’t quite ring as true when the departures in question involve one of your tribe.
The John Chavises, Robb Smiths and Jim Chaneys of the world will come and go, sure, and Razorback fans will always care to some degree about how they on the next stop on the proverbial merry-go-round (especially if that next stop entails coaching middle schoolers).
But it just lands different when we’re talking about a former Razorback standout like Barry Lunney Jr. or Grant Morgan out there making his way up in the college ranks. With those guys, no matter what hat they wear repping whichever other program, there is hope at some level that they will eventually make their way back “home.”
Dowell Loggains is more in the latter camp than the former.
No, he wasn’t a Razorback star on the same level as a Lunney, Morgan or, long before them, Ken Hatfield. Indeed, as a walk-on, he wasn’t even on a scholarship. But Loggains sure did prove a lot by sticking around for five years as an undersized player, doing whatever was asked of him and essentially turning into a player-coach under Houston Nutt in the early 2000s.
Later, coming out of 16 years as an assistant and coordinator in the NFL to get into college coaching, he showed his true colors again when he could have pursued a spot on James Franklin’s staff at Penn State. The two had met in Nashville while Loggains was with the Titans and Franklin was with Vanderbilt.
After Loggains’ time in the NFL, he worked as an analyst for Franklin at Penn State for four months. “Dowell gets along well with James Franklin, but when Arkansas called him, that was a quick no-brainer for Dowell, to get to go coach at the place where you ran through the ‘A,’ ” Nutt told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2021. “I know he’s very thankful to Coach [Sam] Pittman.”
Dowell Loggains and the Razorbacks
So Loggains stood on the sideline with Pittman as the Hogs’ tight end coach when the Razorbacks ran roughshod all over Franklin and Nittany Lions in the 2022 Outback Bowl, and many felt he would remain there for a few more years. Once Kendal Briles left, the theory went, Loggains would be next in line to take over Arkansas’ offensive coordinator position.
That never materialized, because less than three weeks after the 2022 regular season ended, Loggains left to take over at OC with the South Carolina football program. His pay skyrocketed from $400,000 to $1 million per year. (It had been $300,000 in his first season as a Razorbacks assistant.)
We can assume that such an enormous bump in pay was one motive for leaving his beloved Hogs after two seasons in Fayetteville, even if Loggains wouldn’t publicly admit that.
He’s given two reasons for making the move.
Casting His Lot with South Carolina Football
The first is Shane Beamer, the South Carolina head coach who led the Gamecocks to wins over then No. 5 Tennessee and No. 8 Clemson at the end of the regular season. And the second reason is Spencer Rattler, the quarterback who played such a huge role in those victories.
Loggains was hoping that Rattler, who last season landed in South Carolina’s all-time single-season record book in passing yards (6th), pass attempts (5th), pass completions (2nd), completion percentage (4th), and passing touchdowns (T8th), would stick around for a fifth year in college and not enter the 2023 NFL Draft.
He had just left a very good thing in Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson and needed a quarterback of similar caliber to justify the jumping of ship.
“When I got here, I didn’t know, to be honest, whether Spencer was gonna be here or not,” Loggains told The State earlier this spring. “Like, I thought he was. But there was times during that process I thought he wasn’t. That’s not a great feeling.”
For a while, as Rattler pondered going pro, Loggains worried his should-be star quarterback was gone. Once Loggains learned that Rattler would return for the 2023 season (he announced on January 10) and pass to a bevy of targets including former Razorback Trey Knox, though, he could breathe easy.
As Beamer told The State, “it’s huge when a quarterback as talented as him comes back outside this building just from a perception standpoint and excitement and energy and all that.”
Spencer Rattler and KJ Jefferson
Arkansas football fans know the feeling. Starting quarterback KJ Jefferson didn’t need to wait nearly as long as Rattler to make his decision regarding a fifth collegiate season in 2023. He announced his plan to return to Fayetteville on December 2.
Most quarterback rankings at this point have Jefferson ahead of Rattler, which makes sense since Jefferson is a more efficient and less interception-prone passer. He runs better, too, and for what’s it worth KJ Jefferson won the head-to-head matchup when the Arkansas and South Carolina football programs clashed last September.
The biggest disparity between the two quarterbacks seen in a legitimate outlet is seen through SI.com Lance Dawe’s ranking for the Auburn Daily site. He puts Jefferson at No. 1 but drops Rattler all the way down to No. 10, behind Ole Miss’ Spencer Sanders/Jaxson Dart and, naturally, Auburn’s Payton Thorne/Robby Ashford.
“Spencer Rattler was turnover prone and inconsistent during his first season,” Dawes writes. “Eleven of his total 21 touchdowns came in the final three games of the season – six of them against Tennessee.”
“The Gamecocks have officially earned their reputation as a giant killer, but in order for Shane Beamer’s squad to take the next step in the SEC east, they’ll need Rattler to really cut down on the turnovers (among other things).”
ESPN, for instance, considers Jefferson as a Tier 2 quarterback nationally alongside the likes of Kansas’ Jalon Daniels.
Spencer Rattler appears on the list as a 4b quarterback who is “very good” on an inconsistent basis. Looking more closely at his numbers, though, and it becomes clear that he was trending hard in the right direction late in the season:
- Rattler in eight games before Nov. 1: 61% completions, 5 TDs, 7 interceptions, 6.74 yards-per-pass and a 45.1 Total QBR
- Rattler in five games after Nov. 1: 69% completions, 13 TDs, 2 picks, 7.98 yards-per-pass and a 76.5 Total QBR
Until Spencer Rattler puts it together for the entirety of the season, however, most will not consider him to be at Jefferson’s level. Still, it was surprising to see Rattler put all way down at No. 6 in The Sporting News’ SEC quarterback rankings, four spots below Jefferson.
Despite far less experience, Tennessee’s Joe Milton (No. 3) and Georgia’s presumptive starter Carson Beck (No. 5) get the nod ahead of Spencer Rattler. We’ll see if that motivates him in the same way such underwhelming off-season QB rankings let a fire under Jefferson a couple of summers ago.
*Loggains was born in Newport, but raised as an Arkansas football fan in Abilene, Texas.