Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Who'll be the next Vanderbilt head coach? Here are eight good candidates
I heard somewhere that Vandy's looking at interviewing about eight coaches. Right now, there are literally hundreds of names flying around. I have no idea who we're looking at, but I'd start with these eight:
1. GUS MALZAHN
Current job: Offensive coordinator, Auburn
Upside: One of the elite offensive minds in college football; as a high school coach, landed a job as the Arkansas OC in a package deal with two of his blue-chip players, left for Tulsa after Nutt wouldn't let him take the wraps off his spread offense, then became the OC at Auburn, where last season he exceeded expectations with one of the SEC's worst quarterbacks and this season has taken the nation's best quarterback and catapulted a team with a shaky defense into the nation's No. 1 team.
Downside: He's the hottest name in college football right now and is being connected to openings at Miami, Colorado and jobs like Ole Miss that aren't even open.
Bottom line: Vandy would have to pull out all the stops — and all its wallets — to land Malzahn. By all accounts he's a steady, reliable guy who just might find a niche and excel at Vandy. But after having Cam Newton, would he really want to work with the likes of Larry Smith?
2. SKIP HOLTZ
Current job: Head coach, South Florida
Upside: Amassed a 34-23 record at pre-FBS UConn, then led East Carolina to four bowls in five seasons before jumping to South Florida, where his Bulls have a 7-4 record and are headed to a bowl; an overall record of 79-54 in 11 seasons; learned the coaching ropes from Bobby Bowden at Florida State and from his father Lou at Notre Dame and South Carolina; knows what it takes to be an underdog in the SEC; a drawing point for going to USF was the chance to play and beat Florida
Downside: Is biding his time for a bigger job, and while he might jump to Vandy for a chance at coaching in the SEC, he'd be even more likely to leave for a better job; a good recruiter, but can he spot a Vandy kid after recruiting at EC and USF?
Bottom line: A winner who's ready to coach in the SEC, but he knows better than most people how tough it is to win there.
3. TOMMY BOWDEN
Current job: Former head coach, Clemson
Upside: Never had a losing season in 12 years of coaching; went 18-4 with a bowl victory in two seasons at Tulane, then went 72-45 at Clemson; only season at Clemson without a bowl was following a fight with South Carolina when both teams declined a bowl bid; knows how to win at an academic school, taking the Green Wave to a Top 10 finish in his second season as a head coach; he can recruit, which is why he got fired at Clemson — he got blue-chippers that led Tiger fans to believe they'd be national champs in two years
Downside: Has been out of coaching for two years; coached at an academic school in Conference USA, not the SEC
Bottom line: Stop saying he was a loser at Clemson because he's never had a losing season, ever; in fact, he may have better results with scholar athletes than with blue-chip players, as evidenced by his results at Tulane; plus, he'd probably finish his career at Vanderbilt if given another chance to coach
4. JERRY KILL
Current job: Head coach, Northern Illinois
Upside: A winner at four programs, starting with a 49-25 record at Division II Emporia State and Saginaw State, then taking a terrible Southern Illinois team in the FBS from 1-10 to 12-2 in six seasons and amassing a 33-32 record, then taking Northern Illinois from being ranked in ESPN's Bottom 10 to three bowls in three seasons; overall record of 127-71 in 17 seasons; this year's team in 10-2, undefeated in the MAC and ranked in the Top 25; a hard worker and the first member of his family to attend college; cancer survivor
Downside: Was hospitalized this season for dehydration; looks older than 49 and lacks the CEO polish of other SEC coaches; has coached at state colleges with lower academic standards than Vanderbilt
Bottom line: This guy's a winner wherever he goes; his teams score boatloads of points and rack up tons of yardage. He wouldn't be a big-name hire, but he does have a cool name. He'd be a great pick for a program like Indiana, but he'd be a rock-solid pick for Vandy too. He deserves a shot.
5. AL GOLDEN
Current job: Head coach, Temple
Upside: After inheriting a winless football team, he led the Owls to one win in his first season, four wins in his second, five wins in his third, and last season to nine wins and a bowl game; has eight wins this season heading into a bowl game; this year his Temple team won 30-16 over UConn, which clobbered Vandy 40-21; has an overall record of 27-34, but 26-23 if you take away his first season as a head coach; has a master's degree in sports psychology; the former defensive coordinator at Virginia; was a strong candidate for both the UCLA and Cincinnati jobs but took his name out of contention
Downside: A former Penn State player, he's thought to be a front runner to replace JoPa when that day finally arrives; is known more for defense than offense; has never beaten a MAC team with a winning record.
Bottom line: In his first head coaching gig, led a winless team to a bowl bid in less than four years. He's a polished leader who can build a winner from scratch and who'll think hard about leaving. Case in point: He has been contacted by Vanderbilt and has apparently taken his name out of the running, but you never know.
6. TODD GRAHAM
Current job: Head coach, Tulsa
Upside: By season's end, he'll have taken two small private schools (Rice and Tulsa) to four bowl games in five seasons; has a combined record of 42-23; inherited a 1-10 Rice team in his first season as a head coach and led the Owls to a 7-6 record and a bowl berth; hired Gus Malzahn as Tulsa's offensive coordinator (as well as Herb Hand, Vandy's current offensive line coach)
Downside: Left Rice after one season, which inspired the Owls band to create a halftime routine called "Todd Graham's Inferno," in which the coach was forced to pass through the various stages of hell for snubbing them
Bottom line: Graham can quickly build winning programs at small, academic schools that are perennial losers, he can sustain success, and he knows offensive coaching talent when he sees it. So why is his name not being mentioned by other media? But if he wins at a place where winning doesn't come easy, he has been known to jump ship as soon as possible.
7. IVIN JASPER
Current job: Offensive coordinator, Navy
Upside: A master of the triple option who's learned from Paul Johnson and Ken Niumatalolo and has helped sustain the incredible run at Navy begun by Johnson and now sustained by Niumatalolo; a great recruiter and magnetic personality who knows how to spot scholars who are also good athletes; the only black coach in the mix (outside of far-fetched suggestions like Tony Dungy)
Downside: He has no head coaching experience and he's at a lower-level college; oh yeah, and he's not a household name.
Bottom line: People scoff at the idea of getting Navy's offensive coordinator, but there's a lot to be said for running the triple option at a school that can't get top athletes; Johnson and Niumatalolo aren't coming to Vandy, so why not take a shot at their protege? Plus, can you imagine him pitching Vanderbilt to black prospects in the Atlanta area? I can.
8. DANA HOLGORSEN
Current job: Offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State
Upside: He learned the run-and-shoot and maybe a few things about pirates from Mike Leach at Valdosta State and Texas Tech, left to turn Case Keenum into a top QB at Houston, and in one year at Oklahoma State has established himself as one of the top offensive coordinators in America; has tweaked Leach's system, adding more of a running emphasis.
Downside: How's this for a guy who's ready for another job: He lives in a hotel. He also strikes me as a free-spirited guy who speaks his mind and doesn't have time for bureaucracy, which may or may not work at Vandy.
Bottom line: I don't think we want Mike Leach and his baggage. But Holgorsen has learned many of his tricks and would undoubtedly bring offensive improvement to Nashville in a hurry. Plus, he's young, tough-minded and would probably relate well to kids, though not sure about academic-minded kids.
Other names being bandied about include:
• Mid-major coaches: Mike Haywood of Miami-Ohio, Rick Stockstill of MTSU, Niumatalolo of Navy and Troy Calhoun of Air Force, Kevin Sumlin of Houston, June Jones of SMU, Brady Hoke of San Diego State
• Former BCS-conference coaches: Randy Shannon of Miami, Mike Leach of Texas Tech, Mark Mangino of Kansas, Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee
• Assistant coaches: Greg Roman of Stanford, Mark Hudspeth and Manny Diaz of Mississippi State, Bud Foster of Virginia Tech, Mark Whipple of Miami, Paul Petrino of Illinois, David Lee of the Miami Dolphins